April 7, 2012

Christmas trees that sprout new growth are very unlikely to grow roots.

Yard and Garden
April 7, 2012


I have a Christmas tree cut from the Mora area. It is still up in my living room because the tree is growing new shoots, especially off the top where we had to cut it short to the ceiling. No needles are falling off. As long as this tree is still living, I cannot just toss it. Is it possible to get this tree to root? I really must move it out of the house at some point. received via www@aces.nmsu.edu - University-Wide Extension


People often see their cut Christmas trees begin growing. This is because they have done a good job of keeping the tree watered and have not let the water at the base of the tree dry. The water moving through the tree and food stored in the trunk are enough to allow new growth of needles. However, it is very unlikely that roots will form on the base of the tree, so this growth cannot be sustained.

I remember "planting" Christmas trees when I was young. My parents were tolerant and let me try. The end result was always a brown Christmas tree in the back yard after a few months. When I checked, there were no roots. This was a fun thing to try. Sometimes science spoils all the fun. After I went to university and learned horticulture and plant physiology, I understood how unlikely it was for the tree to ever form roots. At least I learned to "plant" the Christmas trees where I would later plant climbing beans or cucumbers, so the tree would provide support for other plants as it dried out.

It is possible to produce roots on cuttings of some coniferous trees in greenhouses after the cuttings have been treated with high concentrations of root inducing plant growth regulators. These cuttings are much smaller than a Christmas tree and the process requires high humidity to keep the cuttings from drying before roots form. This would be difficult for most home gardeners.

It is better to plant old, forgotten bulbs now rather than wait until next fall to plant them.


I just found some tulip bulbs that I bought last fall and forgot to plant. Can I plant them now, or must I wait until fall?


You can plant them now, but they will probably not bloom this year. If they have not dried out too much, they will probably grow and may bloom next year. If you try to save them until fall to plant them, they will dry so much that there is very little chance that they will grow. To be sure of flowers next spring, the best course of action is to buy new bulbs in the fall, and plant them in the fall. Never the less, some of us like to try to see what will happen in a situation such as you have described.

For more gardening information

Visit the NMSU Extension publications Web site at http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/_h, or to read past articles of Yard and Garden go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/pubs/periodicals.html

Send your gardening questions to

Yard and Garden, Attn: Dr. Curtis Smith
NMSU Agricultural Science Center
1036 Miller Rd. SW
Los Lunas, NM 87031.

Curtis W. Smith, Ph.D., is an Extension Horticulture Specialist emeritus with New Mexico State University's Cooperative Extension Service. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.