A young live tree lights up this happy home. Will it find a happy home of its own to spread its roots?

Are you one of the many people who celebrate the holidays with live or fresh cut Christmas trees?   If live trees are your preference, I would like to relate my experience as a former tree service owner.  Live Christmas trees provided many jobs for local tree care companies.  But the jobs were not for planting, they were most often for tree removal.  It was quite common for the cute and small potted live Christmas tree to grow into a woody grinch.

The live tree in its container was carried into the house every December.  It was decorated, loved, and then set outside again at the end of the holiday season where it was to enjoy the next eleven months in the great outdoors.  If the tree did its job, it would grow in the pot year round and contribute to the environment as trees are supposed to do.  If the tree was fortunate, it may have been moved into a larger container every year or two, set in a sunny location, and provided with water and fertilizer.  If it wasn’t so lucky, it got stashed on the shady side of the house and maybe watered a bit, only to be forgotten until the following Christmas.

But if the tree survives the seasons, a time comes when it gets too big and heavy to move back into the house.  As size and weight become overwhelming, the dedicated homeowner may set it free and plant it in the yard.

When shopping for a live tree, an appropriate tree species is often ignored and trumped by the buyer’s personal taste for a particular young tree. Thus varying species of trees are eventually planted in the yard to become mature trees with whatever inherent characteristics they may have.

An assortment of live trees to choose from, but which is best?

An assortment of live trees to choose from, but which is best?

Time moves quickly; fast forward twenty years.  The tree suddenly seems quite large and may be conflicting with structures, sunlight, or overhanging utility wires.   The roots may be damaging the patio or pool, or raising havoc in the landscape.  Sad but true, this once revered living organism becomes a household problem.  Letting go of a nostalgic tree is a tough choice but sometimes necessary.

Three words to remember when planting your live tree: size at maturity

One of the important keys to consider when planting your live tree: size at maturity


In only a few years, a young tree may become completely inappropriate for the space you had in mind.

But how did this all start?  Many folks believe that Christmas tree farming is a sad and wasteful industry, and a violation of life.  Trees are grown, killed, used for a month, and then destroyed, perhaps an abuse of nature (sounds like animal husbandry).  But the multi-million dollar Christmas tree industry provides jobs and contributes to heart warming memorable times for millions of people.  Christmas trees are a renewable resource.  Although many Christmas trees are harvested but never sold, they eventually get chipped and recycled back into the environment, thus providing other benefits to the planet.



Before you purchase a live tree, think about long term goals (as one should with all trees).  Consider the species, its natural characteristics, and where it will be planted when it outgrows the indoors.  For more information on live Christmas trees, check with your local nursery about availability.  Then ask your local qualified arborist about an appropriate species and location for planting on your property.

For an alternative type Christmas tree, if you live in the Santa Barbara area you can rent a live tree from Goleta Valley Beautiful for a small donation.  It will be delivered to your home and then picked up after the holidays.  Eventually it will be planted in an appropriate location in the community.  It may not be that great smelling pine or cedar that you associate with Christmas or the winter holidays, but you can buy tree cuttings, wreathes, cones, or other great scents that can be placed throughout the home.  If you choose a live tree, it may grow for generations to come, especially after being planted in the right place.

Happy Holidays to all.  How can I help you with your trees?

Treemendously yours,

Bill Spiewak

The Lighter Side

"They told me I could keep it as an indoor plant"

(25 years later) “They told me they’d make nice indoor Christmas trees”