Finding the Perfect Tree

Wayne Hobbs Environmental Horticulture Agent
Posted 12/7/17

GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The holiday season is here and for many it is a time to bring a bit of the landscape into the home with a Christmas tree. My family’s tree has been up and decorated …

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Finding the Perfect Tree


GREEN COVE SPRINGS – The holiday season is here and for many it is a time to bring a bit of the landscape into the home with a Christmas tree. My family’s tree has been up and decorated for a couple of weeks and fresh greenery is an excellent option for those who like the appearance, smell and tradition of a live or cut tree with the added bonus of supporting the local economy.

Cut Trees

While the tradition of going into the forest to find a Christmas tree is gone for most, fresh cut trees are readily available. You can find a good selection of different varieties that are brought in from around the region at roadside stands and local stores that can be great in your home. There is even a Christmas tree farm in Middleburg (Songers Christmas Tree Farm) and you can find other local farms at This can be a great way to support an often-overlooked segment of our agricultural industry. However, there are some things to consider before choosing the perfect tree.

First of all, make sure to get the right size that will fit in the desired location. Also, check the tree for dryness or deterioration, usually noted by browning on needles or excessive needle loss, a sign of it being old or dry, when you gently shake the specimen.

Once you get the tree home, make sure it is mounted in a sturdy stand that should be checked daily to ensure it is full of water. If allowed to dry out, you could have a brown Christmas that can be quite dangerous.

Keep the tree away from heat sources and fireplaces in your home and use only indoor lights that have been checked for loose or broken bulbs and connections. These are good safety tips for artificial and live trees as well, which can also catch fire.

Live Trees

If you do not like the idea of a cut tree, you may be able to find a containerized or ball and burlapped live tree for your living room. The key to these trees is finding the proper species, such as Arizona Cypress, Sand Pine, or Red Cedar that can survive our climate. Stay away from Norfolk Island Pines (too cold) and more Northern-adapted varieties such as Douglas Fir or Spruces that cannot take our heat.

Buy the tree at least a week before you move it inside, placing it in a shady location to make sure it is adapted to the low light setting of your home. Check the tree for any browning of needles and be careful not to damage the roots. It is best to bring it inside for around 7-10 days; any longer and it will be less likely to survive once planted. Keep the roots moist, but not overly wet, while it is indoors.

It is also important to select the proper site to plant your living tree after the holidays. Most varieties will grow to around 40-to-60 feet tall at maturity so make sure they have room to grow. Plant in a wide and shallow hole, with the root ball slightly above the ground level. Make sure to provide the tree with water and extra care through the first two years. Live Christmas trees will often have a very small root mass in relation to the tree size and will need some attention.

If you have any more questions about trees, any other landscape topics, or need plant or pest materials identified, contact the University of Florida/IFAS Extension Office online at, follow us on Facebook, or call by phone at (904) 284-6355.


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