Information On Replanting A Christmas Tree Without Roots

Image by Richard McGuirk

By Mary H. Dyer, Master Naturalist and Master Gardener

Christmas trees create the scene (and the aroma) for a very, merry Christmas, and if the tree is fresh and you provide good care, it will retain its appearance until the season is over. The downside is that trees are expensive and they are of little use once they’ve served their primary purpose.

Sure, you can recycle your Christmas tree by placing the tree outside to provide winter shelter for songbirds or chipping it into mulch for your flower beds. Unfortunately, there is one thing you definitely cannot do – you can’t replant a cut Christmas tree.

Replanting Cut Trees Isn’t Possible

By the time you purchase a tree, it has already been cut for weeks, or maybe even months. However, even a freshly cut tree has been separated from its roots and replanting a Christmas tree without roots simply isn’t possible.

If you’re determined to plant your Christmas tree, purchase a tree with a healthy root ball that has been securely wrapped in burlap. This is an expensive alternative, but with proper care, the tree will beautify the landscape for many years.

Christmas Tree Cuttings

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You may be able to grow a tiny tree from Christmas tree cuttings, but this is extremely difficult and may not be successful. If you’re an adventurous gardener, it never hurts to give it a try.

To have any chance of success, the cuttings must be taken from a young, freshly cut tree. Once the tree is cut and spends a few days or weeks in the tree lot or your garage, there is no hope that cuttings are viable.

  • Cut several stems about the diameter of a pencil, then strip the needles from the bottom half of the stems.
  • Fill a pot or celled tray with lightweight, aerated potting medium such as a mixture of three parts peat, one part perlite and one part fine bark, along with a pinch of slow-release dry fertilizer.
  • Moisten the potting medium so it’s damp, but not dripping wet, then make a planting hole with a pencil or small stick. Dip the bottom of the stem in rooting hormone powder or gel and plant the stem in the hole. Be sure the stems or needles are not touching and that the needles are above the potting mix.
  • Place the pot in a sheltered location, such as heated cold frame, or use bottom heat set at no more than 68 degrees F. (20 C.). At this point, low light is sufficient.
  • Rooting is slow and you probably won’t see new growth until the following spring or summer. If things go well and the cuttings root successfully, transplant each one into an individual container filled with soil-based planting mix with a small amount of slow release fertilizer.
  • Let the tiny trees mature for several months, or until they’re large enough to survive outdoors.

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