It’s going to be the festive season soon and we need to have the iconic Xmas tree in our house. But, as a gardener, I wanted to check if it’s possible to grow an Xmas tree in a pot.
You can grow Xmas trees in a pot but it’s going to take a very large pot. You need to provide a gallon of water every day. It will need at least 6 hours of sunlight and the right amount of fertilizer. You’ll also need to prune the tree to restrict its size for the pot.
I figured growing an Xmas tree in a pot can be quite tricky. So I would recommend you avoid doing that. But if you’re really curious and want to try it out, I’ve written the details on how you can do this.
If you feel it’s too much of an effort growing an Xmas tree in a pot, you can always go for an artificial one. It will last you for years and you won’t need to maintain it as much. Check out the best Xmas trees on Amazon.com.
1. Choose the right Xmas tree variety
The first thing you need to do is decide what kind of tree to plant. Everyone can identify an Xmas tree when they see it. They’re synonymous with the holiday season. But do you know what the species is? Most don’t.
Believe it or not, there are many different varieties out there. They look very similar, but they all have unique needs
In most cases, Xmas trees are evergreen conifers. These trees stay green all year long despite the weather. Not only that, but they produce needle-like leaves rather than the traditional foliage most of us expect from trees.
So how do you pick one to grow? The best way to decide is to choose one that grows best in your region. Here are some of the most popular varieties out there.
Firs are, by far, the most common variety you see during the holidays. They produce that iconic Xmas tree scent and have a pretty uniform shape, which is great for decorating.
Fir trees do best in colder regions. Typically, you can see them growing in higher altitudes that experience snowfall regularly. Some popular cultivars include the Douglas fir, the Fraser fir, and the Balsam fir. They grow in zones 3 to 7.
Pines are best if you live in a warmer climate. They’re also an ideal choice if you want your plant to grow quickly. Many cultivars reach tall heights in only a few years.
Popular pine trees to try include the White pine and the Virginia pine. These cultivars do best in zones 4 to 8. There’s also the Sand pine, which grows in zones 7 to 10.
Spruce trees provide that signature shape. They’re a classic choice that can look great in your yard all year long.
The most popular spruce cultivar for Xmas trees is the Colorado Blue. It grows in zones 4 to 7. You can also try the Norway spruce if you live in cooler zones.
Finally, there’s the cypress tree. Cypresses are a bit unique. They don’t have that triangular shape that many associate with Xmas trees. But, they are evergreen and can grow well in warmer regions.
Two popular cultivars, the Leyland and Arizona Cypress, do well in the south. They can thrive as far south as zones 9 and 10 respectively.
2. Pick the best time to grow Xmas tree
No matter what kind of Xmas tree you choose, you have to choose your timing strategically. While these trees are hardy, they can experience stress and damage if you plant them at the wrong time.
Aim to plant the tree when it is dormant. If you try to plant it when it’s in the midst of a growth cycle, you run the risk of stunting its development. In some cases, these trees can die due to planting stress.
The best time to plant is in the early fall or late spring. Planting during these windows will give your plant plenty of time to prepare for winter.
Despite being cold hardy, Xmas trees can suffer from frost damage. So, you don’t want to wait too long to start your plant.
The soil should be workable and frost-free.
3. Find out how long Xmas tree takes to grow
If you think that you’ll be able to bring your tree in for decoration anytime soon, prepare for disappointment. Xmas trees need time to grow. We’re not talking about a couple of months or even a couple of years.
On average, it takes an Xmas tree 7 years to grow to appropriate heights. Of course, you could always bring the tree indoors sooner. But is your family going to enjoy the holiday staple when it’s only a few feet tall?
Most gardeners wait until the tree is between 6 and 7 feet to use.
It’s important to note: the 7-year timeline is only the average. All tree varieties are different. Some varieties may take up to 15 years. Others may reach your goal height in as little as 4 years. It all depends on the tree’s standard growing cycle.
