Cedar tree over-wintering


I live in an apartment and have just won a small cedar tree, it’s November, what can I do with it till spring when it can be planted outdoors.


Thank-you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners with your question.

Great that you have won a cedar tree but over-wintering it in your situation will be a bit difficult. Most garden “cedars” sold in Southern Ontario are actually Thuja occidentalis (arborvitae or eastern white cedar). ‘Emerald Cedar’ is a very popular variety, often sold as a hedging plant. Another popular “cedar” is actually a juniper, Juniperus virginiana (Eastern red cedar). All of these conifers need to spend the winter outdoors. They cannot survive more than a few weeks in an indoor environment. You should check on the specific species or variety you have so that you can determine the best ultimate outdoor planting situation.

You have not mentioned whether your apartment has a terrace or balcony. If it does not, you should try to find someone who would like the tree and has a suitable outdoor space. If the weather warms up a bit, you could try planting directly outdoors in the ground. Otherwise, water it well and leave the pot outdoors in a protected location.

If you do have a balcony or terrace, you can follow a similar program and water the plant well, then wrap it in burlap and situate it in the most protected part of your terrace/balcony. It is important to provide some protection from harsh winter sun and wind.

Having gone over the above with the assumption that your cedar is a potted conifer intended for an outdoor garden location, I wonder if it is possible that you won a decorative festive miniature plant? (I’m thinking of the kinds of things sold alongside poinsettias and the like at florists and grocery stores.) If so, these are really intended for single season indoor use (to be discarded at the end of the season). This type of indoor decoration likely will not survive until spring, but if it does, you could try planting it outdoors. Nothing to lose!

This article  (BHG article on live Christmas tree care)  describes the best way to care for a potted Christmas tree, intended to be planted outdoors later on. Please note that they do not recommend an indoor situation for more than about 7 to 10 days.

Good luck with your tree!