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How to Take Care of a Potted Christmas Tree

This guide will teach you how to take care of a potted Christmas tree indoors.

How to take care of a potted Christmas tree

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 our extra closet, but that became difficult once the second room became a nursery. 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 idea 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

Potted Christmas tree care overview

  • Consider a potted live Christmas tree for a more eco-friendly choice.
  • Choose a reputable local nursery for purchasing a high-quality tree that will thrive in your climate.
  • Place the potted tree in a bright location in your home; avoid heat sources.
  • Water daily to ensure the plant remains hydrated; a thirsty plant will drop needles.
  • Plant the tree outdoors when your ground begins to thaw.
  • Follow general planting recommendations; dig a wide hole and protect the tree from wind during root establishment.

Why not choose 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.

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 numbered 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, and my stovetop holiday potpourri recipe!

Potted Christmas Tree

Let’s talked 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 with a baby this year, so that’s fine.

Most importantly, we’ll be able to plant the live potted tree after we use it indoors. It will grow and become part of wherever we plant it, contributing all that good environmentally friendly tree planting stuff we 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 properly!), 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 in a pot

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.

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 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. 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

Where to put a potted Christmas 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. Speaking of—avoid putting the tree right next to heat registers if you can.

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 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.

If your potted tree is losing needles, it’s probably unhappy with you for having it indoors. 🙂 Make sure you water it daily and providing enough sunlight. If you are doing both of these things and it is still dropping needles, it’s possible that it is too close to a heat register or other dry heat source.

decorated live christmas tree

How to plant a potted Christmas tree outside

The steps for potting your tree really depend on the tree you get, the conditions where you live, and what kind of outdoor space you have. 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.

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, moved our tree down to the patio. Once the ground began to thaw, we planted to tree in my parents’ front yard. Years later, and it’s still beautiful!

baby blue spruce with snow on it

Pin my tips about how to take care of a potted Christmas tree!

collage that says how to care for a potted christmas tree with pictures of our tree

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