Potted Christmas trees

How to care for pot-grown Christmas tree varieties

A potted Christmas tree is an excellent choice this holiday season! From the Fraser Fir to the Blue Spruce, pot-grown Christmas trees can brighten your home for months indoors (and years outdoors) with a little loving care.

The key is to remember that this is a living Christmas tree, and just like a cut tree, it will retain needles and stay fresh with just a little living tree care. Once you've got your tree home or delivered by Christmas Trees Direct, follow this guide to help your living tree stay merry and bright.

Don't be put off by the sorry-looking potted trees at the supermarket. At Christmas Trees Direct, we have a range of high-quality, UK pot-grown trees in numerous varieties, each sparkling with Christmas magic (and free scheduled delivery). These are the trees that are worth caring for!

potted real Christmas tree in white pot

Potted Christmas tree care tips

Potted trees are typically small or mini Christmas tree sizes that thrive in a contained space. These Christmas trees are popular as they can live beyond the festive season - just follow these three tips to help your potted tree stay fresh.

1. Water well

Any container-grown plant needs regular watering. But when you bring a potted Christmas tree indoors for the first time, how much water is enough? There's no strict rule about how much to water and how often, so we recommend digging your finger into the top layer of soil. If the soil clings to your finger easily, it has good moisture levels. If the soil is dry and doesn't stick well, the root system is likely gasping for a drink!

Our homes are warm, and the air is dry, so it's not unusual for pot-grown Christmas trees to experience excessive moisture loss as they acclimate. It's important that you water your Christmas tree, as a fully hydrated tree will keep its needles spritely and green. Even if your tree is placed outdoors on the patio or even planted outdoors, it will still need a good drink of water to get established.

2. Good drainage

While watering is important for a potted Christmas tree, you can easily go overboard. If your soil is soggy to the touch (beyond moisture), it has excess water. This is called water logging, and it can be bad for the roots. Too much water sitting in the plant pot can give your Christmas tree a case of root rot in extreme cases! If this has happened, the pot might start to smell bad, and some needles may even go a little yellow.

Thankfully, the solution is super simple. Just ensure that you place your pot on a saucer and aren't blocking the drainage holes at the base of the pot. Every time you water, give the tree plenty of time to soak up what it needs and then remove any water that has drained away from the base.

This advice applies to trees that are placed outdoors or planted after Christmas, too - just find a spot with good natural drainage. Although pot-grown Christmas trees are living trees, they won't be at the peak of their growing season during winter. So, even if you are planting your tree outdoors, don't give your tree too much water and wait patiently until the spring to see new growth.

3. Keep Christmas cool!

Heat sources are the kryptonite to your potted Christmas tree. Just like a cut Christmas tree, you only need to keep your pot-grown tree away from radiators, stoves, space heaters and fireplaces within your house. With too much heat, a living Christmas tree slowly dries, and you might see needle retention fail. Just like an artificial tree, a dry tree placed in a hot and sheltered area could also become a fire hazard!

So, choose a spot that's cold and dark for your living Christmas tree - a corner that's in dire need of a festive touch. A little direct sunlight isn't bad, so long as the tree stays cool. This applies to all pot-grown trees and cut Christmas trees, regardless of the variety, from the Blue Spruce to the Scots Pine. Once placed somewhere cool and given quick water, they are easy to keep fresh and verdant until the new year.

Potted Christmas tree in grey pots

Decorating tips for potted Christmas trees (and why it matters)

A pot-grown tree can last for more than one Christmas (see what to do with your pot-grown Christmas tree in the New Year next), so keeping it in good shape can help you maintain that Christmas magic! Your first choice is choosing a pot. You can simply place your potted tree into a larger clay pot or any decorative pot of your choosing. You could even place the pot inside a hessian sack to create a rustic festive vibe.

With the pot decorated, choose the decorations for the branches. Lightweight decorations are ideal, especially if you have a very small tree. Choose ribbons and lightweight LED tree lights, for example. Some other things make decorating a pot-grown tree even better than an artificial or cut tree type.

