Believe it or not, I’ve never put up a Christmas tree as an adult. Never in my 21 years since leaving my parent’s home have I ever really felt the desire to, until this year. Now I’m kind of obsessed. As I write this, I still haven’t cleared the floor space or gone out and bought one, mainly because I want a potted live tree and not a cut one. In this scenario, there are other considerations besides will-this-tree-fit-in-my-house-and-look-amazing-with-my-ornaments. True, a potted tree won’t make quite the statement that a cut live tree will, because it will always be smaller, but if carefully handled and replanted in your landscape, it will last for years and grow into a full size tree. If I’d had the forethought back in September, I could have easily picked up a potted spruce, fir or pine at any of the local nurseries, (probably with an end of season discount too) kept it outside till now, and be setting it up inside this week. I also would have had the chance to dig the hole for it, in anticipation of planting post-holiday time. But, I did none of those things and here I am embarking on a search a week before Christmas, with nary a potted tree to be found! Thanks to Derick from Queens for suggesting this topic by the way :).
Logistics of the potted tree scenario
What kind of evergreen is suitable for my property? How big is it going to get? How do I keep it alive till I can dig that hole in the spring? Am I cool with having a small tree for my holiday decoration? These are some of the questions you’ll be asking yourself if you are considering a potted tree. For the purposes of this article, I’m focusing on the needle type evergreens aka conifers, aka the dark green pointy upside-down ice cream-cone-shaped trees that smell, you know, like Christmas!
Here’s what Joe Lamp’l , the host of Growing a Greener World has to say about sourcing, acclimating (so important!) and caring for a live potted tree after the holidays are over.
And here’s what the Brooklyn Botanical Garden has to say about acclimating and keeping a potted Christmas tree until planting time. *Note the later planting time they suggest here. I’d go with their springtime planting suggestion over Joe Lampl’s wintertime one.
Species of Evergreens suitable for our region.
Now here’s where some extra research will pay off. Many of you have probably noticed the evergreens in our area are having a hard time. Maybe you have a dead or dying evergreen tree on or near your property that looks like this. Chances are what you’re looking at is a Colorado Blue Spruce suffering from Cytospora canker. This heinous disease also affects Norway spruce but to a lesser degree. Climate change exacerbates the spread of this disease, since it thrives in warm, humid environments, and these trees historically need drier, bitter cold winters to thrive. According to Michigan State Extension, alternatives to Colorado and Norway spruce include Concolor Fir, Dawn Redwood, Korean Fir, Korean Pine, Scots Pine and Serbian Spruce. All of these are hardy to our zone, which is 5 going on 6, and perform the function that we expect a conifer to do: provide year round screening and greenery in our landscapes. So, go to your local nursery equipped with a list of these trees and see if you can score one!
Where to find potted evergreens in our area.
Check out these nurseries for their selection of potted evergreens. The best selection exists during the growing season (May to October), but you may be able to find a tree as late as December if you’re willing to travel further afield and make some phone calls. If all else fails, you can always find a live cut tree or an artificial one last minute to fulfill your holiday decorating needs, or you could dress up any other house plant with decorations in a pinch. Its your house, get creative!
Todd Price Nursery, Canadensis PA
Delaware Valley Farm & Garden, Callicoon NY (currently sold out of potted evergreens)
E.P. Jansen Nursery, Florida NY
Bold’s Florist & Garden Center, Honesdale PA (currently sold out of potted evergreens)
Manza’s Family Farm Nursery, Montgomery NY
Monticello Farm Home & Garden, Monticello NY
Friendly Acres Farm, Cochecton NY (mostly deals in cut live trees and cut- your-own, but has limited quantities of potted evergreens for sale after Thanksgiving)