Christmas Trees: Live container tree vs. Cut tree

Have you ever thought about buying a live Christmas tree in it’s container for the holiday instead of a cut tree?

I don’t know how many people wonder about buying a real Christmas tree each years in lieu of a cut tree. But it’s crossed my mind many times. I’ve done it in the past only to have the tree die on me. But this summer I was working on a client’s house in Corrales, mind you it’s a two acre lot so space is available. We took a tour of the property and I learned about his huge grove of evergreen trees. Turns out when his kids were growing up they’d buy a live container tree each year for Christmas and plant it after the holidays. He essentially has an evergreen forest in his backyard now. What struck me about this was the joy I saw in his voice when he shared the stories. Hit lit up at the memory of those trees. It reminded me that sometimes holidays are about the traditions and how this might be one tradition we should try this year it might even be cost effective. In fact, due to the wildfires in the northwest, cut Christmas trees are more expensive this year bringing the price closer to that of purchasing a live container tree.

I’m going to dive into the options available for live container trees below sold right now at the local nurseries. You can check out the cut tree availability list in the previous blog post, just click here.

Pinus edulis, Pinon Pine:

Pinon Pine sold as a container plant for use as a Christmas Tree.

The pine tree of New Mexico, the piñon pine is a local staple both as an aesthetically beautiful sculptural pine tree and it’s edible pine nuts were a staple food of the Native Americans which are still widely eaten as snacks. This pine is a slow growing small pine tree often not getting more than 15 feet tall. The beauty of this tree is that it is extremely water efficient. The olive green color, tight needle structure with open branching make this a beautiful tree for Christmas decorations. When the holidays are over this tree would be a great evergreen addition to a New Mexico garden. These should be planted in plant hardiness zones 4 through 8 in well-drained soil in a full sun location below 7,500ft. This tree most often dies from being overwatered.






Picea pun glauca, Picea pungens: Colorado Blue Spruce

Colorado Blue Spruce is a gorgeous tree especially during Christmas time.

This blue green evergreen is commonly known as the Colorado Blue Spruce and is native to the Central Rocky Mountains from southern Montana to New Mexico. It grows best in wet locations in elevations from 6,000-11,000 feet. It is covered in stiff gray-blue needles making it a striking specimen plant for large landscapes. It grows as tall as 30′-60′ tall. It makes for a lovely Christmas tree because of it’s gorgeous color, pyramidal shape, and open branching. This is a large tree but new specimens have been grafted to include much smaller trees such as ‘Glauca Globosa’ (a dwarf tree 4′ wide by 6′ tall) which make for a nicer tree in small landscapes.







Pinus nigra: Austrian Pine

This pine is perfect in the landscape and will make for a beautiful full green Christmas tree.

This is a hardy pine tree that grows well in New Mexico, it has dark green coloring with a dense pyramidal shape and long needles. It can reach a height of 50′ or more with 20′ width. It has the unique ability to thrive in many conditions from harsh soils like clay or alkaline but does well in average soil. It is known for beautiful candles that erupt each spring and early summer producing the new year’s growth shoots. It would be a lovely full dark green Christmas tree in the home and transition well into the New Mexico landscape especially if used as a buffer or screening evergreen.








Pinus flexilis: Vanderwolf pyramid limber pine

Vanderwolf limber pine would be an adorable Charlie Brown like Christmas Tree.

Blue green open branching with long soft needle structure this evergreen tree grows best in well-drained soil but is fairly adaptable. It works well in New Mexico landscapes at elevations of 5,000-12,000 feet. This tree will grow slowly to 20-30′ tall by 10-15′ wide making it a nice tree for the landscape.  25′-60′ tall with a pyramidal shape. It produces lovely cones sometimes up to 8″ long. As a Christmas tree most will compare it to a Charlie Brown type tree in that it is very open branching and will have little space for tons of ornaments.





The options for live container grown evergreen trees are varied in size, shape, and color. When it’s time to decide on your Christmas tree this year take a second look at the option of purchasing a live container tree that can be re-planted after Christmas. The price might be right this year to make the change but the lasting memories will be priceless.

If you liked this post then you’ll love our post on Christmas Tree Species. Click here to read


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