Jill is a former Master Gardener and Naturalist who enjoys cooking, abstract painting and stewardship.
How to Keep a Mini Christmas Tree Alive After the Holidays
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
Giving miniature Christmas trees as gifts has become very popular; in fact, we received two of them this year!
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.
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.
- The third layer was decorative—a burlap wrapper in the case of one of the trees and a wooden cachepot for other.
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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
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 Alberta 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 dogwoods are set about six feet behind the spruce tree.
Planting Tabletop Christmas Trees Indoors
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 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 repotted, 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).
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Questions & Answers
Question: Can a miniature Christmas tree be set outside during the summer?
Answer: Sure! Just be sure to water your tree. In the fall, you can plant.
© 2012 Jill Spencer
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on March 28, 2018:
Sounds like a lovely idea, Barbara. I am surprised at how big some of ours are now. Two we planted about five years ago are around 4-feet tall. Not so miniature anymore! All the best, Jill (:
Barbara A Bennett on March 28, 2018:
Thank you, that is a help. I don't want my dwarf tree from H&D to die before I can plant it outside here in Portland, OR, which I will do now
from what you have written, and later, replant it at the grave of my cat, Lavender.
Joe in AZ on January 26, 2014:
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
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on January 09, 2013:
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 Dapples from Arizona. on January 09, 2013:
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.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on January 03, 2013:
Oh aviannovice! If only we lived closeby I'd trot over (at about suppertime) with those birds. (;
Deb Hirt from Stillwater, OK on January 02, 2013:
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.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on January 02, 2013:
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
Claudia Porter on January 02, 2013:
This is a great idea. I have never been able to keep one alive and end up tossing it. Useful hub!
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on January 01, 2013:
Hi Natashalh! Thanks for your comments. (: Take care, Jill
Natasha from Hawaii on January 01, 2013:
What a great idea! And your photos if the little tree and fantastic, too.
Jill Spencer (author) from United States on December 31, 2012:
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
Donna Herron from USA on December 31, 2012:
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 :)