“I'll have a blue Christmas without you
I'll be so blue just thinking about you
Decorations of red on a green Christmas tree
Won't be the same dear, if you're not here with me”
The song “Blue Christmas,” made famous by Elvis Presley, has become a holiday classic. While the song has nothing to do with Christmas trees themselves, the popularity of the phrase might explain the public's ongoing interest in blue Christmas trees. If you like the idea of something different than the classic conifer in your home, but still want to keep things natural, you can consider one of these striking options.
Blue Spruce (Picea pungens)
The blue spruce, also known as the Colorado blue spruce, is a species of evergreen tree that is native to the Rocky Mountains—actually the official state tree of both Utah and Colorado. As its name might suggest, this tree's needles have an attractive blue-gray color that grow on branches forming a pleasing conical, symmetrical shape. The four-sided sharp needles of a blue spruce are about one-and-a-half-inches long on lower branches, gradually decreasing to shorter lengths on upper branches. In the forest, the trees can reach a height of 65 to 115 feet at full maturity and can boast a diameter of two to three feet. The younger the tree is, the more consistent the shape, so a short tree and clean silhouette will come hand-in-hand, perfect for indoors. This tree species even wins bonus points for good needle retention as an indoor Christmas tree, and strong branches that can handle heavy ornaments with ease.
Christmas tree growers have cultivated many conifers, including this one, in a 'Glauca' variety, that have a more bluish-white or silvery-white hue to their needles. Therefore, the exact hue of your tree can vary, depending on what color appeals to you.
The blue spruce also is an excellent choice as a living Christmas tree—a tree you plant on your property after the holiday season. You will want to store it in your garage or shed until the temperature is warm enough for planting, but since a living tree comes with a root ball, moving it outside should be simple.
Whether you choose a cut blue spruce or a living blue spruce, it is important to keep the tree well watered. Trees may soak up as much as several quarts of water a day, so it is important to check the water level daily.
Chihuahua Spruce (Picea chihuahuana)
This is one of the most blue of the blue spruces and certainly an excellent choice for shape and tidiness. Its bark is thin and scaly, so some of it can flake off in your home as you move one in, or if you have particularly troublesome cats, but for the gardener interested in a living tree, the Chihuahua spruce is great in warmer climates. It is one of the most heat-tolerant of the spruces as well and will fare much better in such temperatures than similar trees.
Spanish Fir (Abies pinsapo)
The Spanish fir, hailing from southern Spain and northern Morocco, is a nice, soft tree with a good shape and excellent ornamental value. It is quite a bit more heat and dry tolerant than most other Abies species, as well as being fairly bluish in color. Since the pyramid shape of this fir does tend to be a bit more narrow, this variety can be a good choice as a Christmas tree for a home with more limited space.
If you intend to replant a living Spanish fir in your yard, make sure that your soil is well-drained and slightly acidic in a location that gets full sun. This tree is also not winter hardy in areas with lower winter temperatures than USDA zone 6.
Subalpine Fir (Abies lasiocarpa)
The subalpine fir, or Rocky Mountain fir, is cold-tolerant conifer with bluish foliage that also makes a large part of its home in the Rockies. It is an exceptionally neat, attractive tree that can handle temperatures down it -30 degrees Fahreheit in the wild. This tree, like the blue spruce, is a good candidate for a small living Christmas tree, but be careful if you live in a warmer climate as this tree resents the hot air.
If the Coast Range subalpine or Rocky Mountains subalpine are not quite blue enough for you, look for a corkbark fir variety. It is known for having the most strongly glaucous foliage out of this family of firs.
Noble Fir (Abies procera 'Glauca')
Another great-looking tree with excellent shape, neat and tidy foliage, and a nice blue-green color, the noble fir is actually a very popular Christmas tree; one of its common names is actually "Christmastree." This variety is native to the northwestern United States, specifically the Cascade Range in California, Oregon, and Washington, where it can grow quite large. Make sure you have the space to accommodate a tree about 40 to 70 meters tall if you intend to use a noble fir for a living tree. This is one that does tolerate a modicum of dry, summer heat, but still prefers a cooler climate. These are hardy down to about -20 degrees Fahrenheit (-29 C).
Atlas Blue Cedar (Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca')
One of the bluest varieties on our list, the Atlas blue cedar is all about color. Its naturally glaucous foliage makes it a very attractive choice for a Christmas tree, but the shape can be a bit asymmetrical and not at all conical in most cases. So, if your and your family are ready for something quite different, then an Atlas blue could be your next tree.
For those wanting a living variety, it is important to note that this tree can grow up from 30 to 40 meters tall, and it thrives best in warmer climates. This tree is actually not native to the US, coming originally from the Atlas Mountains in Morocco, so it should come to no surprise that it is only cold tolerant to about -10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Deodar Cedar (Cedrus deodara)
This potentially massive tree is a hardy species native to the western Himalayas. Its normal coloration ranges from bright green to a lovely blue-green, and it has an excellent Christmas tree shape, though perhaps a tad thin and wispy as a smaller sapling. Some cultivars of this species are supposed to be very blue such as the Cedrus deodara 'Electric Blue'.
As always, you will have to prepare for a large tree if you choose to plant a deodar cedar, but it is not recommended to plant it in areas that grow colder than USDA zone 7.
Blue China Fir (Cunninghamia lanceolata ‘Glauca’)
The 'Glauca' form of the China fir is another excellent, exceptionally blue conifer with a great shape for a Christmas tree. While this tree is not a fir—it is from the cypress family—it is an evergreen conifer native to China and Taiwan.
Take care if you want to plant a living variety of this tree. It can grow very tall in the wild and sizeable still in cultivation. It can be drought and heat resistant in warmer climates, but only the 'Glauca' form is fairly cold-tolerant, down to about -10 degrees Fahrenheit.
Wichita Blue Juniper (Juniperus scopulorum 'Wichita Blue')
While a juniper can have slightly unusual foliage for a Christmas tree, the Wichita blue is a great plant for those who are more tight on space in their yard, yet still want a living tree. It will provide everything you want in terms of a vibrant color and neat, conical shape, and its moderate growth will top out between 10 and 15 feet, four to six feet wide.
Blue Mountain Hemlock (Tsuga mertensiana 'Glauca')
Mountain hemlock are appreciated for their tolerance for severe weather as well as their color. The 'Glauca' cultivar is actually one of two prized for a more intense blue color, the other being the Blue Star mountain hemlock. In the wild, both of these are large trees, but as seedlings they can make a nice addition to your home for the holidays.
Living trees will thrive best in USDA zones 5 to 9, but cultivation can be limited if you've planted it in an area susceptible to urban air pollution.
If you do decide to go with a cut tree, be sure to recycle it after the holidays. According to the National Christmas Tree Association, about 90 percent of America's Christmas trees are turned into mulch for landscapes and gardens or are chipped for use on trails and as playground surfaces. Check with your community or recycling center about a program in your area.
Now that you know more about blue conifers, when you hear Elvis sing “You'll be doin' all right, with your Christmas of white, But I'll have a blue, blue Christmas,” you can imagine your own beautiful blue tree gracing your living room this holiday season.