Do you dream of growing your own Christmas tree? There are plenty of reasons why you might, but convenience is not one of them. Be forewarned: it will take at least seven years for your tree to be ready for harvest, but that’s no reason not to embark on the journey.
If you follow these steps, you can grow your own Christmas tree in less than a decade.
Step 1: Select the Right Species
Many different evergreen trees make great Christmas trees, but most are climate-specific. First things first, consult the USDA Hardiness Zone map to figure out which plant hardiness zone your state is. Most of Colorado lies in zones 4 to 6, meaning our overnight lows range from -5 degrees Fahrenheit to -20 degrees.
- Fir trees: Fragrant and nicely needled, fir trees make fabulous Christmas trees in Colorado. Douglas, white, and subalpine fir trees are native trees that thrive with little to no care. Balsam firs can grow in colder zone 3, so they do well in Steamboat Springs and Aspen. Plant fir trees on north- or east-facing slopes.
- Pine trees: Fast-growing pines are an excellent choice for those with south or west-facing slopes in zones 3-8. White and Scotch pine trees are suitable for zones 3-7, Virginia pines in zones 4-8. Prefer to stick with the native pines? Bristlecone, limber, lodgepole, pinon and ponderosa pines are your best bet.
- Spruce trees: Vibrant and beautiful, spruce trees enjoy north and east-facing slopes. Norway spruce trees can handle zones 2-7, while Colorado blue spruce prefers zones 4-7a.
- Leyland cypress: Rapid-growth and a slender profile make Leyland cypress trees a natural fit for Christmas. Hardy in zones 6-10, you can also keep these beauties in a pot for years if you want a reusable Christmas tree.
Step 2: Pot Up Your Seedling
Once you’ve selected your species, buy a seedling and give it the best start in life by planting it in a pot. Make a potting mix with compost, peat, perlite, and vermiculite or buy a potting mix suitable for evergreens — you want a pH of around 7. Use a two-gallon pot, or something large enough for the tree to grow comfortably for the next two years.
Fill the pot one-half full of soil, then place the seedling inside and fill the pot the rest of the way full. Do not plant the tree any deeper than it is in its original container. Pat the soil down firmly and water the seedling.
Step 3: Care for Your Seedling
Water and fertilize regularly for the first year. For the second year, water only as needed but continue to fertilize at regular intervals. Keep the pot away from heating registers indoors, and keep it away from drafts or overly heated areas.
Step 4: Prepare Your Planting Site
In the weeks leading up to transplanting your Christmas tree to its outdoor location, choose your site carefully. Try to find a spot with a slight slope, ensuring it will receive adequate drainage. Make sure the area gets full sun, and mow the area well before planting. You may choose to till a small area around the planting site to remove all vegetation beforehand.
Step 5: Plant Your Tree
Dig a hole the same depth as the pot the tree is in, and twice as wide. Remove the tree from the pot along with its root ball and place it in the hole. Gently spread the roots, then backfill with soil and step onto the earth to secure the tree. Water well and cover the planting area with mulch, taking care not to let any touch the trunk of the sapling.
Step 6: Care for Your Tree for the Next 5-7 Years
Over the next few years, watch the tree for signs of drought or insect stress, and water or treat it accordingly. You will want to use sharp garden shears to prune the tree each year in mid-summer to maintain an ideal shape.
Step 7: Harvest Your Christmas Tree
Once your tree has achieved the height you desire, cut it down in late fall, placing the freshly cut trunk in water to keep the tree looking fresh and lively. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself hesitant to cut down this tree that you’ve had for so many years. Remember, you can always buy one from a tree farm if you’ve come to think of your Christmas tree as a family member!
Gail Lopez is a second-generation landscape designer whose family business designs yards with flair. Her things are beautiful plants, outdoor kitchens, and sprinklers powered by artificial intelligence.