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Growing Christmas trees in pots
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Everyone loves Christmas trees. Thankfully, there are alternatives to buying and disposing of a Christmas tree annually. You can grow a Christmas tree indoors, using a pot. Ideally, though the less time spent indoors the better, placing it indoors the week before Christmas is usually best and they should be kept indoors no longer than around 12 days.
If it starts to look ill, dropping needles, place it outdoors again and always keep them in a cool room is possible. They can be grown in pots for a few years but usually, they only last a few years in pots as they are not best suited for growing in pots. If you still want to try and grow Christmas trees in large containers, then read our guide for the best chance of success.
Types of Christmas trees
The top 5 varieties include:
- Norway spruce – Usually the most affordable with sharp needles and usually the best traditional shape naturally.
- Fraser Fir – A newcomer compared to one other types, these have a tint of blue and are generally much more narrow making them ideal for tighter spaces.
- Nordman Fir – This type has become very popular in recent years and have a great shape and soft needles but can be a little wide at the base compared to most other types so usually need a little more space
- Pine tree – This traditional Christmas trees often come from Scotland and can be very wide but they have lots of space between each layer of branches making it easier to hang Christmas decorations.
- Blue spruce – This type has become very popular and may even be the best to grow in larger pots as they seem to take to growing in pots well, there sharp blue needles looking amazing and they usually have a good traditional shape.
It is always best to get a tree that is locally sourced rather than an imported tree, like those that come from abroad bring with them more potential problems by comparison.
Planting a Christmas tree into a pot
Choosing a pot
Picking any of these conifers when young, you can plant successfully in a pot. They will grow a significant amount every year, so you should choose a pot that is large enough for the growth coming your way and try and choose a wide pot which ensures it more stable. You can usually get pot grown Christmas trees that are 2-3ft not including the pot so always choose a pot that is a little bigger than the pot, that way you can pot it up every year until it gets unmanageable to move. At this point, it may be best to plant it into the ground or use one final time and invest in a new tree.
Always choose a pot grown tree
When you get the tree from a nursery, you can find potted trees or pot grown trees. The pot grown trees should be perfect for the job if you intend to keep the tree in a pot. Never be a potted tree as this means it has been grown in the ground and then dug up and planted in the plant to sell. These nearly always die as they have had too much root removed. Pot grown trees have all their root intact and will nearly always survive if cared for correctly. The label on the tree will often say pot grown if this is the case so always double-check.
If you want to propagate from a successful tree, you can take semi-ripe or hardwood cuttings or even grow them from seed and grow them on in containers as well, following the same general care. In general, it’s usually not worth the time to grow them from cutting for most people as they take many many years to reach a good size, however, if you’re interested in having a little fun it can be worth trying.
Display in a cool room if possible away from any fires or radiators
Firstly, you should display the tree in a cooler room to reduce the stress on it. Most people think of the quintessential decorated tree next to a roasting fire but that will not only deplete moisture and result in needle drop, but can result in fires.
Display for no longer than 12 days in a cool room or display outdoors
These trees should be grown outside in their pots and can be decorated outside directly or brought indoors for Christmas. If you bring it indoors just for the holiday, before returning it outside, the container should be brought indoors as late as possible, perhaps the week before Christmas. Do not keep the tree indoors for more than 12 days. If at any point earlier it seems to be unhappy, changing its colour and stature, put it back outside.
Repotting a Christmas tree
If the tree is getting too big for its container and you need to re-pot it, you should go up one size bigger. Water it so that the roots are looser and tease them out to remove any of the old compost that is stuck in between. When you repot, do so with John Innes potting compost which is soil-based so will hold the moisture better and is heavier to help keep the tree upright, it also ensures the tree gets nutrients to stay healthy. Once repotted water well.
Moving a Christmas tree outside after Christmas
After Christmas, you can move your tree outside and either plant it into the ground, so that you have a tree to decorate outside next year or keep it in the pot being careful to repot as described above when growth demands. Usually, the pots they come in are a little small, probably to help with transportation from Christmas trees farms to local garden centres, with this in mind, you usually need to pot the tree up after Christmas in the first year.
If you move it outside after Christmas, it’s usually best to give it a few weeks in a cold garage or greenhouse to acclimate to the no doubt colder outdoor weather.
If you know ahead of time that you are going to move your tree outside after Christmas, it might behove you to dig the hole while the weather (and ground) remains warm. This will be much easier than trying to dig the frozen or nearly frozen ground and the excess soil from the hole will thawn much faster on milder days.
Once you are ready, have a hole that is slightly larger than the root ball. Water the plant thoroughly to help loosen up the roots and allow for easy removal from the pot. Place the tree in the hole and fill in the remaining area with soil. Water it thoroughly.
Watering and feeding
The tree should be kept cool and well-watered. So if you notice the soil drying out, add water. If it is particularly warm, water more often. Add fertiliser throughout the spring to ensure the tree gets nutrients necessary to remain hardy and strong for winter. Christmas trees grown in pots will need watering regularly, especially over summer and during warm dry spells sometimes every day.
Pruning pot grown Christmas trees
Pruning the Christmas tree is an easy process. You can prune these hardy trees whenever you see a dead or dying branch. You can also prune away any new growth that takes away from the general shape of a traditional Christmas tree which is usually the main reason for doing a little pruning. Regularly pruning in this fashion throughout the year will ensure your tree is ready for winter and the festive season and has the perfect shape.
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