Horticulture Magazine

Can You Re-Plant A Christmas Tree?

a Christmas pine tree with beautiful scattered lights in the background

Each year, millions of Christmas trees get sent either to landfill, recycling plants or, heaven forbid, wood chipping machines.

What sort of fate is this for their final sacrifice of making your family’s Christmas that little bit more special?

a woman dragging an old christmas tree to some black bins
Did you know that around 6 million trees are discarded each year?!

Lots of people wonder whether their tree can be replanted, however. We’ve written this article to address that very question!

Can you replant a Christmas tree after using it?

The short answer? Yes.

The long answer comes with a few caveats, which we’ll run you through now.

After reading this article you’ll know the answer to these questions –

  • What type of Christmas tree do I have?
  • Can you put a cut Christmas tree in soil?
  • Can a cut Christmas tree grow roots?

Let’s get started.

What type of Christmas tree do I have?

To determine whether it’s possible to plant and grow your Christmas tree, you need to know what type it is.

There are two types –

  • Cut Christmas trees. These are trees that have been grown in the ground, then cut down at the trunk. Sometimes you buy them like this, other times you can cut them down yourself, a nice little festive activity for the family.
  • Containerised Christmas trees. These trees have been carefully transplanted to a container along with a root system that keeps them alive.

As you might expect, cut Christmas trees can’t keep growing. You can take a cutting and use that to start a new tree, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.

If you were asking yourself whether a cut tree would grow roots, that’s a no. Put them in water and they’ll just slowly rot, and planting them outdoors will achieve nothing.

So, the answer to the question “can you put a cut Christmas tree in soil” is a resounding no, unfortunately.

pine tree discarded by the side of the road, with snow in the background
The telltale marks of a cut Christmas tree, destined to die

This means that if you want to keep growing your Christmas tree once the festive season is over, you’ll need to go for a containerised tree.

What is a containerised Christmas tree?

This is a type of Christmas tree that’s been specially conditioned to grow in a container. The idea is that you bring the living tree inside your home near Christmas, then return it outdoors after Christmas to keep growing.

How to keep a containerised tree growing

Being indoors is actually a bit of a shock to the system for a Christmas tree. Think about it: these evergreen trees are used to surviving outdoors in the thick of winter, sometimes spending days at a time under a blanket of snow.

So, sitting beside your roaring fireplace (or, more likely, radiator) involves temperatures way above what they’re used to.

Too long in this environment can dry them out and, left too long, cause enough damage that they’ll be unable to grow properly (or at all) thereafter.

How to balance the need to flaunt your fabulous, tinsel-clad centrepiece with the tree’s survival needs, then?

Simple, just follow these tips –

  • Try to keep the heat down in the room the tree lives in.
  • Bring the tree into your house as close to Christmas as possible.
  • Pack down the tree as soon after Christmas as you can bear. They’ll struggle beyond 10-14 days.

You’ll be able to tell when a Christmas tree isn’t happy: its needles will start to turn brown, and its overall appearance will start to seem generally more unhealthy.

If it’s not too big you can move your tree back outdoors for a little while to recuperate before bringing it in for another festive display. Let the tree guide you.

a containerised tree being pushed in a red cart by a young boy
Choose the right tree and you could enjoy it for years to come

Keeping your containerised tree growing after Christmas is a great way to enjoy it year after year, and you get the combined benefit of having an attractive new addition to your garden in the interim.

Here’s how to keep your containerised tree alive –

  • Don’t bring it indoors too far ahead of Christmas.
  • Move it outdoors as soon after Christmas as possible.
  • Repot into progressively bigger pots as and when the tree’s roots require it.
  • Use John Innes 2 or a similar compost to meet the tree’s nutritional needs.

The eventual size of your tree will depend on how and where it’s grown. In a container, the size will be capped by how much the roots can grow. Expect maximum heights of a couple of metres.

Grown in the ground, however, you can expect much greater heights. After a couple of decades it’s not impossible for a tree to be 30 metres or more! (Obviously it’ll be a lot harder to squeeze into your front room at this point).

How to dispose of a Christmas tree

Many people are quite content to send their Christmas tree to landfill once the occasion has passed – definitely something we’d advise against.

If you do decide to get rid of your tree once Christmas is over, there are a few ways to do it responsibly:

  • Most local councils offer some kind of drop-off service where you can take your tree to a park or other public place, and it’ll be picked up at a scheduled time.
  • You can find a composting site and put your tree through a chipper. The resulting green material is great for mulching or adding to compost heaps.
  • Christmas trees make great firewood, so you can always give them a Viking send-off in a big bonfire. If you go for this option make sure it’s a) legal where you live and b) safe!

Oh Christmas tree

There’s nothing quite as festive as a Christmas tree festooned in tinsel, baubles, novelty decorations, candy canes, bows, and myriad other Christmas decorations. Even the hardest Scrooge-like heart will be softened by this display, especially if it’s beside a fire with a medley of presents gathered beneath.

And what better way to pay tribute to the tree than to save it from a landfill afterlife, or a fatal appointment with a wood chipper.

By replanting your Christmas tree you get to enjoy each other’s company for years – maybe decades – to come.

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