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The Flower Show

Consider a Living Tree for the Holidays This Year

December 05, 2020

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By Will Sulahian

With Thanksgiving come and gone, many are now looking forward to the upcoming holiday season. For many this means Hannukah, Kwanzaa, and Christmas! A tree plays an important role in many holiday celebrations. While a tree can be a beautiful addition to your home, it can also be difficult to figure out what kind to get – cut, balled with its roots, or even artificial – and what to do with it once the holidays are over.  

"Consider the environmentally friendly choice by selecting a tree with balled roots to replant after the holidays."

Each year, an estimated 15 million cut trees are discarded in the United States alone. Many of these trees are sent to landfills, where they contribute to the emission of harmful greenhouse gases. This year, if you have a yard, PHS asks you to consider the environmentally friendly choice by selecting a tree with balled roots to replant after the holidays. Not only will you be increasing the tree canopy in our region, but you’ll also be saving landfills from a flurry of dead trees.  

Balled or Rooted Trees 

Purchasing a balled or rooted tree has benefits besides being a good landing spot for presents! This style of tree is grown in a field but -- instead of being cut -- the tree is dug out with its roots intact and wrapped in a burlap sack. This protects the tree roots and allows you to quickly plant the tree in the ground. You will be saving a tree AND contributing to your local tree canopy. In the greater Philadelphia region, the tree canopy is currently 20%, which is far below the optimal coverage rate of 30%. Planting a tree helps green your neighborhood and will be a living reminder of holidays past for years to come. 

Plan Ahead 

Planning ahead is key for having a balled tree. Before you make your purchase, be sure you have a suitable location pre-selected in your yard! You can pre-dig the hole on a warm day if you want to get a head start. Save the soil and mix in 10 to 20 percent compost, decayed leaves, or organic matter to improve its organic nutrients and to backfill the hole once the tree goes in.  

Sitting Pretty  

Now that your tree is home, where do you place it? Select a location that will help it remain cool, away from a fireplace, radiator, or heater, as it will dry out. Also, avoid placing your tree in direct sunlight while it is indoors. 

Set Realistic Timing for Your Tree Indoors 

You’ll want to have a large, waterproof tub in place before you bring it home. Plan to keep your living tree indoors for the shortest amount of time possible.  A realistic time frame is no more than seven to ten days. While your tree is inside, keep it well hydrated. You can even spritz the branches with a spray bottle to keep them from drying out.  

Avoid Dramatic Temperature Changes 

Balled trees maintain their beauty for a shorter amount of time inside because of shifts in temperature. To help your living tree adjust to changes in temperature, first move your tree to a garage or enclosed porch for a few days before bringing it indoors. Likewise, make sure it spends a few days in your garage before you move it outside. Keep an eye on the weather forecast and bring your tree outdoors on a temperate day if possible.  Heat and dry air inside your home will take a toll on your living tree.

“The most important thing with planting trees is putting the right tree in the right place." - Tim Ifill, Associate Director of Trees

After the Holidays

“The most important thing with planting trees is putting the right tree in the right place,” says Tim Ifill, PHS Associate Director of Trees. “Planting a tree is an investment in the future, so think about whether this is the type of tree you want as a permanent part of your landscape,” he says. And remember, your tree will need extra attention for its initial two years after planting until it is fully  established! Ifill recommends 25 gallons of water each week along with mulching. We hope you enjoy your holidays and your newly planted tree flourishes!

Become a PHS Tree Tender — Classes begin in January!