​ Why a pot-grown Christmas tree may save you money in the long term

A collection of pot-grown trees.A collection of pot-grown trees.
A collection of pot-grown trees.
Pot-grown Christmas trees are often more expensive than comparable cut ones – but may save you money if you can keep the tree alive after Christmas and use it in subsequent years.

Rory Young, British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) chairman, says: “Due to their limited size, pot-grown trees can be a great addition to seasonal decorations, particularly if you have children, are limited on space or would like a second tree outside your door.”

Pot-grown trees are becoming extremely popular as they can be transferred out to the garden after Christmas and brought back in the following year, says Marcus Eyles, horticultural director at Dobbies Garden Centres.

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“They are typically shorter, but they’ll grow over the years and will fill your home with the festive scent of natural pine.”

Eyles notes that pot-grown trees are ideal for people who live in smaller spaces with lower ceilings, such as a cottage, bungalow, flat or even a balcony.

However, people should realise that they will need to look after their pot-grown tree both inside and out, allowing it to acclimatise gradually to the change in temperature once it is moved outside from the warmth of a home after Christmas.

Dan Dawson from Endon Christmas Tree Farm, Staffordshire, which won 2023 Best Container Grown Tree at the BCTGA annual awards, offers the following advice for those considering a pot-grown tree this Christmas.

How sustainable is a pot-grown tree?

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“It’s very sustainable. As long as it is looked after in the house – and later on in the garden – you can use it again.”

However, Young considers cut trees to be the most sustainable choice for consumers. Unlike pot-grown trees, cut trees are allowed to mature over eight to 10 years, providing a fantastic habitat for wildlife. Once harvested, each tree is replaced by another seedling, with up to two trees planted for every tree harvested. They are also fully recyclable.

What types of pot-grown tree do you recommend?

“I would go for a traditional Norway spruce, or the Nordmann is another good one. If you have a smaller home, Picea omorika (Serbian spruce) are quite slim, with a green and blue-tinged leaf with a silver underside,” says Dawson.

How tall can you buy a pot-grown tree?

“You’re looking at about 150cm maximum. If you get anything bigger, it becomes a really heavy job to lift. If you have a 6ft pot-grown tree you’ll need a 50-litre pot.”

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What’s the difference between a pot-grown tree and a potted tree?

A pot-grown tree is grown in a container, whereas a potted tree is dug up with its rootball and put into a pot.

Once your pot-grown tree is indoors, how do you look after it?

If you are putting the plastic pot in which the tree is planted into a more decorative container, make sure it has holes in the bottom for drainage and a large pot saucer underneath to take the excess water.

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Keep the tree in a cool place and certainly not next to a radiator, Dawson advises. Being exposed to light helps and it will need watering, but not overwatering. Check it daily to make sure it’s moist but not waterlogged. If you start losing needles, take action quickly.

“If it dries out, that’s it. It won’t regrow in the garden.”

Why are pot-grown trees more expensive than the same-sized cut trees?

“There’s the cost of the pot and they are a bit more labour-intensive. There’s less machinery to weed around them, a lot more hand-weeding is required and they need more pruning, so they become a smaller, shorter tree,” Dawson explains.

How do you keep a pot-grown tree after Christmas?

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“The best way forward it to plant it in the ground after Christmas. It will look after itself better with rooting in and getting access to water,” he says.

“Dig a hole slightly bigger than the pot, add some compost in and plant at the same level as the pot. If they are in a rootball, tease the roots out so they grow outwards rather than around.”

How many times can you re-use a pot-grown Christmas tree?

“That’s a difficult question because a lot of people who have pot-grown trees let them die or push them up against walls in gardens. A lot of people don’t water the pots when they are in the house, they just neglect the tree.”

Can you leave it in its original pot outside?

“You can and it might last a year, but after that you’d need to replant it in a bigger pot. They prefer full sun, but not up against a wall, because the tree won’t get the light it needs and the back of the tree will die,” says Dawson.

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Young stresses that a pot-grown tree will only flourish being contained in a pot for a few years and ultimately will need to be planted out to mature.

Anyone looking to buy a pot-grown tree will need to consider this along with where they will plant it once it becomes too big for a pot.

How easy is it to dig up to use the following year?

It’s quite easy to lift the roots, but you need to prune it in spring when you get the flush (new growth) to keep the shape good, Dawson says.

Pinch out the new growth or simply just edge cut the tree from the outside to retain the shape. But don’t cut the leader (the stem where the fairy goes) because new shoots will come up which are fighting to be the leader, he explains.

To find your local grower visit bctga.co.uk