- Virginia Pine - The most common Christmas tree in the south, Virginia Pine (Pinus Virginianan) is a short-needled pine with pleasant pine fragrance, dense foliage and strong limbs for those heavy ornaments you want to feature.
- Afghan Pine - Often found in west Texas, the Afghan Pine (Eldarica) looks a lot like the Virginia Pine. It has a mild fragrance and sturdy branches that are spread further apart, giving it a more open appearance than the Virginia Pine.
- Leyland Cypress - Allergic to trees? I have a solution for you! This tree is a hybrid of an Alaska-Cedar (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) and a Monterey Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa) – meaning there is no pollen to irritate those sensitive to tree pollen. Just make sure to rinse your tree off with a hose when you get home to rid it of other pollens. Another benefit? This popular tree is dense with short needles and, if kept in water, will outlast any other Christmas tree without leaving needles on the floor.
- Carolina Sapphire - A cultivar of Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica) and grown on a limited basis across the South, its best characteristics include fast growth, a beautiful blue color and an excellent aroma.
Before you bring the tree home, make sure you’re buying healthy stock. Check the tree for good color and needle retention, soft flexible branching, and a root system, if you can see it, that isn’t “bound” by its container. The root area should be moist, and not overly dry from lack of water. Also, look your tree over for any signs of disease or pest damage.
Once your tree makes it home, it needs to stay outside, in a protected area, until a few days before Christmas. Avoid the temptation to bring your live tree indoors too early. In fact, the less time indoors the better.
Water the tree as soon as you get it home and make sure the soil is kept moist, but not overly wet. It also needs to be sheltered from high winds and full sun. The objective for this time is to acclimate your tree to warmer temperatures over a period of three to four days. Moving the tree onto a covered porch or garage during the interim is a good transitional place.
Bring the tree inside just one or two days before Christmas (best) but no sooner than December 18th! Your home is an inhospitable environment for a living tree. Climate controlled homes are warm and dry. Don’t place your tree near heat vents, radiators, stoves, or anywhere else where heat can dry it out which could stimulate new growth that you do not yet want. Be sure to keep an eye on the soil and keep it moist. If the root ball is wrapped in burlap, place it in a large tub, and add mulch up to the top of the burlap to help retain moisture.
After Christmas, move your tree back outdoors as soon as possible. However, don’t immediately plant it. The tree will need to readjust to the outdoors in a protected area for several days. Again, avoid direct sun, high winds, and warm areas when storing your tree. Be sure to maintain soil moisture. In a week or 10 days, move your tree into the planting hole in your landscape.
Finally, be sure to water and mulch your tree to retain moisture. Continue to monitor soil moisture. Winter conditions can be very dry, and your plants and trees need water now as well, especially newly planted ones. The proper care and planning, before and after the holidays, will help ensure your tree survives for years to come.
The disposable cut Christmas tree of yesteryear is today a valuable addition as organic material used for mulch, compost and soil improvement. Gone are the days when trees were simply tossed to the curb where it was only taken to the landfill. These days, many municipalities will pick up your tree for free where it’s separated from landfill trash. Trees are collected for composting or shredded into mulch with infinite uses and benefits. Even if no such service is available in your area, there are locations around every town that will accept your tree for free.
In the event any of those options are more than you want to deal with, a discarded tree left to decompose on its own can provide important shelter for birds and wildlife as it breaks down. Keep in mind for any tree being recycled, it should be free of that silver tinsel stuff. It’s made of plastic, which never fully biodegrades. Bad stuff for the environment.
Did you know the Christmas tree tradition dates back to Western Germany in the 16th century? They were called “paradise trees” and were used to celebrate the annual feast of Adam and Eve on December 24th.
Fir Christmas trees were first brought to America by German immigrants in about 1700 becoming generally popular around the 1850’s. President Franklin Pierce is credited as having the first White House Christmas tree in 1856 for a group of Washington Sunday school children. Calvin Coolidge started the National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony in 1923. The first Christmas tree lot was established in New York in 1851. Today, Americans purchase approximately 30 million Christmas trees annually and some folks, like my sister Darla, like to have one in every room!
Happy Gardening and Happy Christmas!!