  1. You can prune branches! Unlike an artificial tree, you can snip away branches to create a more pleasing shape, remove any dead branches, and encourage the tree to grow.

  2. Needles grow back, so don't panic if you knock some off while adding an LED light string. By next Christmas, it will be taller and lusher than before.

  3. You might find pinecones growing. As these Christmas trees grow, some might sprout pinecones that count as free decorations!

With a potted tree, it doesn't matter too much if you pile up enough decorations to break a branch or two. With a year of nurture in a sheltered spot of your garden, a Norway Spruce, Nordmann Fir, or any Pine variety can grow up and out, ready for another Christmas.

If you need help working out a plan to decorate your tree tastefully this year, read our Top tips for decorating a Christmas tree and don't forget the lights with our guide on How to put lights on a Christmas tree.

With all our container-grown trees at Christmas Trees Direct, we recommend looking after them year-round, so don't just wait for the next Christmas to give your tree a little shape-up! You can sparingly prune away branches to encourage a fuller Christmas tree shape throughout the year.

What to do with your potted tree after Christmas

Whether this is your first potted Christmas tree or the old favourite tree that comes in every year, here's what you should do once the season ends. Just a few simple steps will keep your tree happy and healthy until next December.

First, assess the current pot. If you plan to keep it contained, then you can re-pot the plant to make more room for the roots. With pot-grown trees, you can expect to have 3 or 4 Christmases with your tree on average, so choose pots that you can lift easily to bring the tree indoors.

To re-pot a tree, make sure you have a larger container ready and some compost. Remove your tree from the old pot and plant it into the new one - you don't need to do anything to the roots. Just tuck new soil around it and give it good water.

If you've had your tree for a few years, you may want to plant it in your garden. To do this, wait for one of January or February's dry spells, as it's always better to get a tree planted in the dormant season before the early spring. You can leave your tree outside to help acclimatise while you wait.

Once the ground is soft enough to dig but not waterlogged, dig a hole that's slightly larger than the tree container. Move your tree into the hole, then fill it in with soil. Give it good water once planted to help it establish. A sheltered spot with direct or bright sunlight is best.

The great thing about a pot-grown tree is that it's environmentally friendly and long-lasting. Even once planted outdoors, if you continue to care for it over the years, you will have a permanent healthy outdoor tree to decorate each December. Alternatively, if you'd like to get rid of your tree, just shake the soil out of the roots and either place it in the garden waste bin or contact the council for removal. Easy.

For more detailed advice, read our guide What to do with your pot-grown tree after Christmas.

Tall potted Christmas trees ready to plant


How long can you keep a potted Christmas tree?

A potted Christmas tree can stay inside comfortably for weeks over the holiday season. After that, you can move it outside or have it planted in the ground - with year-round watering, it will thrive! A living Christmas tree that's kept in its pot (or re-potted to larger pot sizes) should be usable for 3 or 4 years with good care.

Will a potted Christmas tree live?

Pot-grown trees can continue to live beyond Christmas as long as you take care of the roots and branches. Like any living tree, whether it is a Nordmann Fir or Norfolk Pine, it needs water and space to grow, regardless of whether it's inside your house or out in the garden.

What is the difference between pot-grown and potted Christmas trees?

Although we can use the phrases interchangeably, if you want to be super technical, then a pot-grown Christmas tree has been growing in a pot from germination. On the other hand, a potted Christmas tree may be grown in the ground and then placed into a pot. The latter tends to involve cutting the roots, often damaging the tree's health. While a pot-grown tree can survive years when cared for, the damage to a potted tree often means it won't survive life in the garden beyond Christmas.

Our trees are pot-grown in the UK on our Christmas tree farms at Christmas Trees Direct.

The other type of tree you can have is a cut tree. Like all pot-type trees, a cut tree still needs water to help it retain strong branches inside... but it does not have a root network. So, after Christmas, it will slowly die and can be composted, chopped and burned, or even used as mulch for planting in the garden. Consider it an eco-friendly single-use option!

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