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Gardening Q&A

Planting a live Christmas tree after the holidays

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Guadalupe County Master Gardeners is responsible for this content, which is not edited by the Wilson County News or

December 1, 2015 | 2,295 views | Post a comment

Q: I would like a live Christmas tree that I can plant after the holidays. What should I get?

A: There are a number of trees for our area around Seguin that can be used as living Christmas trees, according to Doug Welsh in his Texas Garden Almanac. This includes the Arizona cypress, Deodar cedar, Eastern red cedar, Eldarica pine, Italian stone pine, Leyland cypress, and the Nellie R. Stevens holly. With the holly, you wouldn’t need ornaments. You’d have red berries.

While researching the Leyland cypress, I found on the website that overplanting of these trees led to problems that have multiplied every year. Seiridium canker, Botryosphaeria dieback and Cercosporidium needle blight are becoming more common, as well as bagworms and spider mites. Remember that this tree will grow to 70 feet tall and will be hard to treat when problems occur. In spite of this, I saw a beautiful Leyland cypress in La Vernia this past week that had been a living Christmas tree, then planted outside. Neil Sperry in his San Antonio garden column suggests using the Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) as a substitute if you like the look of the Leyland. It is also native to a large part of Texas.

I suggest that you stay away from the Aleppo pine. I bought one as a living tree twelve years ago and have had red spider problems ever since. It is absolutely enormous and not very pretty, although Calvin Finch thinks this a good tree for our area because it likes alkaline soil. Finch also recommends the Arizona cypress since it seems to be well adapted to our area. It grows to 30 feet tall with no insects or diseases. The Italian Stone Pine is also mentioned by Finch. He describes it as a short tree, 25 to 35 feet tall, with a thick trunk and an umbrella like crown.

Q: Once I buy my live Christmas tree, how do I care for it before it is time to plant?

A: While the tree is in your house, keep it in the brightest natural light possible. Keep the soil moist since your heater during the winter can dry everything out. Make sure that you have a large plant saucer under the pot to protect your floor or carpet. Don’t leave the tree in the house for longer than 2 to 3 weeks, then plant soon after Christmas so those plant roots have plenty of time to grow before our really hot weather in the summer.

Q: Last year I saw an outdoor tree decorated with edible wildlife friendly ornaments. Suggest some and tell me how to make them.

A: The easiest ornaments to make are to cross section apples and oranges and hang the sections on the tree with ribbons. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service website suggests stringing natural popcorn (no butter or salt), as well as stringing cranberries and draping them on the tree. Another ornament easy to make is a pinecone smeared with a peanut butter and oatmeal mixture, then rolled in bird seed. Hang up with a ribbon or twine. Don’t forget to keep your bird baths filled for our wildlife during the winter months.

Clara Mae Marcotte is a Texas Master Gardener with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. If you have a question to be answered, call the Master Gardeners at 830-379-1972 or leave a message to be answered. The website is The Master Gardener research library is open Mondays from 8:30 to noon, at 210 East Live Oak Street in Seguin.
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