Potted Christmas Trees
It's a beautiful fall day here in Michigan, the leaves are about
at peak, the chill is in the air, and the Christmas Trees are up
in the stores. Wait a minute! Didn't it used to be, that the
stores didn't put up their trees until December???
Oh, well, they're up now, which means that the sales of those
little pine trees will follow shortly. You know, those "REAL
fir (or other pine) trees" that you're supposed to plant outside
in the spring and 100 or so years from now they'll actually be a large tree,
but right now they're about 6 inches to a foot high?
Usually, though, these things don't make it a month in a normal
household environment. Here's some tips to increase your chances
of actually having one live long enough to get it planted outside
in a reasonably healthy condition.
Normally, pines are subjected to a period of wretched freezing
outside. Their leaves (the needles) are protected from drying
by a waxy layer which may or may not be visible.
But, in a greenhouse environment (like these commercially sold
jobbies are grown in), there are hot, humid conditions. The
pines get "lazy" and do not produce this waxy layer in the
normal thickness. They are also used to high light. Pines
normally need this (think of a pine forest--the shaded branches
all die). But, their leaves are exceptionally prone to drying--
this is why they make that wax. In a greenhouse, they do not
receive the signal to do so.
Once you get them home, they go from this humid, bright,
environment into one which is quite DRY and dim. To keep them
alive for long, you must help them compensate. Since the wax
hasn't developed, at least not enough to do any good, the plant
will need high humidity maintained.
UNFORTUNATELY, BUT TRUE, this means covering it up! Cover it up
with a clear plastic bag (bread wrappers work REALLY well). Then
stick it in the BRIGHTEST WINDOWSILL. You will need to harden
it off. Only with THIS hardening off, you're not getting it used
to the wind and elements, but to the dryness in most homes.
On the first day, only take the bag off for about 10 minutes.
Every couple of days, leave the bag off longer--about 5 minutes
longer at first, then 10 more after a couple of weeks of the
5-minute extensions. This will give it time to build up the
wax so it doesn't dry out. IF THE PLANT STARTS LOOKING STRESSED,
leave the bag on longer! Cut back on "air time".
These don't like the indoor environment one bit, but with
careful humidity management, you can keep 'em going until they
can go outside where they belong. If you want to display one
of these without the bag for the holidays, you will need to get
yours NOW and start toughening it up, or you run a HIGH RISK
of losing a tree for one or two days' beauty. It takes about a
week for lethal drying to SHOW--but less than half a day to actually make
the kill if the plant isn't ready for dry conditions.
It's unfortunate that these are sold in such a way that they
are not adapted to the environment that they are going to be
placed in, but, until retailers demand that the plants be
prepared, the Bread Bag is our best ally.
Remember, also, to make sure the SOIL is not soggy. The roots are
not what's the problem here. Soggy soil will only rot them, and
the tops aren't helped by overwatering, since the circulatory
system of the plant just isn't set up to deliver high volumes
of water no matter how much is available to the roots(the wax would normally
prevent the high demand up at the leaves [needles]).
Happy Gardening and Happy Holidays (already!)
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