Christmas is one of my favorite times of year. The decorations and gift giving are great and all, but I have an almost spiritual connection to the concept of a Christmas tree. Seeing a live Christmas tree really lifts my spirits and makes me think back to countless generations before me participating in this tradition. Recently, I decided to plant and grow my own Christmas tree. I wanted to take a moment to talk about how to grow a Christmas tree at home, what kind of tree to get, how long it’ll take to grow, and general care.
Origin of the Christmas tree
It’s believed that Christmas trees stem from a Pagan celebration around the time of the winter solstice, where they would decorate trees outdoors and bring branches of evergreen fir trees into their homes to bring a little sparkle to an otherwise dull, dreary, gray time of year. Eventually, this tradition of decorating trees was adopted by European Christians at Christmas time.
Growing your own Christmas tree is both fun and good for the environment, and having a permanent tree outdoors to decorate at Christmas time pays homage to the Pagans who first decorated trees outside.
Benefits of growing your own Christmas tree
Growing a Christmas tree at your home has a number of perks. First and foremost, you’ll save money! A live Christmas tree will cost you between $75 and $225 on average, which can definitely add up year after year. Growing your own Christmas tree will save you a bit of cash during the holidays.
Having an outdoor Christmas tree to decorate also connects you with the Pagan roots of the tradition and will likely be viewed by your neighbors as some outside-the-box thinking. And who doesn’t want to impress the neighborhood?
Lastly, by keeping your Christmas tree planted in the ground all year long, it will continue to absorb carbon dioxide, produce the oxygen we breath, create shade for our yards, and serve as habitat for birds and other types of wildlife. Your Christmas tree can give back to the world 24/7/365.
Choosing a type of tree
Before you can grow your own Christmas tree, you’ll need to settle on the type of tree you want to grow. Most fir trees will grow in growing zones 3-7. Douglas firs, which are the most common type of Christmas tree, grow from zones 4-6. If you live in a warmer climate, scotch pines can grow in zones 3-7 and sand pines are good for hot climates, zone 7-10.
Spruces are also an option. The Norway Spruce is common in North America, although not native, growing in zones 2-7. The Colorado Blue Spruce is also a popular tree for Christmas, growing in zones 4 to 7a. They’re also the state tree for Colorado!
Planting your tree
Evergreen trees used as Christmas trees are hardy and don’t ask much of us. They like to be planted in full sun and well drained soil. If you’re planning to plant more than one tree, it’s best that you plant them about 8 feet apart from one another so they don’t crowd each other. Follow any and all instructions when planting the particular type of tree you’ve selected for your property.
How long does it take to grow a Christmas tree?
Here’s where things get a little tricky. Trees take time to grow, and that includes our beloved Christmas trees. For example, once established, a Douglas fir tree will add about 13 to 24 inches every year. If you start with a very small tree, it’ll take a few years before you have a Christmas tree that doesn’t look like something out of Charlie Brown. What I did to get around this was spend a little bit more money on a tree that was already pretty tall, about 5 feet tall once planted in the ground.
Eventually, if you don’t stay on top of pruning your tree to maintain its size, your Christmas tree will probably become a little bit too big to realistically decorate top to bottom. If you do prune it, be sure to do so during its dormant time in the winter. Pruning the top branch of the tree, or “leader,” will encourage the tree to grow more bushy. Douglas firs aren’t hard to keep maintained and a certain height, you just need to be diligent and stay on top of it.
Keep reading: What to do when grass won’t grow under trees