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Alberta Spruce after Christmas

Q: My husband picked up one of these little living trees for the Christmas holidays. According to the instructions, we aren't supposed to let it dry out and keep it in a cool place and water sparingly.

I don't know what type of tree this is and the needles are beginning to fall off. We are going to transplant it but I am beginning to worry a bit about it thinking we are neglecting it or not doing something correct.

Can you help? Thanks.

A: It sounds like you may be in a bit of trouble.

I'm guessing the tree you purchased was a dwarf Alberta spruce, only because they are a popular "mini" Christmas tree. However, even if it isn't a dwarf Alberta, my advice would still be similar.

If the needles are beginning to fall off, and they're falling off throughout the plant (not just on the inside), then it may be too late.

Live Christmas trees should be kept indoors for no more than a week, in as cool a spot as possible, and they should be watered once or twice, depending on how moist the soil feels when you poke your finger in it.

If you kept the tree indoors for more than a week, and if you particularly didn't keep it moist, it's probably thoroughly dried out by now.

If you "followed the rules", then I would transplant it as planned and keep your fingers crossed. Water it once a week (check the soil moisture first) and see what happens in spring.

Q: I received a beautiful Dwarf Alberta Spruce all decorated for Christmas. I think it was shipped from Oregon.

After the Holidays, I repotted it in a larger container and placed it out on our patio where it receives early morning to mid afternoon sunshine. It has now started to bud and has gorgeous new needles.

My question is regarding it's "dormancy" stage. Has it been tricked into thinking this is spring because it is in sunny, warm Florida?

Will this take a toll later in the year if it hasn't had a chance to "rest"? It has REALLY sprouted profusely in the last two weeks.

Thanks for your time, Judy

A: Yes, I think your dwarf Alberta spruce has been tricked into thinking it's spring.

It has probably been dormant long enough to satisfy it's requirement in that area so budding out this early may not affect it that much, but I'm concerned what the overall long-term results will be because....

Dwarf Alberta spruces do best in cooler climes (they're hardy to Zone 2), and I'm guessing that your part of Florida doesn't come close to qualifying as a "cooler clime".

It may grow this year but be plagued with the heat, eventually to suffer an early demise.

Try placing it in as "cool" of a spot as you can where it can receive some indirect sunlight, and be prepared to water it. I'd be interested in hearing how it does by the end of summer -- please let me know.

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Tom Mugridge

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