Conifer Growers Special Edition

Abies procera 2-2 (Noble Fir)Currently the United States presents a market opportunity for over 35 million natural Christmas trees each year. The top three sellers include Scotch Pine, Douglas Fir and a true fir of choice depending on region - Noble Fir in the west, Fraser Fir in the southeast and midwest and Balsam Fir in the northeast. Colorado Blue Spruce is steadily gaining a bigger share of the market through the country’s midsection and into Canada. The balance of the market is filled by other native pines, spruces, firs and exotics or non-native species.

Deciding which species to grow is the most important decision a Christmas tree grower can make. It is important to seek local advice from others with experience and consider that cold hardiness and heat tolerance are most important. Keep in mind that pines are widely adaptable and produce a crop in 6 to 8 years. Firs need more soil moisture and adequate drainage and will usually require 10 to 15 years to reach a full 7' to 8' market height. Spruce are effective in heavier soils where drainage may be a problem and will produce on better sites as well. The kind of tree selected also determines spacing.

As a general rule, pines need a minimum spacing of 6' x 6' because their branches tend to die back when they brush aginst each other. Spruce should also be given a lot of room (6' x 6' or 6' x 8') because top market prices accrue to larger specimens. Firs can be planted 5' apart provided there is enough room for equipment to pass. Overall, the density of trees will vary from approximately 800 to 1,400 per acre.

Pinus nigra 2-2 (Austrian Pine)A mixture of varieties offers more flexibility in the market place and reduces the risk of loss due to insects, diseases and extreme weather. A conservative plan is to plant 80% of your acreage to the most popular species, 15% to less popular but marketable trees and the remainder in exotics. Traditionally, the fragrance and soft foliage of true firs are what people Calocedrus decurrens P-1 (Incense Cedar) left, Metasequoia glyptostroboides P-1 (Dawn Redwood) rightidentify with a "real" Christmas tree. In general, true firs grow where it is cold in the winter and cool in the summer. They are shallow rooted and need good drainage. They have deep green, soft foliage and their essential oils define the aroma of Christmas. Firs have natural conical shapes and their density can be enhanced by shearing and fertilization.

 

 

Selecting Conifers for Specific Uses
Name Recommended for Recommended for Recommended for Name Recommended for Recommended for Recommended for
  Christmas Trees Ornamentals Forestry/Windbreaks   Christmas Trees Ornamentals Forestry/Windbreaks
Abies alba
x
x
Picea pungens glauca
x
x
x
Abies balsamea phanerolepis
x
x
Picea sitchensis
x
x
Abies borissi-regis
x
x
Pinus aristata
x
Abies bornmuelleriana
x
x
Pinus banksiana
x
Abies concolor
x
Pinus cembra
x
Abies koreana
x
Pinus contorta latifolia
x
Abies lasiocarpa
x
Pinus flexilis
x
Abies lasiocarpa arizonica
x
Pinus leucodermis
x
Abies sachalinensis
x
Pinus monticola
x
Calocedrus decurrens
x
Pinus nigra
x
Cedrus atlantica
Pinus parvifolia
x
Cedrus deodara
x
Pinus peuce
x
Chamaecyparis obtusa
x
Pinus ponderosa
x
Juniperus communis
x
Pinus pumila
x
Juniperus osteosperma
x
Pinus strobiformis
x
Juniperus scopulorum
x
Pinus strobus
x
Juniperus virginiana
x
Pinus sylvestris (varieties)
x
Metasequoia glyptostroboides
x
Pinus thunbergii
x
Picea abies
x
x
x
Pinus wallichiana
x
Picea engelmanni
x
x
Pseudotsuga menziesii
x
Picea glauca
x
x
x
Pseudotsuga menziesii ‘Glauca’
x
x
Picea omorika
x
x
Sequoiadendron giganteum
x