The image of a towering tree covered in baubles and lights may be the tradition in high-ceiling living rooms. However, especially in small apartments and for those who live in cities, many are discovering the joy of the miniature Christmas tree. Tiny trees only 2 or 3 feet high take up less space but are still perfectly personalized with ornaments and garlands. What counts as a "small tree" to you may vary, but usually they are all under 5 feet tall.
To make this experience even more delightful, many people choose to actually grow their own tiny Christmas tree; while you might choose to grow it and then chop it down, you can also transplant it into a festive pot and have a live tree for Christmas! For the green thumbs among you, it is probably a little bit painful to have a cut tree in your home, so a few good preparations can allow you to keep your little tree alive long after the festivities conclude.
Method 1: Growing Your Own
Despite the Douglas Fir being the go to holiday tree for many people, there's some other factors you need to take into account. For one, not every tree species will naturally take on that classic conical shape or have branches and needles that bunch up just right. For growing a miniature Christmas tree in your garden, the dwarf spruce is a good choice as it's known for getting that great Christmas tree shape, even at stages when it's very short and immature. Trees are especially susceptible to regionality, so be sure that you pick something for your hardiness zone. The popular Douglas Fir for example is actually only suited to Zones 4 through 6, if you're growing your holiday tree from a seed.
Species and Site
Colder places like Zone 3 or Zone 4 might try a Balsam Fir. You can find good seedlings for these at your local garden center or at big box stores, given the new-found popularity of growing your own Christmas tree. Focus your choice of site on good drainage and perfectly full sun. Your choice of soil can also affect how much water the site retains. Soils with a high clay content for instance, can over saturate your root systems and cause them to rot.
Once you've picked a perfect site, make sure you give your seedlings ample room to grow - you want 8 feet or more between them if you intend to let them grow to full size, but can get away with half of that or less if you intend to harvest your trees when they are still young and small. Once you harvest your mini tree, make sure you still place it in a tree holder that will allow it to continue to absorb water during the Christmas season. Getting too dry may cause pines to drop their needles, and will discolor and dry out other varieties as well.
Another crucial factor is timing. Most common Christmas tree varieties take about a decade to grow to full size. There's some fast standouts like the Leyland Cypress which can reach full height in only 3-4 years, but most take at least 7 years.
When aiming for a mini X-mas tree, figure that you'll get about a foot of growth per year, give or take, so make sure you plan your planting and harvest accordingly. You don't want to be caught with a mere sapling come Chirstmas Day.
Method 2: Transplanting a Mini Tree Into an In-Home Pot
Another method is to take a mini tree, either from your yard or from a small pot, and transplanting it for use as your Christmas tree. Many people choose, after the holiday season comes to a close, to commemorate it by planting their mini trees out in the yard. You can, over time, create a little forest of past Christmas trees, all getting a little bigger each year!
Carefully choose a tree pot that is big enough to hold plenty of soil as well as the entire root ball without squishing anything. Once transplanted give the mini tree plenty of water. To avoid overwatering or underwatering, add water only when the top layer of soil is dry. It will be happiest in a window or with a full-spectrum light. Indoor temperatures, around 70 degrees F, are fine for the Christmas season, but remember your live tree will want to be a 'real tree' afterward, getting down to near-freezing later on in the season. Consider the garage or patio area where the tree will get a good month or more of proper winter so it will come back springy and strong after the weather improves.
Want your little mini tree to give you joy for years to come? First, find a good location with those all important characteristics: high sun, good drainage. Then, plant the tree with plenty of loose soil around the roots and at least a two inch thick cover of mulch to regulate temperature and moisture over time. Keep a good eye on the tree for those first few months, watering during dry spells, but after that, if your tree is thriving, it should grow naturally on its own.
Whether you prefer a tiny cut Christmas tree or a miniature Christmas tree in a pot that keeps growing over time, you will find that the Christmas season is just as jolly with a smaller spruce than usual. Aim to decorate your well-cared-for tree with only a few lights and ornaments so as not to weigh down its slimmer-than-usual branches, and make sure you choose each ornament with care. You want this little living tree to be a symbol of all the meaningful things you wish to celebrate at the holidays, including the gift of life itself! Any gardener can appreciate the joy of a plant well-tended.