Mary Ann Ryan
Adams County Master Gardener
time buy a Christmas tree. But what kind should you
buy? Artificial, fresh cut or live? And what variety?
This depends on the length of time you wish to keep
the tree inside. If you're looking at more than three
weeks to keep a tree inside, you should consider an
artificial tree. If less than three weeks, a fresh cut
tree is certainly an option; and if you keep a tree up
for 10 days or less, you can consider a living tree.
There are many varieties of trees you can choose when
planning on a fresh or living tree.
Christmas trees can be broken
down into three basic groupings: firs, spruce and
pines. Firs and spruce needles are attached to twigs
individually, while the pines have clusters of needles
attached to the twigs. The following are commonly
grown Christmas trees, but not a complete list of
The Frasier Fir is native to
the high elevations of the southern Appalachian
Mountains. It has easily adapted to our climate, if
you're considering a living tree. It has excellent
needle retention with wonderful fragrance. It has dark
green foliage with silver on the underside of the
needles, and the twigs are relatively firm for an easy
to decorate tree.
Douglas Fir is a very popular
Christmas tree. This tree is native to the foothills
of the Rocky Mountains, and has also adapted well to
our weather conditions. It has a natural pyramid
shape, fragrant, with somewhat drooping branches. The
needles are a medium green color about 1 - 1 ½" long.
This tree has good needle retention and relatively
easy to decorate. In the landscape, it serves as a
great screen planting when mixed with other evergreen
Balsam Fir is a long lasting,
fragrant fir. This evergreen is native to northeastern
US and Canada. It likes cold winter temperatures and
cool summer temperatures. It has nice, dark green
foliage and one of the common Christmas trees in the
US. It has good needle retention and strong twigs for
an easy to decorate tree. This tree resembles the
Frasier fir in looks and endurance.
Concolor Fir has longer
needles than the other common fir trees, getting up to
1 ½" in length. It has a good fragrance and needle
retention. The blue-green foliage makes it an
interesting and attractive color for a Christmas tree.
It is native to the west coast, but has adapted to our
environment quite well.
Colorado Blue Spruce is a nice
shaped tree with good silvery-blue color. The needles
are pointy, making it rather prickly to decorate, but
it does have good needle retention if kept watered.
These trees are symmetrical by nature, and have strong
limbs for heavy ornaments. The blue spruce works well
in the landscape as a screen planting.
White Spruce has short, stiff
needles with a blunt tip, making them less prickly
than the blue spruce. The branches are stiff as well,
making it a good choice for heavy ornaments. Needle
retention is good, probably better than other spruce
trees. However, when the needles are crushed, they
have an unpleasant odor.
Norway Spruce has a nice dark
green color but poor needle retention. It is conical
by nature, and open in appearance if not sheared
heavily. It has good stiff branches, making it easy to
decorate. If choosing this variety, be sure to keep it
well watered in a cool room and do not keep it in the
house for more than two weeks.
Scotch Pine is a common
Christmas tree in the US. It was imported from Europe
by the early European settlers. It has longer needles,
about 1"-3" in length. The needles are in clusters and
a medium green color. It has fairly good needle
retention when it is kept watered. It also is a very
easy tree to transplant if you are considering a
White Pine is a native
evergreen. It has long, clustered needles and good
needle retention. It is very soft to the touch and has
flexible branches, making it a tree that cannot handle
heavy ornaments. It has little fragrance, but nice
blue green color.
When selecting a variety of
tree, keep in mind where the tree will be displayed.
If it is in a cooler room, you choices are greater
because the needles will hold longer. If it is a warm
room, it's best to choose a variety with excellent
needle retention as the warmth will dry out the
Make good, common sense
decisions when selecting your tree and you will enjoy
a happy holiday season.
Mary Ann Ryan is the Penn
State Master Gardener Coordinator from Adams County.
Penn State in Adams County is located at 670 Old
Harrisburg Road, Gettysburg, PA 17325, phone 334-6271
or 1-888-472-0261. Penn State is committed to
affirmative action, equal opportunity, and the
diversity of its workforce."
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