MU Extension

Every year approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees are sold to consumers in the United States. At this time about 350 million Christmas trees are growing on farms across the U.S. The most common species of trees that are used for Christmas trees are Scotch Pine, Balsam Fir, Norway Spruce, White Fir, Colorado Blue Spruce, White Pine, Fraser Fir, Canaan Fir, Noble Fir and Douglas Fir. In Missouri, Scotch Pine is our most popular Christmas tree species that we grow. Trees are commonly cut and then displayed. Some nurseries have started to offer living Christmas trees that are in a pot or burlap and can be planted following the holidays.

The first written record of a decorated Christmas tree is from Riga, Latvia in 1510. In the early 1800’s the Christmas tree was introduced in the US by German settlers and grew from table top sized trees to floor-to-ceiling as we see today. Christmas tree were first sold commercially starting in 1851 in the United States and the first Christmas tree at the White House was 1853. Franklin Pierce is credited with bringing the first Christmas tree to the White House. The first artificial Christmas trees were sold at Sears, Roebuck and Company in 1883. In 1901 the first Christmas tree plantation was started by W.V. McGalliard in New Jersey. He planted 25,000 Norway Spruce.

How to Care for Your Freshly Cut Farm-Grown Christmas Tree

• Displaying trees in water in a traditional reservoir type stand is the most effective way to maintain the freshness of your tree and minimize needle loss.

• You want to use a stand with a large enough reservoir to support the size tree you select. As a general rule, your stand should hold 1 quart of water for every inch of stem diameter.

• Even if you harvest your own tree at a farm, you will need to cut about ½ inch disk of wood from the bottom of the tree’s trunk before putting the tree in your stand with water. Just like cut flowers, the tree will form a seal after being cut and will not take up water.

• Check your stand daily and do not let the water level go below the base of the tree. Some stands will still have water but the base of the tree will be above it.

• Keep trees away from major sources of heat (fireplaces, heaters, heat vents, direct sunlight). Lowering the room temperature will also slow the drying process and lower the amount of water the tree uses each day.

• Use low heat lights to decorate the tree. Make sure to inspect lights before placing on the Christmas tree.

• Always turn off tree lights before going to bed or leaving the house.

How to Care for Your Living Christmas Tree (pot or burlap)

• Consider the species before buying. Some species may not be well adapted for your area.

• Keep in mind that living trees are very heavy! A six-foot balled and burlapped tree will weigh as much as much as 250 pounds!

• When the tree is stored outside of the house it should be kept in an unheated, sheltered areas such as a garage or porch. Do not expose the tree to freezing temperatures at any time.

• Make sure to water the root ball regularly. Do not overwater.

• Live trees should be decorated with care. Lights that are used should not put off any heat.

• Do not move the tree directly from a warm house out into freezing temperatures. Move to a sheltered outdoor area for a few days so the tree can adjust to the different temperatures.

• If the ground in unfrozen, the tree may be planted.

• Do not remove the burlap and strapping unless it is plastic. This keep the root ball solid and secure. In the case of plastic, remove the plastic but take care to retain the original soil around the roots.

Recycling Live Christmas Trees

After Christmas, many communities will offer recycling programs where trees are taken and mulched to be used as groundcover. Contact your city hall or parks department to ask. In some parts of Missouri, the Missouri Department of Conservation will allow citizens to bring trees to ponds or lakes and they will put in for fish habitat. If you have your own pond, consider putting your tree in it. Christmas trees can also be placed outside to be used as wildlife cover or placed near bird feeders as a nesting location.