Plus, environmental factors can have an impact. Extreme weather events or lackluster growing conditions could slow down the tree’s growth.
Whichever way you cut it, growing an Xmas tree in a pot is not a quick endeavor. It takes years of care to help these trees reach their full potential.
4. Choose the right pot for Xmas tree
Choosing a pot for your Xmas tree can be a little tricky. This isn’t a small plant we’re talking about here. Your tree will grow to be several feet tall, presenting a unique challenge in terms of containment.
Here are a few things to consider when selecting a pot.
The most important thing to think about is the size. Some gardeners will start small and transplant the tree regularly.
When you first buy an Xmas tree, it will likely be a couple of feet tall. It may already come in a sizable container. If you want to make things more manageable on your end, choose a pot that’s slightly bigger than the one it came in.
That way, it has room to grow. You can always upgrade later on when the tree outgrows its container.
But, there is one problem with this planting method: transplant shock. Xmas trees can encounter transplant shock all the same. When you’re moving it to a larger container every year, you’re just increasing the risks of encountering problems.
For this reason, I recommend starting with a large pot right off the bat. Stick with a deep pot that’s 18 to 20 inches in diameter. This will provide adequate space for the roots to spread.
The material of your pot might not seem like a huge deal. But have you ever tried moving a massive tree in a flimsy plastic pot?
Larger trees require sturdy pots that you can easily move. Flimsy plastic will only degrade over the years. Stick to tough ceramic, terracotta, or even metal.
5. Prepare the pot for planting Xmas tree
With a big investment like an Xmas tree, it’s important to get every detail right. Many trees struggle in containers due to the limited growing environment.
Luckily, you can mitigate those issues with proper pot preparation.
Before you start planting, it’s a good idea to improve drainage. Xmas trees love water. In fact, they need a lot of water to prevent resin formation and dehydration. More on that later.
But like any other plant, excess water is a big no-no. Standing water can lead to root rot, fungal problems, disease, and a litany of other problems you don’t want to deal with.
The best way to prevent water issues is to be proactive and create proper drainage.
Take a look at the bottom of the pot. Chances are, there’s at least one hole in the center for drainage. To be on the safe side, create some more. Drill a few holes along the bottom rim of the pot to ensure that the soil can drain adequately.
Stability and Transport
Next, you want to think about how you’re going to position and move the tree. A full-grown tree is going to weigh several hundred pounds. Add the weight of the soil and you’re looking at back-breaking work just to move it a few inches.
Consider putting the pot on something you can easily move. Whether it’s a simple dolly or a large pot stand, it’s better than having nothing. A rolling stand will make the tree easier to position as the weather changes. Plus, it keeps the pot off the ground for better drainage.
Preparing the Soil
Finally, you need to prepare the soil for planting. Xmas trees will grow in a variety of different soil conditions. But, they thrive in loamy soil with good drainage.
Fill your pot up with the appropriate soil. Then, add some organic compost. This will make the soil more fertile and create a more conducive growing environment.
You can also check the pH levels. The correct pH level can make all the difference. Fraser fir, Norway spruce, and White pine do best with a pH of about 6.0. Meanwhile, Douglas fir and Blue spruce like 6.5.
6. Plant Xmas tree in the pot
Planting your Xmas tree is a pretty straightforward process. But, there are some useful tips you should know.
The first is choosing your tree from a nursery. The best way to plant an Xmas tree is to choose a seedling or a young transplant. You could grow from seed, but that would only increase your growth time by several years.
Nursery plants are the way to go. A lot of the hard work is already done. Not only that, but you can often find trees meant for pots. These trees grew pots as well, which can decrease the impact of the transplant process.
When you’re choosing a plant, pay attention to the numbers on the pots. You might see something like 2-0 or 2-2. These numbers represent the plant’s age. The first number is how long it spent in a seedling bed. The second number is how long it grew in a transplant bed.
You might also see “plug-1.” The “plug” means that the tree grew in a greenhouse.
