Living trees and other plants can be decorated with Christmas ornaments and later be planted outside. This can become a family tradition where parents and children point to trees growing in the landscape and say, “that was our Christmas tree in 20XX.” This is especially effective if the whole family is involved in the process of selecting, decorating and planting the tree.

When you are selecting a living tree for decoration, broaden your thinking to include plants that might not normally be considered to be “Christmas trees”. For example, I used a large Benjamin fig tree as a Christmas tree when there was no available space for a Christmas tree and the Ben fig was already there and taking up space.

Many of the trees normally used as Christmas trees are forest giants which get 50 feet tall. If you select one of these, make sure you have a space big enough to accommodate it

Two of the best selections for traditional looking tall Christmas trees are Blue Spruce and several Fir trees. Smaller size trees that would be better adapted to most landscapes include Juniper, Arborvitae, Dwarf Alberta Spruce and Vanderwolf Pine. Although they are more irregular than a traditional Christmas tree, Hinoki Cypress, Alpine Fir and Mountain Hemlock are excellent choices for living Christmas trees that will fit most landscapes. A 5 to 6 foot tree (including pot) can be purchased for about $70 to $100.

The following procedures are important if you want to have success with your living Christmas tree:

  1. Keep the tree inside for no more than 14 days. 7 to 10 days is best.
  2. Water the tree to keep the soil moist while inside.
  3. Use only miniature lights for decoration which give off less heat.
  4. Water the tree and plant it outside right away. December-January are ideal planting times for trees.

If the tree breaks dormancy and begins to grow inside it will probably not survive. However, if it does start to grow, you can keep it inside all winter if you have a large south facing window. Then plant it outside in April.

A tropical tree called a Star Pine is often available at this time of year in Big Box stores. It is a good house plant and looks nice decorated as a Christmas tree. Many other indoor plants can also be decorated for Christmas.