General gardening topics

How to plant a real Christmas tree

Last updated on January 21st, 2020

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Christmas trees are the centre of all Christmas decorations but many people are tired of buying a tree year after year, only to have them left are the local recycling point for them to be chipped and recycled. They are now turning to buying pot grown Christmas trees which can be brought inside the home or left outside and decorated when the season approaches before being placed outside after Christmas to enjoy for the rest of the year. Some people may choose to buy a pot grown Christmas tree and then plant it outside after Christmas in a more permanent location.

Choosing between a pot grown Christmas tree and potted Christmas tree

If you are going to plant a real Christmas tree you have to be sure you pick the right type. That doesn’t mean the right variety but rather container-grown versus potted trees. Potted trees were already grown in the ground and then dug up and placed in a pot where they were subsequently sold to you are potted Christmas trees often slightly cheaper than pot-grown trees. Container-grown trees or pot-grown as they are also sold have always been grown in a container although sometimes the container is sunk into the grown. These are more expensive but they are also more likely to survive transplantation because they haven’t been exposed to any root damage. By comparison, potted trees might not live as long because of the shock associated with growing in the ground moving to a container often with very little root and then planted back in the ground.

Choosing a location

While you are preparing to plant your tree you need to keep it cool and well-watered. If you purchase your tree and you decorate it for Christmas then plan to grow it in your garden thereafter you want to place it somewhere far from a fireplace or a radiator as this will quickly dry them out and they need to be kept watered to prevent needle loss.

Preparing your tree to be planted outside after Christmas

If you have particularly cold weather it might be best to move the tree from inside to an unheated greenhouse or a colder garage/shed for a few weeks bringing it out during the day before you make that final transition to your garden where it will be fully exposed to the cold weather. 

Planting the christmas tree

Step 1

When it comes time to plant the tree, make sure the ground is not waterlogged or frozen. You might want to dig the hole when the weather is warmer and save your soil for later if your area is prone to heavy snow such as in Scotland but most parts of the Uk should be fine. This will remove the battle of digging a hole in frozen ground. The hole should be slightly wider than the root ball but not any deeper than the top of the pot as you don’t want to plant it too deep.

Step 2

Water your tree well so that the roots are hydrated and it comes out of the container easily. 

Step 3

Place the root ball and trunk into the hole such that they are not buried any deeper than they were in the original container. Fill in the remainder of the hole with the soil, you could mix a little compost in to give it a good start or fertiliser such as bone meal and water it well to prevent any air bubbles and thoroughly moisten the soil. You might need to stake the tree into position if it seems unstable or is at risk for being blown over by heavy winds. 

Step 4

Once planted, apply some organic mulch such as compost or bark at the base to help with moisture retention.

Planing into a container

If you plan on planting your Christmas tree onto a larger pot try and choose a large pot, half whisky barrels are popular choices. The same process can be followed but use a soil-based potting compost such as John Innes Potting Compost which is designed for shrubs and trees. Don’t forget to make sure there are plenty of drainage holes and to put a good amount of crockery in the bottom of the container to stop the holes getting blocked with soil.

Watering and feeding

It is important to water through any dry spells and keeps the soil rich in fertilisers, especially in the Spring. After the first year, it should be able to take care of itself and get all the moisture it needs from the ground itself once the roots have established themselves.

Pruning and training

Pruning and training is simple and goes a long way toward keeping your tree healthy although the main reason is usually to retain the traditional Christmas tree shape as most types don’t grow this way on there own. Any new growth that interferes with the traditional Christmas tree shape can be cut away and any branches that are dead or unhealthy can be cut off to stop the spread of disease. Pruning and training in this fashion every few weeks will ensure you have the perfect, quintessential Christmas tree come December which can be decorated outdoors. We wouldn’t recommend digging it up again to bring indoors as it usually won’t survive to be planted again after Christmas. 

Types of real Christmas trees

There are different types of real Christmas trees out there, so you don’t have to pick just one. The top 5 varieties which are usually sold by most garden centres and nurseries include:

  1. Norway spruce
  2. Fraser Fir
  3. Nordman Fir
  4. Pine tree
  5. Blue spruce

You can read more about these different types of Christmas trees in this article.

No matter the variety, once you have planted the tree and the following Christmas arrives, it is time to dig up the tree and bring it inside to be decorated or to leave it outside and decorate it in the yard. If you grow your tree and bring it inside, the dramatic changes in temperature and any potential root damage will likely kill it. Growing just for the sake of bringing it inside the next season is perfectly fine, and you can replace the tree with a new container-grown Christmas tree annually. Of course, you can always enjoy the enchanting and otherwise festive outdoor decor if you leave it in the garden.

Welcome to my site, my name is John and I have been lucky enough to work in horticultural nurseries for over 15 years in the UK. As the founder and editor as well as researcher, I have a City & Guilds Horticultural Qualifications which I proudly display on our About us page. I now work full time on this website where I review the very best gardening products and tools and write reliable gardening guides. Behind this site is an actual real person who has worked and has experience with the types of products we review as well as years of knowledge on the topics we cover from actual experience. You can reach out to me at

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