Container Trees

Choosing a Living Christmas Tree

Choosing a living tree to bring indoors during the holiday season is a wonderful way to create a festive feel while encouraging a connection with nature and practicing sustainability.

Live trees should only be indoors for up to 7 days. Most conifers need to be in cold, humid environments during winter, but a short holiday inside the home is okay.

Plan for the Future

Where will the tree live after the holiday season is over? Many traditional Christmas trees are fastĀ­ growing and should be planted in the ground the following spring, but dwarf conifers can live in containers and be brought indoors each winter for years to come.

Living Christmas Trees

Want a copy of this article?
Click to print.


Short Term Container Trees
(two years or less)

Larger, fast-growing conifers outgrow containers quickly, and should be kept in the same pot for only a short time.

At that time they must be repotted into a larger container, or preferably planted in the ground. Should you wish to use the same container, root pruning in early spring can help achieve this desire.

Trees to plant in the ground the following spring:

  • Abies grandis (aka Grand Fir)
  • Abies procera (aka Noble Fir)
  • Picea sitchensis (aka Sitka Spruce)
  • Pinus sylvestris (aka Scot's Pine)
  • Pseudotsuga menziesii (aka Douglas Fir)
  • Tsuga heterophylla (aka Western Hemlock)

Trees that can be kept in pots for up to 2 years:

  • Abies bournmuelleriana (aka Turkish Fir)
  • Abies lasiocarpa v arizonica (aka Corkbark Fir)
  • Picea glauca 'Densata' (aka Black Hills Spruce)
  • Picea pungens glauca (aka Colorado Spruce)

Long Term Container Trees

Slow-growing conifers can live happily in containers for several years. Suitable options include:

  • Abies lasiocarpa arizonica 'Glauca Compacta' (aka Dwarf Blue Rocky Mountain Fir): Frosty blue needles with blunt tips aren't too sharp to handle, and branches are strong enough for ornaments. Grows 6-8' x 5-6', Z3.
  • Abies koreana 'Silberlocke' (aka Korean Fir): Green needles curl up to reveal frosty white reverse. Semi-dwarf tree that grows 6-12" per year (8-10' x 4-5' in 10 years).
  • Cryptomeriaj. 'Black Dragon' (aka Japanese Cedar): Deep green needles on branches that turn up at the tips. Grows 8-10' x 4-5', Z6.
  • Picea glauca 'Conica' (aka Dwarf Alberta Spruce): Prickly green needles on a perfect cone-shaped tree. Grows 3-4' x 1-2' in 10 years.
  • 'Picea glauca 'Jean's Dilly' (aka Dwarf Alberta Spruce): Slower growing to 2-3' x 12".
  • Picea glauca 'Rainbow's End' (aka Dwarf Alberta Spruce)- creamy new growth in spring. Grows 3-4' x 1-2'.
  • Tsuga mertensiana (aka Mountain Hemlock): Soft green needles and upright, narrow cone shape that grows more densely at low elevation. Grows 3-6" per year to 5-6' in 10 years, but can get tall given time.

Bringing Your Tree Inside

Please read and follow these directions carefully. Your tree could die and drop all its needles if brought directly into the house from outdoors. Plan to keep your tree indoors for seven days or less.

Acclimate your tree to warmer temperatures by keeping it on a porch, unheated garage, or some sheltered area for three to five days. After this period, you can bring the tree indoors to a cool spot in the house. Choose a place that is away from heating vents, very sunny windows, wood stoves, etc. If you use lights, use only small, cool burning bulbs (like LEDs).

Ice cubes are an ideal way to water the tree and keep the root ball cool. A cool air humidifier placed nearby will help keep the air moist and cool around the tree.

Ice cubes are an ideal way to water the tree and keep the root ball cool. A cool air humidifier placed nearby will help keep the air moist and cool around the tree.

After the holiday (and 7 day period) remember to recondition your tree to outdoor temperatures. This means putting the tree back on the porch or in the garage for three to seven days. After this period, the tree can go out into the yard, or be planted in the ground. If you plan to keep the tree in a container for several years it's best to keep it in a spot sheltered from strong winds and hard freezing.

Caring for Your Tree Indoors

Be sure the soil is well-watered before moving the tree indoors. Using a few ice cubes to apply additional moisture while it's inside is a good way to deliver water at a slow pace. Remember to place a saucer under the pot to catch drips.

Houses are typically dry and warm in winter, so consider placing a humidifier near the tree, or if possible, mist the needles daily to increase humidity.

Caring for Your Tree Outside

In wet, rainy Portland, it's easy to forget about watering during winter, but plants can dry out, especially in cold windy weather when plants are grown in containers. Check water needs weekly, and if the top 2" of soil is dry, water the soil until the water begins to trickle out the bottom of the pot.

When planting trees in the ground, be sure to water immediately after planting, even if it's a rainy day.


Find the best Trees for your Garden

We carry a wide variety of trees year-round. These represent only a fraction of what you will find and are some of our favorites. Note: Viewing a Native Plant will take you into our Native Plant section.