Generally, 2-2 trees are best for container planting due to their age.
After filling your pot with soil, dig a hole that’s roughly the same size as the container the tree came in. Then, gently remove the tree and surrounding soil from its nursery pot.
Place the entire root system in the hole and pack the soil in. It’s as easy as that. Give the plant a good watering and keep an eye on it to make sure that it doesn’t suffer from transplant shock.
7. Provide required sunlight to Xmas tree
Sunlight is going to be your tree’s best friend. Evergreen conifers need as much sunlight as they can get.
You should position the tree so that it has full access to sunlight all day long. If you have limited exposure, try to make sure that it’s getting at least 6 hours every day.
This is the case for most Xmas tree varieties. But, there may be some differences based on cultivar. Make sure to do some research and gather some information from the nursery to get a better idea of what your particular plant needs.
Providing sunlight for your Xmas tree is not as easy as plopping it in some open space.
You see, Xmas trees also need shelter from the wind. Harsh winds can dramatically lower the ambient temperature. Furthermore, the structure of the plant can suffer.
Providing adequate wind protection is paramount. One good option is to place the tree on the opposite side of a fence or wall. As long as the prevailing winds are coming from the opposite direction, that should be adequate enough.
You can also plant other trees in the vicinity. Other evergreens and dense trees are great for baffling the wind a bit.
8. Water Xmas tree in the pot
With a plant of this size, expect to provide a lot of water.
The average Xmas tree will need about a gallon of water every day. That said, your tree’s needs could be different.
Professional tree farmers gauge a tree’s water needs based on the diameter of its trunk. As a general rule of thumb, these trees need about a quart for every inch of trunk thickness. Use that as a guide throughout the life of your tree.
You don’t want to underwater the tree. When an Xmas tree does get enough water, it will produce sap. This essentially seals the tree and speeds up the dehydration process.
Keep the tree well-hydrated and make sure that it’s draining properly. If water collects and the soil turns to mud, you need to take the steps to remedy the problem.
9. Prune the Xmas tree in the pot
Pruning is a necessary task for Xmas trees. While they naturally grow in a conical fashion, they can use a little help to get the signature shape.
There are a few different types of pruning you can do.
If your tree is starting to look a bit lopsided, you can correct the issue by removing overgrowth.
Sometimes, terminal leaders will cause branches to stick out from the core cone shape. The growth is unsightly and can lead to further problems if you don’t address it.
Cut terminal leaders back so that the branches fall in line. Usually, this will require 8 to 12 inches of removal. Use your shears to cut the branches at an angle. You can also snip off any nearby buds to prevent a secondary top from developing.
Here’s a good pruning technique for potted Xmas trees. As the name would suggest, it involves controlling the height of the tree.
When your Xmas tree focuses its energy on height, it can start to look sparse. There’s not enough energy to create density. So, you have to take matters into your own hands.
Prune the top of the tree. It’s also important to remove any long branches near the cut top. The goal is to maintain the conical shape. Visualize the iconic silhouette and remove any branches that extend beyond it.
10. Fertilize the Xmas tree in the pot
Applying fertilizer to your Xmas tree can do a lot to promote overall health. With proper applications, the tree will become fuller and greener. Plus, the boost of nutrients can help the plant grow faster.
There’s no catch-all fertilizer product for these trees. Every plant’s needs are going to be different. Additionally, you may have some soil issues that you need to address.
If you amended the soil before planting, it should be fertile enough to support the tree during its first couple of years. But after that, supplemental feedings are important.
Test the soil every year to see what nutrients the growing environment is lacking. From there, you can find a suitable product that addresses your specific concerns.
A standard balanced fertilizer will work just fine and provide generally good results.
Apply the fertilizer around the drip line of the plant. If the foliage extends beyond the confines of the pot, infuse the soil around the base of the plant.
It’s best to feed the plant once a year during the spring. Try to fertilize approximately 3 weeks before the buds break for the best results.