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Christmas Tree to Yard

Q: I live in Cleveland and bought a live (ball in burlap) Blue Spruce as my 2002 Christmas tree -- in the hopes of planting it in the yard after the holiday season.

The tree was in a heated garage until late January/early February, then transferred outside. The tree looks to be dying.

I obviously did something wrong in the transfer process, but hope that I can revive it somehow. It is dying from the top down, outside in. The top of the tree is completely dead while the inner middle and lower halves still have the blue color.

Please help with any ideas and/or suggestions, Dee

A: Based on the symptoms you've described, it sounds to me like the tree's root system dried out over winter, and now you're seeing the result.

Being kept in a heated garage made the plant think it was still summer, and it continued business as usual.

As a result, it required water just as it would during the summer months. Unless you watered it thoroughly once a week or so, the roots dried out, and without roots the top can do nothing.

The dying back from the extremities is a classic symptom of root (or trunk) injury that prevents water from reaching all parts of the plant.

I'm afraid that your spruce is not likely to survive.

If you purchase another live tree for Christmas in the future, only keep it in the house for about a week (being sure to water it once during that time), then store it in an unheated building for the rest of the winter.

Better yet, dig the tree's planting hole in fall (cover it up so no one falls in!), pack the hole with straw or hay, and right after Christmas have a planting party.

This way, you'll have a family get-together, and you'll start the New Year off on a good note.

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Tom Mugridge

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