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Planting a Miniature Christmas Tree

How to Keep a Mini Christmas Tree Alive after the Holidays

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Inside or Outside?

Live tabletop Christmas trees are lovely during the holidays, but afterwards, when the lights and decorations have been removed and the trees begin to yellow and drop their needles, many of us may be tempted to throw them into the garbage.

But what a waste that would be! Especially when, with a bit of effort, miniature Christmas trees can live for many years, either as container plants or in the landscape.

Those of us who are simply re-potting our miniature conifers or who live in a mild-winter area don't even have to wait until spring to get started! We can replant our tabletop Christmas trees right now, in winter.

Removing the Decor

Decorative pine cones were attached to the tree from LL Bean with long pieces of thick florist's wire.
Decorative pine cones were attached to the tree from LL Bean with long pieces of thick florist's wire. | Source
Removing the lights and other decorations was our first step prior to replanting.
Removing the lights and other decorations was our first step prior to replanting. | Source

Giving miniature Christmas trees as gifts has become so popular. This year, we received two of them! And now that the holidays are over, it's time for us to do something with them—before they drop their needles and die.

The first step? Removing the decorations, including the strings of lights.

The décor on both of our mini tabletop trees was really, really attached! It took a good bit of time to unwrap the floral wire carefully in order to remove the decorative pine cones, artificial birds, garland and lights without damaging the trees.

Detaching the decorations, however, was well worth it. Once they were gone, the trees were much easier to handle when it was time to remove them from their pots.

Plastic liners need to go, whether you're replanting or not.
Plastic liners need to go, whether you're replanting or not. | Source
Our trees were root bound.
Our trees were root bound. | Source

The trees we received arrived in three containers each. The first layer, the containers that actually held the trees, were plastic nursery pots with drainage holes. They were set inside clear plastic liners, probably to prevent water from draining into the third container, which was decorative— a burlap wrapper in the case of one of the trees and a wooden cachepot for other.

After removing the decorations, which was no small task, we removed each of the trees from the containers, including the nursery pots. The roots were tight, compact and hard; they needed to be loosened and separated, which I accomplished with a sharp shovel.

Planting Miniature Christmas Trees Outside

We planted the Douglas Fir by the woods in clay soil cut with loamy topsoil.
We planted the Douglas Fir by the woods in clay soil cut with loamy topsoil. | Source
Our Dwarf Alberta Spruce tabletop Christmas tree,  planted in a landscaping bed near the woods.
Our Dwarf Alberta Spruce tabletop Christmas tree, planted in a landscaping bed near the woods. | Source

Because the winters here in Southern Maryland are mild, we opted to plant our mini Christmas trees before the New Year.

If we lived in a colder region where the ground was snow covered or frozen, we would have waited until spring to plant them outdoors—although the trees would probably have had to be re-potted into larger containers with better drainage before then.

Selecting a Spot

The tabletop Christmas tree that we received through Harry & David is a Dwarf Alberta Spruce. Slow growers, Alberta Spruce trees average only two to three inches of new growth per year, eventually topping out at 12-feet tall. The other tree that we received, a Douglas Fir, will someday be a much larger tree, something we took into consideration when choosing a planting location.

Prepping the Soil

We planted the Douglas Fir first, setting it in a relatively sunny location at the edge of the woods near our house. Because Douglas Firs don't do well in compact soil, we made the hole wide and deep, breaking up the clods of clay well before mixing in a bag of topsoil.

The Dwarf Albert Spruce, which doesn't mind dense clay, was also placed in a sunny spot. Because of its small size and slow growth pattern, we chose a location in the landscaping island that we're developing along the edge of the woods. A row of young red twig dogwood are set about six feet behind the spruce tree.

Planting Tabletop Christmas Trees Indoors

They look good now, but these mini Christmas tree are in too-small pots with poor drainage. They need to be planted or repotted--before spring.
They look good now, but these mini Christmas tree are in too-small pots with poor drainage. They need to be planted or repotted--before spring. | Source

If the ground is frozen where you live or you don't have a yard, you may extend the life of your miniature Christmas tree by re-potting it rather than by planting it outside.

Select a container that is larger than the original pot, and make sure that the larger container has lots of drainage holes. Place gravel in the bottom of the pot and fill it partially with regular potting soil before setting the tree in place. (If the roots are compacted, slash them along the sides and bottom with a sharp knife and spread them across the soil as you fill the pot.)

Once it's re-potted, place the mini Christmas tree in a sunny location. If set it in a covered area, such as an entryway, covered porch or sun room, it will need to be watered regularly. Most conifers grow best in moist, well-drained soil that's acidic (a good thing to keep in mind if you decide to fertilize).

© 2012 Jill

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Comments 11 comments

Joe in AZ 2 years ago

My Mother and I received a Alberta Spruce tree live . I have taken off the lights , and pine cones . The tree has a bend in the main trunk , this brings me to the question which direction should I plant this tree ? I live in Phoenix area . It has already added at least three inches of new growth to the top of tree . Being warm to hot I feel I need to plant in ground where it would be shaded by other tree's except during mid day ? Please help my thinking which direction to place it and where in the yard . Thank You for your help ! Joe


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The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Pamela. Nice to hear from you. Sounds like you and your husband did a fine job of tree planting--or even if you didn't, your little trees did well. Plants are hardy things for the most part, surviving often despite us. Don't let the Master Gardener idea impress you too much! There are vast oceans of information about gardening that I don't know. Being an MG just means I've had some training and am continuing to learn about gardening. I rather wish the program had a different name, as the title is so pompous and daunting. Still, I enjoy being part of it. Thanks for commenting! Take care, Jill


Pamela Kinnaird W profile image

Pamela Kinnaird W 3 years ago from Maui and Arizona

This is so full of good information. I didn't know, for instance, that Douglas Firs don't thrive in soil that is compacted. My husband and I must have accidentally made a hole 'wide and deep' and broke up the 'clods of clay' as you suggest because before we sold our house in Vancouver decades ago, we planted two little -- very little -- Douglas Firs. We drove past the house two years ago and could hardly believe our eyes. We felt like Master Gardeners -- which we aren't and you are. I was especially drawn to this hub because of your gorgeous photo of the birds on the tree. I love to have at least one little tree with birds in the house at Christmas.

Voting up and awesome.


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The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Oh aviannovice! If only we lived closeby I'd trot over (at about suppertime) with those birds. (;


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aviannovice 3 years ago from Stillwater, OK

Those trees that you were given were very nicely shaped. It is always important to plant trees, as so many of them are cut down due to housing developments and other reasons to make room for people. If you still have those decorative birds and don't want them, let me know, Jill.


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The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Glimmer Twin Fan! I bet lots of mini Christmas trees end up in the garbage or compost heap after the holidays. What a waste! Thanks for stopping by, Jill


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Glimmer Twin Fan 3 years ago

This is a great idea. I have never been able to keep one alive and end up tossing it. Useful hub!


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The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi Natashalh! Thanks for your comments. (: Take care, Jill


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Natashalh 3 years ago from Hawaii

What a great idea! And your photos if the little tree and fantastic, too.


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The Dirt Farmer 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi purl3agony! The small conifers are definitely the best to replant. Years ago, I purchased a live tree with a large rootball and it did not survive transplanting, but then ... that was another state and a particularly cold winter. As for the birds, nope they (along with everything else that came on the Harry & David tree) are fake, although someday I'd like to decorate a tree outside just for the birds. Take care! Jill


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purl3agony 3 years ago from USA

Hi Jill,

Great article as always. Next year, we may get a plantable tree. One question: in your first photo - are those real birds on your tree? That's a beautiful photo :)

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