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Dallas Morning News - November 23, 2017

Christmas Tree Decisions

Italian stone pine shown when purchased as table Christmas tree.

For those celebrating Christmas, it’s time for tree decisions. There are basically three choices for the holiday trees. 1) artificial trees, 2) cut trees and 3) living trees for planting outdoors after the holidays. There are pros and cons for each choice.

Artificial Christmas trees are just that - artificial. Out of convenience or due to allergies, some people decide to go this route. Some of the artificial trees look pretty realistic these days. Being able store the trees after the holidays and save them for use again in following years is definitely a benefit that some people enjoy.

Italian stone pine after changing foliage.

Cut trees farms tend to get a bad rap as being anti-environmental, but that’s really not true. Cut trees primarily come from farms that grow trees just for the holiday purpose. There is not an environmental issue – except for the toxic chemicals used to grow the trees on many of the farms. Fraser fir and noble fir are the two most popular cut trees but other varieties include Virginia pine, Afghan pine (Eldarica), Leyland cypress and Eastern red cedar.

With the exception of Virginia pine, all the trees mentioned above can be purchased as living trees and planted in the north Texas landscape after the holidays. Leyland cypress is not on my good list to plant anymore. It is in serious trouble from a fungal disease and dying out in many areas. Eldarica pine is a little better but should only be planted in arid conditions. It is a desert plant. During rainy periods, it can get in trouble from too much water here in north Texas - especially when being irrigated as well. It’s a much better choice for west Texas.

Italian stone pine at maturity.

The very best choices for living trees to be planted in the landscape after Christmas are Eastern red cedar, Italian stone pine and rosemary. The native cedar is available in many sizes and smells great in the house. When planted outside, it can take sun or shade. Pollen causing allergies will not be a problem on the small trees, but some people could possibly be allergic to the aromatic fragrance of the foliage. Italian stone pine is the best choice and will grow beautifully in all soils and most conditions here. Rosemary plants make terrific tabletop Christmas trees and can be moved to the herb garden, patio pot or the landscape bed after Christmas.

Remember to set the living tree up in the house just before Christmas and then plant it outdoors immediately after removing the ornaments. The longer living tree of any kind are left inside, the weaker it will become and the harder to establish in the new outdoor home.

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