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How To Care For A Live Christmas Tree Indoors

This year, skip putting up a fake artificial tree or needing to go cut down your own tree. Instead, consider keeping a live Christmas tree indoors! 

It really is possible to keep a living Christmas tree during the holiday season. And once the holidays are over, with a little bit of prep, you can simply plant it outside on your property. It’s the decoration that keeps on living – literally! 

During the Christmas season, most homes have at least one Christmas tree displayed. Some people go for artificial trees that they can quickly assemble and take down without the need for maintenance in between. 

A live Christmas tree in a pot outside.
While potted Christmas trees look fun outside homes and businesses, you can also move them indoors with a few simple tips!

Others love the idea of trouncing out to the woods or a tree farm to chop down a Christmas tree. But after the holidays are over, the options for disposal might not be the best for you or the environment. Not to mention the cost of getting a disposable tree year after year can get rather expensive!   

So why not choose a more sustainable option that will allow you to enjoy the fresh, pine feeling while being more environmentally conscious at the same time?

Benefits Of Live Christmas Trees

Keeping a living Christmas tree indoors during the holidays really is a great option for most homeowners. The trees typically come with their rootball in either a burlap sack or in potted containers. Both options work well and just depend on your own personal preference or future plans.

When you purchase a living tree in a container, you can actually take it outdoors during the warmer months and then bring it back inside for the following Christmas. Talk about getting the most bang for your buck during multiple holiday seasons! 

The best way to preserve your Christmas tree, however, is to plant your living tree and allow it to become part of your landscape to enjoy for years to come. Not only can the tree provide visual interest, shade, wind protection, and a place for nature’s creatures to call home, but you can even decorate it outdoors for future holidays.

A man wearing a santa hat cutting down a pine tree
There’s something nostalgic about cutting down your own Christmas tree. But imagine getting a tree that can continue to bring you joy for years to come!

With trees that have been cut, however, your only option is to get rid of the tree after just one season. Many communities offer services that can turn the old trees into mulch, or you can use the branches to create insulation for your garden perennials or shrubs. Unfortunately though, most cut trees just end up in landfills – Which is why using a living tree with the rootball attached is a wonderful option.  

Caring For A Live Christmas Tree Indoors

Choosing A Live Christmas Tree 

First, you need to measure the space where you plan to keep the tree during the holiday season. Unlike a cut Christmas tree, you can’t just take a few inches off of the base of the tree or at the top to get the tree to fit into your home. 

You then want to do a bit of research on what types of pine trees grow best in your location. You need to choose a variety that can handle your specific growing conditions as well as your climate. When you choose the right variety, it will have an easier time adapting to being planted or brought outside once Christmas is over. 

Another aspect to consider is the timeline. Live trees only keep for around a week to 10 days once indoors. After that, will start to struggle to reacclimate to going back outdoors afterward. You also have to keep in mind where the tree is when you purchase it. If the tree is already indoors, then you don’t have to help it transition when bringing it home. 

However, if you get your potted tree from an outdoor location, you won’t be able to immediately move it inside your warm and toasty house. It will need about a week or two in a transition location before coming inside. (More on that below.) 

Picking A Healthy Tree

The last part is to make sure you begin with a healthy, strong tree. This will help ensure that your tree has the best chance possible at living for many years to come. 

A female hand with painted nails and a dry pine tree needles.
If you run your hand along the branch and tons of needles fall off, it’s time to pick out a different tree!

Choose a tree that has a nice, straight trunk without any deep cuts or blemishes. The needles should be a dark green or even blue color. The color will depend on the variety of tree you choose. Avoid those that have an overall yellow or brown look to the needles. You can expect to see a few yellow needles here and there though.

You can easily check to see if the tree has already suffered from being dried out. Lightly grab one of the branches close to the trunk and carefully pull it towards you. Very few needles should come off as your hand moves along. If several needles come off, however, you need to choose a healthier live tree.

Once you’ve chosen the perfect live tree, it’s time to learn how to care for your new decoration!  

Bringing The Live Christmas Tree Indoors 

If you purchase the tree from an outdoor location, you need to help it acclimate before immediately bringing it inside. Similarly to how you need to harden off new seedlings, drastic temperature changes will cause a lot of stress for the tree and can cause unrepairable damage. 

If possible, move your potted tree to a cool location that is still protected from the elements. An unheated garage, barn, shed, or even a cool basement or enclosed porch are all excellent locations to help the tree get used to a bit warmer temps. Allow it to hang out there for a week or two before moving into your heated home. 


During this acclimation period, it is imperative that you water the tree often. Potted living trees will need to be watered about every other day during this timeframe.

A small live Christmas tree potted indoors
Even smaller potted trees can be brought indoors and decorated for the holidays! Then planted outside after Christmas is over.

Once you bring the live tree indoors to a warm location, you will need to water it every day. For a general idea of how much to water, give the tree about one quart of water for every inch of the tree’s trunk width. So if your tree’s trunk is 4 inches wide, you should water it with about 4 quarts of water daily.       

Decorating A Live Christmas Tree Indoors 

Luckily, a live Christmas tree can be decorated mostly in the same way that a fake or cut Christmas tree can be. Keep in mind the weight of your ornaments though. Avoid putting too many on a single branch or else you might chance bending or even breaking the limbs. 

It is also better to use LED lights since they do not produce heat. While they might cost a little bit more, they will last longer and help prevent the tree from getting damaged by unnecessary heat.

After Christmas  

Once the holidays are over, it’s time to prepare your live Christmas tree for moving away from the warm and toasty indoors to the chilly outdoors. This will help prevent shock and allow the tree to slowly adapt to the cooler temperatures. 

Move the tree back to the unheated garage, shed, or a similar location for a couple of weeks. Continue to water the tree during this timeframe, aiming for once every other day. 

If the ground is not frozen, you can then go ahead and plant the tree outside. Water well after planting and add a thick layer of mulch to help protect the roots. The 4 to 6 inches of straw, shredded leaves, or woodchips will help to regulate the soil’s temperatures. Continue to water every couple of weeks as the weather allows until spring arrives. 

A live christmas tree that is now outside and covered in lights and snow.
Your potted live Christmas tree this year can continue to add holiday cheer for future years after you plant it in the ground.

If the ground outside is still frozen, then you need to wait until spring before planting. Put the tree in a protected space that is out of the wind and continue to water every couple of weeks. When the ground finally thaws enough, you can plant the tree. Add a nice layer of mulch and water well after planting. 

You’ll now be able to enjoy your live Christmas tree for many more years to come! 

Simple Garden Life is a website dedicated to keeping gardening fun, simple and enjoyable! We publish two new articles each week along with a new garden podcast episode every two weeks. This article may contain affiliate links.