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Living Christmas Trees?

 
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I wonder if it would be possible to keep a tree in the same pot for years and just prune it so it doesn't grow much?

We were thinking about trying it next year but also worried it would make a huge mess.

or just plant it outdoors and have a true permaculture Christmas

Has anyone ever tried this before? Do you still have the tree?
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Some trees can be grown in pots and kept in pots but I'm not sure if the classic Christmas tree varieties could be grown this way...

But you can get living trees and then plant them out after Christmas. I did this with Douglas firs the last 3 years and all 3 trees are alive and doing well on my homestead. This year I decided to go with a cut tree simply because I did not want to add another large tree to my homestead at this time.

If you go for a live tree that you are going to plant after Christmas it's important to minimize the time the tree spends inside. The change in temperature can mess with the tree. I aimed to keep my living trees inside for no more than 2 weeks and I would plant them the day after Christmas just to be safe.
 
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Patrick Humphrey wrote:I wonder if it would be possible to keep a tree in the same pot for years and just prune it so it doesn't grow much?

We were thinking about trying it next year but also worried it would make a huge mess.

or just plant it outdoors and have a true permaculture Christmas

Has anyone ever tried this before? Do you still have the tree?




I bought a frankentree leyland cypress this year for this very purpose! I got it kind of small, and my plan is to re-pot it as it grows and plant it when it gets too big.
 
pollinator
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My mother does this with a "cedar" (could be cypress or juniper too, don't remember exactly.)

They managed to use it for three years' Christmas' until it got too big (this year is it's last, then she's giving it to me to plant at our house - woot!)

We bought a 3-ft Italian Stone pine this year, but will be planting it soon after Christmas.

You could look into how Bonzai is done, and use their methodology where appropriate.
 
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This is a great question to bring up!
I have struggled with whether there was a more sustainable, tree friendly way to have a Christmas tree.
I was considering getting a living tree in the future, but after seeing a friend have one, I am not so sure. They have a very small evergreen in a pot which has been inside for just a couple weeks. It is very clearly unhappy, almost all of its needles are brown and dead. They are very good at keeping houseplants, so I wonder if it just doesn’t like being inside? It seems to me that most trees need a period of rest in the winter. Being inside in warm temps and longer exposure to light probably messes with that and interferes with their healthy growth. Kind of like what happens to health when you prevent a person from sleeping. They can’t restore themselves.
I’m certainly not saying it cannot work to have a living tree for Christmas. It might be possible. Just that what I am seeing makes it seem like it makes for stressed, unhappy trees. I would love to be wrong.

I think my plan in future is to either just be happy with my ceramic tree or to get a cut tree from the best source possible and later put it out for the birds to use as shelter, then eventually compost it or whatnot. One year, I had a cut Frazier Fir that was free of chemicals, so after the holidays, I processed all the needles to use for bath soaks, hydrosols, infused oils and the like. It smelled amazing and is nice for achy muscles.
I wonder if perhaps using LED lights (less heat than incandescent), keeping the tree in a cooler room and trying to match the indoor lights to what the natural cycles of light are doing could help? Or perhaps a tree like the Norfolk Island Pine would be a better candidate since I believe they come from warmer climes and might be less affected? I think they do get large, but perhaps could be pruned to stay small, as was suggested?
 
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We did a living tree over 40 years ago and planted in right after Christmas, so it was in the house for 3 weeks. Just checked (sold the house a few years later) and it’s still there.

As a child they would collect all the trees and make an enormous 30 foot high bonfire in the field next to a nearby school.
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grown christmas tree
grown christmas tree
 
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As mentioned before, up til last year our parish council provided a tree shredding service and I used the chip on my allotment paths.  This year for unknown reasons they have decided not to.  Luckily the county council will take them in the garden waste bin and they will be composted.  Just leaves me looking for an alternative source of chip...

In our first house there was an outsized conifer in the back garden that the previous owners had planted out - they really are not suitable for urban plots.  

I do remember many years ago seeing a tree someone had "made" by drilling holes in a straight stem and inserting offcuts from a larger conifer.  It was surprisingly effective.
 
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Norfolk pines do well in pots, and prefer the warmer temps inside during the winter (too much cold will kill them). While not a "true" pine, they tend to be a good shape for a Christmas tree, which is why you see so many of them in the box stores during the holidays.
Most of the "traditional" Christmas tree species require a dormancy period of cold temps with short days, so keeping them inside in a container will eventually result in death.
A couple of weeks is probably the longest I'd keep one inside, and less than that if it starts to "wake up" once it's inside.
Also, you'll need a big enough container to hold the roots to support the upper half of the tree, which is heavy to move in/out on a typical size tree. While it's true that bonsai trees are able to support a large trunk and branches with a tiny root system, it's important to know how those trees are trained for years in a growing pot/bed, where the ramification of feeder roots is focused on, then the roots are fertilized frequently once placed in the pot.

Another option is to just look at tropical trees that would tolerate being trimmed into a traditional Christmas tree shape each fall.
 
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I've kept potted, live Christmas trees for up to 10 years by treating them as a Bonsai (top and root pruning).
I've done this with several firs and spruce and I'm sure you can do it with almost any conifer you desire.

My first living tree bonsai was a Norway spruce that I was able to keep at 3.5 ft. height with a 2 foot diameter at the base, it now is cared for by the Japanese gentleman who taught me how to bonsai trees in Sacramento CA.
He had brought with him his family's collection of bonsai of which some conifers were 250 years old, he also had a Ho tree (Japanese magnolia) that was 412 when I first saw it in 1970.

Redhawk
 
Kc Simmons
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Bryant RedHawk wrote:I've kept potted, live Christmas trees for up to 10 years by treating them as a Bonsai (top and root pruning).
I've done this with several firs and spruce and I'm sure you can do it with almost any conifer you desire.

My first living tree bonsai was a Norway spruce that I was able to keep at 3.5 ft. height with a 2 foot diameter at the base, it now is cared for by the Japanese gentleman who taught me how to bonsai trees in Sacramento CA.
He had brought with him his family's collection of bonsai of which some conifers were 250 years old, he also had a Ho tree (Japanese magnolia) that was 412 when I first saw it in 1970.

Redhawk



That sounds awesome! I love bonsai'd conifers, but have not had much success with them. Currently my only conifers are some bald cypress whips in training, which have a long way to go before being considered bonsai I love the spruce & fir trees, but they tend to struggle with the heat here. I bet your living Christmas tree was a sight to see.
 
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