by Ken Lain, the mountain gardener
- How do you keep a Christmas tree alive outside in the winter?
- Can you put a cut Christmas tree in soil?
- Buying a Potted Christmas Tree to Plant.
- When should you plant your Christmas tree?
- How to grow a Christmas tree in the garden.
- What happens to live Christmas trees after the holidays?
The ‘Single Blue Pinyon Pine‘ is a local variety that gives a bold appearance to a rustic tree. Its blue color blends well in dry mountain landscapes as well as modern and Mediterranean-style gardens. The tidy appearance and unusual blue color are stunning. This tree is gaining popularity at farmers’ markets for its pine nut production. Even at a young age, the tree produces pine cones with melt-in-your-mouth nuts. Let it grow wild to 10′ or prune it right after its spring growth for a perfect Christmas tree shape.
January is an excellent month for planting evergreens. The timing is perfect for those who use living trees as decorations during the holidays and then mature after the holiday festivities are over.
Because of their waxy needles and high internal pitch, most conifers need surprisingly little water. Once they grow to your preferred size, our arid climate, dry soil, and extreme temperatures make them all the happier. This holds true for most other high-country natives like pine, cypress, cedar, juniper, and spruce.
They don’t like to sit in wet soggy soil. The tree’s internal metabolism slows to an almost stasis-like state. New root hairs will form along with next spring’s candle buds as long as the soil drains quickly. That’s why digging the right size planting hole and adding the correct soil amendments are critical for successful planting.
Here are six steps to plant a happy evergreen tree after the holiday celebrations are over, or any season for that matter.
Step 1 – The planting hole should be bowl-shaped, the same depth as your tree’s root, and three times the width. Plants do not need a bottomless pit; they thrive when able to stretch out just under the soil’s surface, searching for food and water. Rid the hole of rocks and debris more prominent than a golf ball.
Step 2 – Improve the soil removed to make the planting hole and blend one part Watters Premium Mulch into three parts native soil. The amount of mulch per plant should be equal to the size of the root ball. Use this blended soil to backfill around your new tree.
Step 3 – Evergreen trees are so sensitive to soggy soil it is highly recommended to plant them on a slight mound. Whatever you do, don’t bury the plant; keep the trunk from sinking below soil level. The top of the root ball you see in the grower’s pot should still be able to see sunlight once planted.
Step 4 – Foster strong spring growth by adding “7-4-4 All-Purpose Plant Food”, specifically designed for Arizona mountain plants. Just sprinkle the granules on top of the root ball and water. The slow-release organic food promotes a deep green color while encouraging thicker root formation each time you water.
Step 5 – Promote deeper roots with ‘Root & Grow.’ Add this liquid rooting hormone when your tree is watered. It forces many new root hairs to grow into the surrounding soil. More roots mean a more vigorous plant. Use this root tonic once per month until new candle growth emerges in spring.
Step 6 – Top dress the planting area with a 3-inch layer of “Shredded Cedar Bark.” This extra layer of nature’s insulation holds moisture in, keeps weeds out, and protects from extreme temperature swings. It is like pulling a thick wool blanket over the roots when they are cold and shivering.
Water – Keep your tree moist but allow it to dry between watering. Give it a thorough soak twice per month throughout the winter. Once new growth is experienced, bump your water schedule twice a week during the first growing season, then once a week thereafter.
For exact planting details that include drawings and measurements, ask for my “Guide to Mile High Planting” the next time you visit the garden center. You might also like the helpful companion guide, “Mile High Watering.”
From the Lain family to yours, we would like to wish our Jewish friends a blessed Hanukkah, to our Christian friends the merriest of Christmas, and all others the happiest of holidays:).
Until next week, I’ll be helping festive shoppers pick the perfect living Christmas trees here at Watters Garden Center.