Tree Species, Selection & Care
A. LIVING CHRISTMAS TREE SPECIES
Quite a wide variety of trees are used as living Christmas trees. Some of the more common living Christmas trees include firs, spruce and pine. Additionally, you may find sellers offering trees that grow well in particular regions, with offerings ranging from western red cedar to leyland cypress. A live Christmas tree need not have the classic pyramidal Christmas tree shape - note that the classic shape may have been enhanced by shearing/pruning. Be open to the idea of using a nontraditional live Christmas tree, especially if the nontraditional tree that you are considering is a tree that grows well in your region. Be open to using something other than a full size tree.
B. HOW TO SELECT A LIVING CHRISTMAS TREE
If you aren't ordering your living Christmas tree online or by mail, then you probably will be looking and trying to decide between various live Christmas trees on display at your local nursery or store. The best tip that I can give you is to ask lots of questions. Ask about the tree. Is the tree healthy? Will the tree grow well in your region? How fast does the tree grow? How tall will the tree get?
Take a good look at the tree. Does the tree appear healthy? A tree with a lot of brown needles may have been too long out of the ground, or may have sustained insect damage. Colorants are available to spray on trees to "enhance" a tree's healthy appearance. A tree that has more space between the branches may be a naturally grown tree, that has not been sheared. Shearing is usually evident by looking for the clip markings at the end of branches. In contrast with Americans, Europeans traditionally prefer naturally-grown, unsheared trees.
Take a look at the container that the tree roots are in. Many trees will have been field harvested and will have their roots wrapped in burlap. Some living Christmas trees will just be in large plastic pots. Try to select a tree with a large root ball. (Many years ago I made the mistake of choosing a nice looking grand fir as my living Christmas tree, overlooking the fact that the tree had a small root ball. As it turned out the person that dug up the tree hadn't bothered to dig up enough of the tree roots and despite careful planting and watering, my tree died the following Summer.) Generally the more roots a tree has, the better the tree's chances of ultimate survival.
Consider the weight of the tree and how you are going to get the tree home. Due to the root ball, a living Christmas tree weighs a good deal more than a cut tree. While the tree farm/nursery may help you load the tree, you still need to get the tree out of your vehicle, once you get home. A tree farm/nursery may be willing to deliver your tree.
Consider what you are going to do with the tree post-holiday. You don't need to plant the tree in your yard. Perhaps a neighbor would like a tree. Consider donating the tree to one of your local governmental entities or non-profit organizations. If you are considering donating your tree, then you may want to call them before you purchase a tree to see what types(s) of tree they would prefer and what size works for them - this would also be a good opportunity to have some preliminary discussion relating to how/when/where they will take possession of the tree.
If you want to dig your own living Christmas tree, many choose and cut Christmas tree operations will allow you to dig your own tree.
C. CARE OF A LIVING CHRISTMAS TREE
Because the recommended care of a living Christmas tree varies so greatly between tree species and between regions of this country, let alone other parts of the world (living Christmas trees are popular in Australia and Australia is in their Summer season during Christmas) I cannot give you any complete "care of your tree" recommendations. For complete/detailed care recommendations, I suggest that you ask your local tree seller/renter about appropriate care of a living Christmas tree that you are considering purchasing. Many tree sellers/renters will provide you with written care instructions.
Growing a tree is an educational, life-enriching experience, that brings you happy holidays, year after year. I sincerely hope that you choose a living Christmas tree for your holidays.
Redwoods in Morning Light, California