Living Christmas Tree

  • Difficulty Rating: Beginner
Planting a Living Christmas Tree

Are you thinking about the holidays and getting a living tree for Christmas?

It sounds good, but don’t bring that living evergreen indoors; or, after the last glass of eggnog, a pile of needles on the living room floor will be all that’s left of your tree. Conifers and other evergreens like cold weather, and bringing one into an overheated house is a death warrant.

Instead, why not create a Christmas tree for the birds out on your deck or patio? By spreading peanut butter or another edible sticky substance on pinecones and rolling them in birdseed, you’ve created easy and frugal ornaments for birds and other wildlife. Our feathered friends work hard to maintain their body weight in winter so helping them will make you feel great, and you’ll get to watch them enjoy your present. Later, when others are hauling their dead sticks to the curb, you can instead grab a shovel and plant your tree.

Children especially love this project, and it’s very easy even for young ones.

What you’ll need:

One evergreen tree of your choice. I would normally suggest some type of pine tree because they tend to be less expensive, but in Oklahoma where I live, and many other states including much of the Midwest, Missouri and North Carolina, pines are suddenly turning brown and dying from pine wilt. The carnage has become so rampant in Oklahoma that dead pine trees are everywhere. Pine wilt is caused by the pinewood nematode and pine sawyer beetle which work in concert to spread the disease. Although the disease seems to strike older trees more often than young ones, trees are an investment which we don’t want to waste. If you live in an area not afflicted by pine wilt, go ahead and choose a pine if you like. Pick a variety with stiff limbs because the pine cone ornaments are heavy. I purchased a four foot dwarf blue spruce, Picea pungens ‘Hoopsii’. Another good option would be a Cupressus arizonica var. glabra, Arizona cypress, like ‘Carolina Sapphire’ or ‘Blue Pyramid’ a/k/a ‘Blue Ice.’ I have a specimen of ‘Blue Ice,’ and I can attest to its beauty in the landscape.

Something festive or natural to wrap the tree’s container. My tree is in a green plastic pot. In keeping with the blue/silver theme, I used a pearly white wrap. Burlap would also work. If you use plastic and cover the entire container, be sure to poke holes in the bottom for drainage.


Pinecones (try to find ones which aren’t perfumed). Although birds can’t smell the cinnamon scent, the pinecones might be dipped in something toxic. If you live where you can pick up pinecones off the ground, even better.


Peanut butter. If you or the child you’re doing this craft with is allergic to peanut butter, try using almond or cashew.

Suet will also work.

Good quality bird seed.


Fishing line or heavy industrial thread or jute to hang the pinecones.


A jelly roll pan to roll the pinecones in the bird seed and a spatula to spread the peanut butter.

Optional: other unbreakable decorations without glitter (which might hurt the birds) to finish your tree’s adornment.


Wrap the container of the tree in something pretty, or if you’re going for more of a rustic look, use burlap and tie it to the trunk with jute. Tie fishing line, heavy thread or jute to the top of the pinecone. If you are having children help you, do this beforehand as it is the most difficult part of the project. While holding the thread aside, spread peanut butter onto the pinecones and roll them in birdseed. As they are finished, gently hang these natural ornaments onto the tree, being careful not to damage any branches. Place other unbreakable decorations on the tree if desired, but keep in mind garlands or ribbon may be destroyed by birds or other wildlife.

As the birds consume the birdseed and peanut butter, the pinecones will remain. Remember to the check your tree occasionally for dryness by sticking your finger into the soil an inch or two. If the soil is dry, water, but don’t overwater.

Once the holidays are over, remove any remaining decorations and plant the tree in a suitable spot. Just think if this becomes a holiday tradition, each year a new tree will be planted in your yard or others. Plus, you won’t add any trees from your family to existing landfills.
It’s a nice thought isn’t it?