Read through popular questions on this page. Download your copy of the Rental Agreement below and/or the FAQs for a more extensive list of questions.

General questions

+ How much do trees cost?

$40 for 5-gallon trees $75 for 15-gallon trees

+ What are the environmental benefits?

The most sustainable choice is a tree that you know will be planted after the holiday season. The trees and shrubs available through this program are chosen for their suitability for Silicon Valley streets, backyards, or parks. Return the tree after the holidays, and Our City Forest will plant it. Most of the species for this program were propagated and grown locally for other projects, but are still too small to plant in public areas, so we are able to offer them as alternative holiday trees. Once planted, the tree will provide a myriad of benefits, including carbon sequestration, for many years longer than that of a farmed tree.

Farmed Trees

Should I feel bad about purchasing a farmed tree?

Of course not! Our program is only an alternative, particularly for folks interested in smaller trees. If you purchase a farmed tree in the Bay Area, it most likely came from the Pacific Northwest. While these are more “local” than an artificial tree from China, they still require transportation to your local tree lot, resulting in emissions.

If you want to find a tree that requires less carbon emissions, see if you can choose and cut your own tree locally, or see if a nearby lot has trees are from a local farm. Driving to a tree farm in Half Moon Bay (for example), and cutting and bringing your chosen tree home requires less carbon emissions than having your tree shipped from the Pacific Northwest too.

What about chemicals or pesticides?

Although conventionally farmed trees can be sprayed with pesticides that cause varying health impacts, it is more environmentally preferable to opt for a farmed tree over an artificial one that releases toxic chemicals through production, use, and disposal stages.

How do I dispose of a farmed tree?

In San Jose, your tree will be picked up as with any other yard trimmings! Just leave it on your curb starting December 26 through January with your regular yard pickup.

Artificial Trees

If I choose an artificial tree, how I long would I need use it for it to be more sustainable?

Most artificial trees come from China. After considering the fuel and emissions that are required to manufacture an artificial tree and ship it to the US, you would need to use your artificial tree for around twenty years. Unfortunately, the average life span for artificial trees in North America is only six years. Please see this study for more information.

How do I dispose of an artificial tree?

If you do choose an artificial tree, it cannot be recycled, so it must go to the landfill. Because artificial trees are made out of plastic they will not break down and will remain in the landfill.

Living Trees

Are potted trees the most sustainable choice?

A potted, living tree can be the most sustainable choice- as long as you know where you will plant it, rather than throwing it away or keeping it in the pot for years.

Before you purchase a potted tree, make sure you know where you will plant it after the holidays. Most potted trees aren’t a good option for South Bay residents due to size or climatic concerns. If you want to plant your tree, you can get creative and opt for another kind of tree, like a native. If there isn’t room for whichever tree you buy in your backyard, see if a neighbor or friend wants to plant it. Be sure to take good care of your potted tree - heavy ornaments or decorations can compromise root structure and tree health, making it difficult for it to survive after it is planted, and acclimating it to the outdoors is important too.

What if I don’t have anywhere to plant my potted tree? If you don’t have anywhere to plant your tree, the next sustainable choice is to get a farmed tree if you don't want one through our program. Potted trees are not a sustainable choice if you throw them away (even if you recycle them) when you are done with them. That’s because potted trees require more water and nutrients than classic farmed trees. If you do try to recycle a potted tree, you must remove the pot and roots, otherwise it will not be recycled and will be sent to the landfill.

This FAQ was adapted from a similar program at the San Francisco Department of the Environment.

+ What types of trees are available?

We have a variety of California native and street tree approved species available to rent. This year we are asking participants to come by the Nursery to see our selection and make your choice in-person. We do not carry any "traditional-like" species because they will not fare well in our communities. Instead we are growing trees that are suitable for the San José area.

+ How do I reserve a tree?

Reserve your Living Holiday Tree by coming to our Community Nursery:

  1. Order in-person at our Community Nursery during regular open hours: THURS-SAT, 9AM – noon. Our team will help you pick out a tree, tag it with your name on it, and walk you through the online ordering system.

NOTE: Trees are available on a first-come, first-serve basis and vary in sizes and species. We highly recommend coming in-person!

Pick-up & Return Questions

+ When can I pick up my tree?

Trees can be picked up during extended Open Hours at our Community Nursery beginning Thursday, December 6th until Friday, December 21st. Open Hours during this period are Thursday - Sunday, 9am - 3pm

+ Do you have any other pick-up locations?

No, not this year. Please come visit our beautiful Community Nursery!

+ Do you deliver?

No, not this year. If there is a big group order (10+), we potentially can, depending on the location. Email treenursery@ourcityforest.org with details of your request prior to ordering to see if possible.

+ When do I return my tree?:

Trees can be returned to our Community Nursery beginning January 4th during our regular Open Hours 9AM - noon. We will notify you with more details and send a reminder soon after December 25th.

Please let us know if these times won’t work for you and we will try our best to accommodate your schedule.

Caring for your Living Holiday Tree

+ Are you providing saucers for the Living Holiday Tree?

No, we are not providing that with the service this year. However, they are highly recommended for participants to purchase in order to avoid floor or carpet damage. Saucers or plastic trays are available for purchase at your local home improvement store. Note: be wary of the cheap plastic trays if you are concerned with any possible leaking. Try using an additional towel or cloth as a buffer to protect your floor.

+ Where should I put my tree once I bring it home?

We recommend acclimating your Living Holiday Tree before putting it inside your home, since they’ve been outside at the Nursery. Keep it in a protected area, sheltered from high winds and full sun. Water the tree immediately and make sure the soil is kept moist, but not wet. A good rule of thumb is to water with a small cup at a time, until you see water seep out the bottom of the pot.

After a few days of being sheltered outdoors, you can bring it inside. The trees will do best by windows that receive natural sunlight. If your home doesn’t have good natural lighting where you want to place your Living Holiday Tree, we recommend that you move it outside on occasion during the rental period or by another window where it might receive some sunlight time.

DO NOT place the Living Holiday Tree near any heater vents, furnace or fireplace. This can be hazardous and can also damage the tree’s foliage or dry it out completely.

+ How often should I water my tree?

It varies depending on the tree species and container size. The Living Holiday Trees will need water at least 2-3 times per week. We will provide care guidelines with each tree for reminders. There is not an exact science to watering the tree, you must keep an eye on the tree and check on it every few days. If the root ball feels dried out, slowly trickle water until the entire surface is saturated and water is seeping out the bottom into your tray/saucer. If the tree is looking fairly moist, there’s no need to water it again until it begins to dry out. Use your index finger as a gauge - if it’s dry up to your second knuckle, it’s time to water again and keep that Living Holiday Tree happy and moist.

+ What if I forget to water my tree and it dies, or it gets damaged?

Upon purchasing your Living Holiday Tree online, you will be required to e-sign our Rent-A-Tree agreement. This ensures that you are fully responsible for the health & well-being of the tree during the rental period. We are counting on you to take good care of our trees and they must be returned in good condition. If it is determined that the tree was neglected, dies, or we are unable to retrieve the tree at the end of the rental period then you may be charged the full retail price of the tree as follows:

  • 7’-9' trees: $100
  • 5’-6' trees: $80
  • 3'-4’ trees: $60
  • 2’-3’ trees: $40