Live trees are a great option for the holidays if you can deal with the additional work involved. They are beautiful and fresh and when the holidays are over they can be incorporated into your landscape as an additional planting that will provide many more years of enjoyment. If you choose this approach, the tree should be indoors for no more than a week to 10 days. The move from indoors to outdoors in the middle of the winter can be a little challenging so there are a few basic steps that will help ensure a successful transition.
Prepare a Location
You will obviously need a hole for your tree. You may be dealing with frozen ground so give yourself plenty of time before the move. Also don’t go cheap on the hole. It needs to be the height of the root ball and twice the width. Remember the old saying: “It’s better to put a $10 tree in a $100 hole then to put a $100 tree into a $10 hole.” Cover the soil removed from the whole with leaves or mulch so that it is not frozen when you need to refill the hole. It’s also a good idea to fill the hole with mulch so the newly exposed ground does not freeze either.
The Move Out
After Christmas move the tree to a protected area to transition it. A garage, shed or barn all make great interim resting areas where it can gradually adjust to the cold for about a week to ten days. Don’t forget to maintain your watering routine while it’s there.
When you are ready to plant, make the final preparations to your hole by removing the mulch or leaves. Place the tree ball in the hole. It should sit just above the soil line. If it is too low, add some of the soil you removed from the hole. Remove the burlap and any twine or wire that may be around the trunk. Make sure the tree is positioned vertically and is not leaning. Loosen the roots on the outside of the ball and direct them outward from the tree. Fill the hole around the ball to about half full and heel in gently. Give the tree a good drink of water (5 gallons or more depending on the size of the tree) and let it soak in. Fill the remainder of the hole with soil, heel in, and cover with a thick layer of mulch.
If your winters are mild and there is little or no precipitation, continue to water the tree periodically. Once spring comes around your tree should start growing with the rest of your landscape.