Choices abound for growing a Christmas tree

Published 3:02 pm Tuesday, December 12, 2023

By Vanessa Parker

Contributing writer

Would you like to grow your own Christmas tree? No tree stand needed.

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There’s quite a variety to choose from that grows well in Virginia. Some good choices for our area would include eastern white pine, Fraser fir, Douglas fir, Scotch pine and Norway spruce, to name a few. The white pine is the most common planted Christmas tree species in Virginia.  

Choosing the perfect tree is a holiday tradition in many households. Is yours the tree with the sturdy branches, the dark glossy needles, the Charlie Brown type tree, the one that has the best fragrance, or the tree with the most evenly spaced branches? How tall and wide is your tree? 

There are many things to consider, however, it is easy to grow these trees. 

Pick up a soil test kit at Virginia Tech, a garden center or at your local Virginia Cooperative Extension. A routine soil test costs $10. 

It includes a soil sample box, instructions and fascinating results about the nutrients in your soil. You will want to know if you have the proper soil conditions for an evergreen conifer (tree with needles and cones).  You will not want to plant a tree in soil that is too wet or too dry as this will result in weak, thin trees that are susceptible to undesirable insects and diseases. 

Give your new tree plenty of room to grow.  A 5-feet by 5-feet space is good but 7-feet by 7-feet is better. This way you can walk all the way around the tree and look at it from all sides. By controlling grasses and other vegetation nearby, the tree can get plenty of sunlight, soil moisture, and air circulation. Remove any obstacles that would be in the way of healthy growing roots. 

Pick a species and seedling size. Purchase a small potted tree at farmer’s markets, local nurseries, private nurseries, and big box stores.  

Eastern white and Scotch pine seedlings can be purchased from the Virginia Division of Forestry. (Norway spruce is out of stock currently according to the DOF website.)  

Remember, the smaller your tree, the longer it will take to reach the desired size if you want a big tree.  

Picking a tree is the most exciting part. Pines have good needle retention, are fast-growing and easy to establish in a variety of climates and soil types. The white pine has very good fragrance, silver-green, soft needles but requires heavy pruning to produce a compact, symmetrical tree. On the average, six to eight years are required to produce a 6-feet tree. 

Scotch pines are fragrant with excellent twig stiffness. Douglas and Fraser firs are beautifully green with great needle retention and fragrant. Their twigs rate fair for stiffness. Norway spruce has a slight scent, good color and stiffness but poor needle retention. 

Plant your new Christmas tree late winter through early spring, give it plenty of water, and watch it grow. There’s nothing like the real thing, especially if it was planted by you. 

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