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Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources

Consider a ball-and-burlap tree for Christmas this year

The majority of sales from Oklahoma Christmas tree farms are choose-and-cut operations. However, some customers decide to try and keep the Christmas spirit going long after the holiday season with ball-and-burlap trees.

Some tree growers do not offer the ball-and-burlap method of sales, so check that out before you visit a farm. However, if they do sell this style, the grower should be able to make the right sized bundle for you.

From there, the tree is in your hands, forever.

“Some people like to leave them outside and just decorate them on their porch (for Christmas),” said Craig McKinley, retired Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension forestry specialist. “Water them and take a little bit more caution because you have a big load of soil there.”

An adequate water supply is vital to keeping a live tree. The ball should be soaked all the way through, without too much runoff. While in the house, the root ball should be wrapped in plastic or placed in a tub or bucket.

“The roots that actually take up most of the moisture are toward the outside of that ball,” said McKinley. “The big roots in the middle are more for stability. Evenly distribute the water around the ball.”

When a tree is being transplanted, there typically will be about a foot of soil in diameter for every inch of diameter for the tree. Ball-and-burlap trees should not be kept in the house for more than 10 days.

When the time comes to plant the tree, there are a few things you should know to increase its chances of survival. First and foremost, keep in mind which species of tree is best suited to survive Oklahoma’s weather.

“Be careful what species you choose, because many species don’t make a nice yard tree,” said McKinley. “It requires way too much care.”

No matter the species selected, there are some guidelines that need to be followed.

“You can plant it immediately after Christmas if you want,” McKinley said. “If you’re going to have a really hard freeze in the next day or two, just delay planting. If it can get in the ground and kind of get acclimated a little bit, (the tree should do well because it) is not actively growing.”

The feeder roots should be buried within the first 6 inches to 8 inches of earth, and the bag should not be removed until the tree is in place. Once the tree is where you want it, cover the area with mulch to prevent the roots from freezing.

“You probably ought to give a tree, even in the driest part of the year, 2 inches of water every two weeks,” McKinley said. “Trees do better if they go through a dry and wet cycle.”

Recently planted trees should not be allowed to dry completely as water is essential for early stability.

While the ball-and-burlap method is a little more work than a choose-and-cut tree, the Christmas memories come back every time you look at the tree, and your property value may increase because of your efforts.


Sean Hubbard
Communications Specialist
Agricultural Communications Services
145 Agriculture North
Oklahoma State University
Stillwater, OK 74078
Phone: 405-744-4490
Fax: 405-744-5739
Email: sean.hubbard@okstate.edu

Oklahoma State University - Stillwater, OK 74078