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How to Take Care of a Potted Christmas Tree

This post will teach you how to take care of a potted Christmas tree, including what to do it your potted Christmas tree is losing needles, how much water your live Christmas tree needs, where you can find the perfect potted Christmas tree, how to plant your tree after Christmas, and more!

How to Take Care of a Potted Christmas Tree the Right Way

We’re doing something a bit different this year. We’ve never had a real fresh-cut Christmas tree—well, as adults, I mean. We had them growing up. I remember them being messy, very very messy. So for as long as Mike and I have lived together, we’ve had a fake tree.

However, last year after Christmas, we sold the fake tree on Facebook Marketplace. We used to store it in Ramona’s closet, but with Ramona in the picture, storing it was becoming more difficult. Instead of getting a new fake tree this year or getting a cut tree, I decided to try something new and get a smaller potted live Christmas tree.

The ideal is appealing to me because we can plant the tree after Christmas. And who doesn’t like planting trees? It’s pretty much the most eco-friendly option we could think of. So let’s chat about some of the benefits of getting a live Christmas tree and how to take care of a potted Christmas tree.

baby blue spruce with snow on it

Why choose a live Christmas tree over an artificial tree?

There’s something to be said for buying a fake tree and using it every year for a really long time. If you did that, a fake tree would be a better option than cutting a real tree down every year. But most people—including us—do not. Fake trees break down, or you don’t have a place to store them, or you want to get a bigger one.

That means that artificial trees can get pretty wasteful, especially when you look at the amount of non-renewable energy goes into the process. And the fact that many artificial trees are made using PVC, a plastic that is not biodegradable and is derived from petroleum. Artificial trees are almost always not recyclable or biodegradable. 

So just imagine all of those sad old trees with burnt out lights you once thought were convenient, but then they blew and you couldn’t take them off so you had to get rid of the tree, and now it’s sitting in a landfill forever and ever and ever until Jesus literally returns (if you believe that sort of thing, which I don’t, but it seems appropriate given Christmas is his birthday and stuff). 

Our simple, understated Christmas decor
Our fake tree that we sold last year.

Okay, but what about a fresh cut tree?

So why not get a real cut tree? Well, at least it can become one with nature after it’s run its course for the holidays. And you can turn it into mulch and do other cool practical stuff with it. But it’s still a dead tree and its days are numbers from the second you cut it down. Grim. Are you feeling for the trees yet?

Looking for decorating ideas? Check out my DIY dried orange slice and wood bead garland, my pine cone potpourri recipe, my stovetop holiday potpourri recipe, my wood bead Christmas tree garland, and my roundup of modern holiday DIYs for the home.

Potted Christmas Tree

Okay, you’ve sold me. Let’s hear about potted Christmas trees!

So this year we decided to do something different and buy a real live potted Christmas tree to decorate. That means we had to make a few changes, namely going with a small tree and having it up for less time. But we’re busy so that’s ultimately fine.

Most importantly, we’ll be able to either keep the tree in its pot and use it for a few years as a Christmas tree, taking it indoors every year in December. Or we’ll just plant the live potted tree after we use it indoors this year. It will grow and become part of wherever we plant it, contributing all that good environmentally friendly tree planting juju stuff people love. 

Live potted Christmas trees also have some other great, more tangible benefits. For example, they smell amazing, they are less likely to catch on fire because they don’t dry out (when tended to!), and they can become a unique family tradition. I’d love to make it a tradition—getting real trees and planting them.

baby blue spruce

Where can I get a potted Christmas tree?

Many stores sell potted Christmas trees now. I’d suggest going in person so you can choose the tree you want, though I’ve even seen the smaller ones for sale online. Big box stores like Home Depot, Lowes, and other large stores with garden centers (think Walmart, Menards) usually have them beginning in November. However, we went to a local nursery, and I’ll tell you why.

baby blue spruce in a pot

Choosing a living Christmas Tree and when to buy it

A local nursery is your best bet. First, you will probably pay a bit more, but you’ll know you’re getting a fantastic, healthy product. Second, you’ll also be able to ask questions to someone who is likely more knowledgeable than the employees at big box stores. And third, you can guarantee they’ll have varieties that are appropriate for your yard’s climate. 

We chose a baby blue spruce because it was gorgeous! There were a few other varieties at our nursery, but we really loved this one. I also like how short and stout it is. 🙂 We actually bought ours in late November, but we kept it outside on our balcony until mid-December. 

If you want to buy your potted Christmas tree early, make sure you have somewhere outdoors to keep it until you’re ready to bring it inside. And don’t bring it inside until as close to Christmas as you can get. Usually 1–2 weeks. 

baby blue spruce with snow on it

Potted Christmas Tree Care Tips: Where to put the tree

Choose a sunny spot near a window. This is probably one of the cooler spots in your house, which is great because live trees like bright natural light and cool temperatures. Placement near a window will help ensure they get enough light and aren’t overheated. Speaking of—avoid heat registers if you can. If you can’t, you can shut them temporarily. 

Transitioning your potted tree from outdoors into a cool garage for a week or two is recommended. Otherwise, your tree could be a bit shocked. That wasn’t practical for us, though. If you want to put your potted tree on a rolling plant caddy, you can easily roll it outdoors on a cool sunny day for a little breather.

decorated live christmas tree

How much to water a potted Christmas tree

Water your potted Christmas tree every day. The bucket it comes in will have drainage holes, so you’ll want to get a large clear drainage saucer to put under the bucket. A nice watering tip for a real potted tree—or any plant that likes to absorb water deeply and slowly—is to water it by covering the surface of the soil with ice cubes.

Looking for ornament DIYs? You’ll love my “glitter on the inside” clear ball ornaments, my winter scene clear ball ornament craft, my stovetop potpourri ornaments, my faux marbled clay ornaments, and my paint stirrer ornaments!

decorated live christmas tree

Why is my potted christmas tree losing needles

It’s probably unhappy with you for having it indoors. 🙂 Make sure you’re watering daily and providing enough sunlight. Also make sure to protect it from as much heat as possible, and remember that you can give the tree breaks outdoors on nice days if you’d like to.

How to plant a potted christmas tree

This really does depend on the tree you get, the conditions where you live, and what kind of outdoor space you have. So I’ll tell you what the general recommendations are and what I’m planning to do with ours. Generally, if your ground isn’t frozen, you should let your tree acclimate outdoors in a sheltered location for a week or two. Keep it well watered during this time. Then you can plant it. 

If the ground is frozen, you can put the potted live Christmas tree in a sheltered outdoor location, preferably one that isn’t exposed to direct winds but does get some good natural light. You can plant it on a milder day. 

Potted Christmas Tree

When you plant the tree, dig a hole twice as wide as the tree’s root ball. Set the tree down into the hole and cover it with dirt. While the roots are getting established, make sure to protect it from wind if you can. Some people use stakes and wire with new trees. 

Our fence helps block a lot of wind, so after Christmas, we’ll likely move our tree down to the patio. It gets good sun on the corner, but it is covered by the balcony, and the fence and balcony both help shield the area from the worst of the elements. If all goes as planned, I hope to plant the tree in late March. I’ll update this post when the time comes!

baby blue spruce with snow on it

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