Christmas is right around the corner. This December, Floridians in the Tampa Bay area are experiencing colder-than-usual temperatures. No matter what climate we live in, many people relish the idea of a real Christmas tree, replete with a heady, energizing piney aroma.
Sadly, this year, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, many are unable to travel or be with loved ones but are opting to have a quiet, traditional holiday involving a real Christmas tree. It may be time to consider purchasing a “live” tree that won’t end up brown and shriveled on your curb at the end of December. A live potted tree would bring years of enjoyment, offer shade, lush greenery, and that wonderful aroma year-round, not just two or three weeks!
Pre-cut Christmas trees certainly have their charm, however, they have a huge impact on the environment, in spite of recycling efforts in some areas. However, the live Christmas tree can be planted in your yard or gifted to a friend or neighbor when the magical season is over.
Christmas tree farms are a booming business, but they simply cannot keep up with the replanting enough to ensure future plentiful re-growth, as it can take 10 years for a Christmas tree to reach full maturity.
Buying a live Christmas tree
It’s imperative, when selecting a live Christmas tree, to pick one that is native to your region and able to withstand the local climate, once it’s replanted. Some coniferous trees will reach heights of 40-60 feet and must be planted in a spacious area with room to grow.
Select a tree with brightly colored foliage — avoid yellowing or brown tips. Take extra care not to drop the tree and injure its delicate roots.
After you’ve driven your potted living tree home you must take steps to ensure its transition to the indoor environment and lower lighting conditions. Purchase the tree at least a week ahead and keep it in a shady spot outdoors.
When you bring your live Christmas tree inside, water it as you would any potted plant. Don’t over-water or you’ll drown the roots! Use the “knuckle test.” Stick your finger in the soil up to your first knuckle. If you find the soil is still moist, there is no need to water the tree.
Planting a live Christmas tree
After the holidays, keep your live Christmas tree inside for another 7 to 10 days before taking it outside so it can adjust prior to planting.
Choose a good location for the tree and dig a hole that’s no deeper than the pot, but large enough to accommodate the roots. Don’t force it into the hole. Fill in around the edges with loose dirt. Then spread the rest of the dirt from the hole in a circle around the trunk and cover it with mulch to reduce evaporation.
Once your living Christmas tree is planted, be sure to water it regularly until the roots are well-established.
Some Christmas trees that grow in Florida
Here are some Florida-friendly pine breeds that make for a nice Christmas tree:
Southern Red Cedar
This spectacular tree is not actually a cedar, it is part of the hardy Juniper family. Its foliage remains lush throughout the years and is extremely low maintenance. The breed is salt, drought and wind tolerant and thrives in partial sun and well-drained sandy soils. Southern red cedars generally reach heights of 25-30 feet tall.
This fast-growing elegant pine is tall and slender with a conical egg-shaped crown. When it reaches maturity, the crown becomes rounded or flattened. The slash pine can survive easily in wet lowlands, swamps, near ponds, and can even flourish in sandhills and other infertile soils.
This beauty has a striking oval, open crown with long, dark green needles that can grow up to 18 inches. The cones are large and spiny and can grow up to 10 inches. The new growth becomes silver-white in the winter, keeps its foliage year-round, and may grow anywhere from 13 to 24 inches annually. They can grow between 60-80 feet tall. The longleaf pine requires at least four hours a day of partial to full sun.
Also known as “scrub pine” or “Jersey pine” is a hardy species, living in regions from Long Island to Florida. They have short, twisted yellowish-green needles and the cones are between 4-7″. They can reach heights of anywhere from 18-59 feet. Virginia pines can survive in poor, sandy soil but will grow taller in well-drained loam or clay.
Enjoy your live Christmas tree this year and for many years to come!
Featured photo by Hert Niks
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