Very few Christmas trees live comfortably in a container for more than a season or two, but the deodar cedar (Cedrus deodara) can live for years in the same pot, growing no more than a few inches, even after five.

Deodar cedar

Once a year deodar cedar is filled with holiday cheer.

Photo Credit: Robert Smaus

Christmas Deodar

Deodar cedar makes a nice container tree.

Photo Credit: Robert Smaus

The cool thing about this tree is while it waits for its holiday performance, a deodar makes a handsome patio plant. Then once a year, for a brief but glorious week, it can be brought indoors and draped with ornaments to celebrate this special season with your friends and loved ones.

Make no mistake, deodar cedar is not your conventional Christmas tree. It’s not big and bushy – heck, it‘s not even a true green – but it’s a handsome and architecturally pleasing conifer of a subtle gray-green that looks elegant in even a starkly modern home.

In the landscape, deodars can get quite large, but if one is planted in a large container, you can keep the tree under 6-8 feet tall for several years.

Those who love Christmas ornaments will find plenty of room for hanging on a deodar, since the branches are not too dense and are nicely spaced. There’s enough room for glass ornaments to dangle from their hooks and move ever so slightly. The last few inches of each branch are only strong enough to support small ornaments, but if most of the new growth is cut back each spring (almost to the old growth), the branches will get quite sturdy in but a year or two. (This is also one way to keep the tree from growing too big, although it naturally remains small while young.) If the branches aren’t spaced far enough apart for your decorating needs, you can remove some without affecting the look or health of the tree.

Be sure to keep the tree watered while it’s indoors, helping you celebrate the holidays. To make this easier on you, don’t cover the base too thoroughly with a tree skirt or other holiday decorations. (And don’t forget to keep a saucer under the pot while it’s indoors to protect your floor.)

Each spring, be sure to trim back overly long or droopy branches, and cut back just the very tip of the tree so it doesn’t grow more than an inch annually. If you cut back into old growth, the tree will simply sprout to one side of the remaining branch. It’s OK to lightly fertilize once a year in late spring, but remember that fertilizer encourages growth.

As youngsters, deodar cedars seem to prefer some shade, so don’t keep yours out in full sun. After several years, it’ll outgrow its container and need to be repotted. Rather than putting it in a bigger pot, though, do as they do with bonsai – simply take the plant out of the container and trim an inch of roots from the bottom of the tree and some from the sides of the root ball, then put the plant back in the same pot – adding a little fresh potting soil to the bottom and sides of the container.

Some people throw out their Christmas tree along with the torn wrapping paper once the holidays are over. But with a deodar cedar, there’s no need for such a send-off. This great little container tree can keep your patio fresh and alive for most of the year, then make your days merry and bright come the holidays. How’s that for extending the Christmas spirit?