Different varieties of evergreen trees thrive in different regions of the United States. How do you know which one is the right Christmas tree for you? Here are comparison details on some of the more common ones, including varieties that grow in different climates and areas of the country. What are the must-haves and deal-breakers for you? Do you NEED that distinctive fragrance? Do you prefer soft needles that won't scratch up your arms as you string the lights? How long will your tree need to keep its needles? Will you be diplaying it in a pot, and planting it in your landscape once the holidays are over? Read on to find the tree that best suits your needs!
These are faster-growing trees, taking an average of 7 years to attain a 6-7 foot height, so generally are a little less expensive than some of the more slow-growing Christmas trees. They can be more labor-intensive for the grower, however, as the trunks are sometimes not straight, and they require more shearing to develop a desirable shape.
Scots Pine (Pinus sylvestris) is one of the most popular Christmas trees grown. It was introduced to the United States from Europe.
Southwestern White Pine (Pinus strobiformis)
White Pine (Pinus strobus) provokes less allergic reactions than some of the more fragrant trees. This is a fast-growing variety.
While these are very attractive Christmas trees, they don't tend to hold their needles as well, making them a less popular variety for cut Christmas trees. They are less fragrant than most fir trees. They also tend to be some of the more expensive and difficult-to-find varieties, depending on the region. As a slower growing tree, they may be more expensive per foot than a tree that gives growers a faster turn-around.
Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens) is the state tree of Utah and Colorado. As a slow-growing variety, they can live 600-800 years in the wild.
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Norway Spruce (Picea abies) is a very popular Christmas tree in Europe, where trees are traditonally not brought into the home until Christmas Eve.
White Spruce (Picea glauca) is the state tree of South Dakota.
Fir trees grow more slowly than pines, requiring 10-12 years to attain the popular six to seven foot height most requested for indoor Christmas trees. Because they take longer to produce, they are more expensive. They require less pruning and shearing than pines, however, as they have a naturally straight and symmetrical shape.
Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea) Very popular variety.
Canaan Fir, or West Virginia Balsam Fir (Abies balsamea var. phanerolepis) Pronounced ca-NANE, unlike the Biblical region of CAY-nan. These are rapidly increasing in popularity. This is due, in part, to the fact that they are nearly indistinguishable from the more expensive Fraser Fir, and can be grown in a wider range of climates. This is becoming one of the most popular varieties on my uncle and aunt's Christmas tree farm, with many repeat customers!
Douglas Fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii). Nationally, one of the most popular Christmas tree species. Named after David Douglas, who studied the tree in the 1800's. This is a very long-lived tree as a live speciment, and a good candidate as a live tree to plant in your landscape, if it is appropriate to your growing zone.
Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri) Nationally, one of the most popular (and more expensive) Christmas trees. Named for a botanist, John Fraser, who studied the plant life of the southern Appalachian area in the late 1700's.
White Fir, or Concolor Fir (Abies concolor) My aunt, Carol Hill, reports that people return to their Christmas tree farm and say, "I don't remember what kind we got here last year, but we want it again! It smelled like citrus!" The fragrance is released when you pull off or bend the needles, and will fill your home with a lovely scent.
Leyland Cypress (Cupressocyparis leylandii), popular among those allergic to other Christmas tree varieties. This is one of the most popular varieties in the southeastern region of the United States.
Special thanks go out to my aunt, Carol Hill, who took the time to answer some of my questions, and allowed me to use the picture of the Canaan Fir (taken by my cousin, Megan Hill) from their Hill Family Tree Farm website. See the Helpful Hints portion of their website for great information on how to care for and prolong the life of your cut Christmas tree: http://www.hillstreefarm.com/
Photo Credits, in order of appearance:
Thumbnail image at start of article: courtesy Flickr Creative Commons, by Dendroica cerulea
Scotch Pine: Flickr Creative Commons, by F. D. Richards
Southwestern White Pine: Flickr Creative Commons, by birdvoyeur
White Pine: Flickr Creative Commons, by joeldinda
Colorado Spruce: Flickr Creative Commons, by Joe Thomissen
Norway Spruce: Dave's Garden Plant Files, by DG member Evert
White Spruce: Dave's Garden Plant Files, by DG member TBGDN (Leon Elliott, at http://www.countrylivingandgardens.com/index.html)
Balsam Fir: Dave's Garden Plant Files, by DG member Todd Boland
Canaan Fir: Hills Tree Farm website, by Megan Hill (all rights reserved, used with permission)
Douglas Fir: Dave's Garden Plant Files, by DG member growin (Mike Davy)
Fraser Fir: Dave's Garden Plant Files, by DG member growin (Mike Davy)
White Fir: Dave's Garden Plant Files, by DG member mcash70 (Margaret Cashulette)
Leyland Cypress: Dave's Garden member Resin (MPF at Wikimedia Commons)