As a bonus, it becomes a living reminder of the season's events as it grows through the years. When compared to a cut tree, a living tree does require extra effort in handling, but is well-worth the time.
Success in post-Christmas planting of a living tree is improved by following a few handling guidelines. Always keep in mind that the tree is dormant, and exposure to warm indoor temperatures causes the tree to "soften-up" and, in some cases, begin to grow.
Thus the key to success is to acclimate the tree, both before and after it leaves the indoors, and to limit exposure to warm household temperatures to prevent breaking dormancy.
After you purchase the tree, keep it in a cool, unheated shed or garage for several days before bringing it inside.
Before bringing the tree in, consider spraying it with an anti-desiccant such as 'Wilt-PrufTM.' This will help the tree to better tolerate dry, climate-controlled indoor air, reducing water need and needle drop.
Once indoors, set the tree in a cool part of the room, away from heaters, vents or fireplaces. If possible, decrease the temperature of the room to between 68 and 70 degrees, and even lower at night.
It is important to keep roots moist. For containerized trees, a saucer can be placed under it to hold water. Both containerized and B&B trees can be set into larger containers, such as a galvanized tub, to help support the tree.
Pack moist peat, sawdust or wet newspaper around the root ball to help keep it moist. Bricks or stone can be positioned under the ball to keep the tree straight and in place.
When you are ready to remove the tree, reverse the above procedure, and let it adjust to cooler temperatures for a few days to a week in a cold garage or outdoor building before transplanting it outdoors.
Do not plant the tree too deeply, leaving the top of the ball or container about an inch above the soil level. Make the width of the hole at least twice the diameter of the ball. Be sure to cut and remove all strings on the ball, and for containers, inspect for circled roots and cut them.
Keep the tree straight, and backfill and firm soil carefully to avoid air pockets. Water the tree well.
A piece of burlap or other non-plastic protective covering (such as garden row covers) wrapped around tree limbs can help protect it as it adjusts to the cold of January.
Compared to cut trees, a living tree not only meets the short term need for indoor display, but is also is a long-term investment for the home landscape. For more information, check out the many horticulture publications available through your local University of Missouri Extension office, or visit online: http://extension.missouri.edu/publicatio....