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Originally published December 12, 2013 at 5:31 AM | Page modified December 13, 2013 at 12:28 PM

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Q&A: Selecting and caring for a living Christmas tree

Garden writer Ciscoe Morris on how to donate a living Christmas tree to a park, and on how to care for a living tree if you plan to plant it in the backyard.

Special to The Seattle Times

Gardening Events

Ciscoe’s Picks

Kruckeberg Botanic Garden Solstice Stroll: 4:30- 9 p.m. Dec. 20 and 21. Lights, refreshments, carols and glow sticks for children. 20312 15th Ave. N.W., Shoreline; free, donation requested (

Candlelight Winter Solstice Walk: 4-8 p.m. Dec. 21. Luminarias on Riverfront Trail (enter at Avenue D and First Street), Snohomish; free (

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In the Garden

Q: I’d like a living Christmas tree this year, but I don’t have room for a big tree in my garden. Are there any types of trees that would be big enough for a Christmas tree but stay small?

A: I have a great suggestion for you. Buy the perfect living tree that will look great in your house this season, then donate it to one of our local parks. Thanks to a collaboration between King County Parks and Swanson’s Nursery, you can experience the fun of having a living Christmas tree while helping to beautify a King County park at the same time. Your tree will have plenty of room to spread out in the park. Simply purchase a living Christmas tree among species marked “donate this tree” at Swanson’s nursery, and after enjoying it in your home, bring it back to the nursery and it will be planted at one of the King County Parks. You can even plant the tree with your own hands by volunteering at a habitat-restoration event. For more information, go to

Q: I’m going to buy a living tree this year. How should I care for the tree while it’s in the house to make sure it gets off to a good start when I plant it outside?

A: A living Christmas tree can create a wonderful, long-lasting memory as long as it doesn’t break dormancy and begin to grow while on display indoors. If that happens, you’ve got yourself a big houseplant until spring. Once it begins to grow, you can’t plant it outside during winter because the first freeze will put the ‘El Kabotski’ on it. Keep the tree in the house for no more than seven days and don’t let the house get too hot. The room where the tree is placed should remain at less than 70 degrees at all times. Stand the tree in a waterproof container and surround the rootball with sawdust to hold the tree upright and hold moisture. Water with ice cubes, making sure the rootball is never allowed to dry out, but at the same time, don’t let it sit in water. When you bring the tree back out of the house, plant it as soon as possible unless freezing weather is forecast. If that’s the case, store it in an unheated garage, keeping the rootball moist until it can be planted as soon as milder conditions return. Plant the tree in well-drained soil in a sunny location, and make sure to water regularly the first season after planting. Also remember that your tree needs lots of room to grow. If it ends up getting too big for the space it’s planted in, your Christmas memory might end up as firewood 20 years later.

Ciscoe Morris: “Gardening With Ciscoe” airs at 10 a.m. Saturdays on KING 5.


About Ciscoe Morris

Ciscoe Morris' column runs Thursdays. His show "Gardening with Ciscoe" airs at 10 a.m. on Saturdays on King 5.

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