How to Care for Indoor Tabletop Trees
Who loves little potted evergreen trees around the holidays? Maybe the better question is, who doesn’t? Mini holiday trees like cypress trees and rosemary topiaries can be both charming and elegant, rustic and sophisticated—adaptable to a wide variety of home decors. But something you may not love is the confusion you may feel in caring for these indoor tabletop trees. And when you’re unsure of how to care for a plant, you often smother it with love, then wind up feeling frustrated when it protests.
Let’s avoid all that, shall we? Indoor tabletop trees have a few basic needs that we need to tend to in order to stay happy and healthy, so let’s take a look!
Tips for Growing Indoor Tabletop Trees
Let’s remember that no plant was created to live exclusively indoors. Plants are outdoor animals, so to speak. But that being said, many plants will do just fine indoors—even thrive—if you replicate, to the best of your ability, the growing conditions they are used to getting outdoors. And this is especially true when you’re dealing with trees, shrubs, or large herbs. So what do they need? Three main requirements:
- Light: These types of plants generally love as much sunshine as you can give them, so to make sure they’re happy indoors, look for tabletops that have as much natural and bright light as possible. What if you want these lovelies on your holiday table, and that table isn’t near a window? No problem! You can either rotate a few tabletop trees around your room, making sure each one has regular time near a window, or you can temporarily display your potted trees on your holiday table for your dinner or event, then move them back to a well-lit space. Just pinky-promise to not place them in the dark corner of your basement office and expect them to be down with it.
- Water: Anything in a container needs to be watered more frequently than if it was planted in the ground, so you’ll need to adjust your watering accordingly. Now, this gets a little tricky with a Mediterranean plant like a potted rosemary, which likes things on the dry side. How do you know how much to water it? First, always follow the watering directions that come with your particular plant, and second, be prepared to experiment a bit.
We recommend watering every 3–4 days, poking your finger down into the soil to see if it has dried out a bit in between waterings. You can also occasionally treat your tabletop tree to a full shower in the bathtub or sink to freshen the foliage that may get dry and dusty in a warm indoor environment.
- Drainage: We can’t stress this one strongly enough—make sure your potted tree has excellent drainage. That means no sitting in water, ever. Give it the amount of water it needs, allowing the water to drain out of the bottom of the container. If you have the tree placed in a decorative outer container without a drainage hole, simply take it out of the decorative container, water it, then after the water has drained through, replace it into the “pretty” pot.
Signs of Stress and What to Do About It
If you pay attention to the care tips above, you’ll likely have a very healthy tabletop tree to enjoy indoors for quite a while before moving it outside. Even so, sometimes there’s a bit of a hiccup, and your plant will let you know it’s not happy. Here’s what to look for, and how to deal with it:
Wilting: If your branches or foliage looks a bit droopy, you’ve likely let it dry out a bit too much. Go ahead and give it a good soak, remembering always to allow for adequate drainage.
Brown foliage: If it’s brown and crispy, that branch may not recover, but it doesn’t necessarily mean the entire plant is a goner. You may have to sacrifice some of the plant’s shape by cutting off the dead branches, but if you follow it up with proper care, it can recover.
- Mites: Have you spotted anything that resembles a spider web or a bit of cotton in your foliage? Your little tree might have mites. Try washing the plant down under a stream of water to remove the mites or treating with an insecticidal soap.
What to Do After the Holidays
What to do with your potted trees after the holidays depends largely upon what type of tree you have. If the potted tree is a rosemary (like our Rosemary Tree Gift), you can keep it indoors for a while longer, then when danger of frost has passed, you can take it outside and plant it in your herb garden, in the ground or in a large container. Most rosemary plants easily grow to 3–4’ wide and 3’ tall, so it will appreciate a little extra room to grow.
If you have a potted tree that ultimately grows into a 40’ tall shade tree (hello, Mini Christmas Tree Gift), you’ll need to plan for where to plant it outside. Keep in mind that these types of trees are fairly slow growers, so you have a little bit of time to play with here. If you don’t have the right spot to accommodate the mature tree, you can still plant it in a large container and enjoy it outdoors for a few more years—it’s not going to become a giant overnight.
- Katie Elzer-Peters