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Christmas Dwarf
Alberta Spruce Tree

Q: If I obtain a containerized tree at Christmas time, will the tree survive outside until planting in the spring?

We live in Middle Maryland with some severe winter weather. Thanks for your advice and your website.

A: I recommend that you "heel in" the pot for winter. Dig a hole about half the depth of the pot and slightly larger in diameter.

Place the pot in the hole, place the dirt back around the pot and up into a mound shape all around it (but not on top of the pot), then top it all off with a couple inches of leaves, straw, wood mulch or evergreen needles.

The reason for this is to keep the pot, and the roots therein, from freezing all the way through. It will very likely do this if the pot is totally exposed all winter, and this can spell the death of the root system. Dead root system = dead plant.

The soil mounded around the pot and the mulching material on top of everything will moderate the temperature. Before putting the mulching material on top, give the tree a good drink of water, and keep the mulch away from touching the trunk by a few inches.

Your spruce would still like some sunshine during the winter, so put it in a reasonably sunny spot yet sheltered from winter winds. Check the soil moisture within the pot during the winter and water if it's very dry.

You may also want to apply an anti-transpirant, which will help conserve moisture within the needles for the winter. Anti-transpirants are available at most nursery centers or garden supplies. Be sure to read and follow the directions on the label regarding application instructions. If in doubt, ask someone knowledgeable for advice.

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Arborist Tom Mugridge

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