Buying a potted evergreen to serve both as a Christmas tree and a yard tree is possible, though a bit of a challenge. Most trees do best if they are planted soon after purchase and during the cool months of autumn. But that doesn't stop gardeners from planting Christmas trees after the holiday season is over.
The key to success is timing. Purchase the tree as close to Christmas as possible, and keep it in indoors for as brief a time as you can. It is also important to prepare a planting spot outdoors before the ground freezes so hard that you can't dig. Keep reading for detailed instructions on buying a Christmas tree to plant at the end of the season.
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If you want a Christmas tree that can live in your yard, buy a potted Christmas tree or one that's ball-and-burlapped. Choose a manageable size; Christmas trees with root balls are heavy.
In cold-winter climates, dig the planting hole in late fall, before the ground freezes. Make it twice as wide as the root ball will be. Then, fill the hole with mulch and protect the excavated soil with a tarp. Once you buy the tree, place it in a garage or a shed for a few days to adjust to the warmer air. Display it in a watertight tub and place ice cubes on top of the root ball as needed to keep roots barely moist and cool. When you're ready to take it inside, give it a cool spot near a window.
After Christmas, when you're ready to plant the tree, acclimate it to cooler air by placing it back in the garage or shed for a few days. On a mild day, place the tree into the hole. Remove the burlap. Backfill with excavated soil and tamp gently. Water deeply, then mulch heavily. In harsh climates, evergreens are vulnerable to wind damage during their first winter. Protect your tree with a screen such as the one shown, which is made with old pallets and draperies.
Related: Fast-Growing Evergreen Trees