The publications in this collection do
not reflect current scientific knowledge
or recommendations. These texts
represent the historic publishing
record of the Institute for Food and
Agricultural Sciences and should be
used only to trace the historic work of
the Institute and its staff. Current IFAS
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Copyright 2005, Board of Trustees, University
BULLETIN 727 DECEMBER 1968
CHRISTMAS TREE PRODUCTION
(i NI u 1 i
S. L. Beckwith and W. L. Prit hett
IF.A.S. Univ. of Florida
AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATIONS
INSTITUTE OF FOOD AND AGRICULTURAL SCIENCES
J. W. SITES, DEAN FOR RESEARCH
UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA, GAINESVILLE
Introduction ..----. --...... ... ............................ 3
Wild vs. Plantation-grown Trees ........................-... .......--. 3
Varieties of Trees .......................................----- ------------ 3
Establishing the Plantation ............ .................... .......... 4
Site Selection ..... .................. 4
Planting -. ---6-- ....... ... ........................... .. 6
Maintaining the Plantation ............... .......... ...... 7
Weed Control ................................... .................. ....... 7
Fertilization ......... ................. ... -. .. .. ... .. ...-- ..... 8
Pruning and Shearing Trees ....-.... ..................... ..... 10
Tools for Shaping Trees ......... ...... ..... ... ...................... .... 14
Methods of Shaping Christmas Trees ................... ............... 14
Insect, Mite, and Fungus Pests .............-......................... .. .. 18
Insects and M ites ............... ....... ..................... 18
Fungus Pests ... .. -- ... .............................. 20
Harvesting and M marketing .......... ........ . ................ .. 20
Size and Shape of Trees .. ................................................ . 20
Cut Trees ........- .... ........ .......... ..... .... .. ... 20
Living Christmas Trees ................. ...................... .. 22
Outlets for Christmas Trees ............... ......... 23
Prom oting Sales of Trees ........... .................................... 24
Conclusions ...-..-..- .......... 25
Literature Cited ....26
The use of trade names in this publication is solely for the purpose of
providing specific information. It is not a guarantee or warranty of the
products named, nor does it signify that they are approved to the exclusion
of others of suitable composition.
Christmas Tree Production in Florida
S. L. Beckwith and W. L. Pritchett
The production of Christmas trees is a multimillion dollar
industry in the United States and Canada. In 1964, for example,
more than 46,000,000 trees were sold in the United States for a
total of $155,000,000 (9).2 Canadian imports comprised from
8% to 12% of the total trees. Artificial trees accounted for
about one-third of the total dollar sales volume.
Eleven southern states harvested 2,100,000 Christmas trees
in that same year, producing an income of over $5,000,000 (4).
Redcedar comprised 70% of the cut trees in the South. Other
important species included pines (15%) and Arizona cypress
(8%). This selection of trees available to southern Christmas
tree growers is in marked contrast to other parts of the country,
where Scotch pine, Douglas fir, Balsam fir, and spruces are the
most important varieties of trees grown (8).
Wild vs. Plantation-grown Trees
A large proportion (95%) of all southern Christmas trees
harvested in 1964 were from privately owned lands, and 34%
of the total trees were plantation-grown (4). Plantations of
Christmas trees in Florida occupied approximately 3,000 acres,
or about 40% of all such cultivated trees in the South.
Plantation-grown trees will doubtless capture a greater
share of the market in the future for a number of reasons. One
is that they are more uniform in shape and height than wild-
grown trees. Plantations can also be placed in favorable loca-
tions with respect to markets and can, therefore, command
better prices. Intensive Christmas tree production also requires
periodic cultivation, mowing, fertilization, or spraying, all of
which are more 'economically accomplished when trees are
evenly spaced in rows on specially prepared sites.
Varieties of Trees
The three principal types of conifers grown for Christmas
trees in Florida are southern redcedar (Juniperus silicicola
[Small] Bailey), Arizona cypress (Cupressus arizonica Greene),
and pines, such as sand pine (Pinus clause [Chapm.] Vasey),
1Associate Forester and Soil Chemist, Florida Agricultural Experiment
2 Numbers in parentheses refer to Literature Cited.
loblolly pine (Pinus taeda L.), and the common slash pine (Pinus
elliottii Engelm.). Redcedar is by far the most common of the
locally grown trees. Many southerners regard redcedar as the
traditional Christmas tree, and only in recent years have they
become accustomed to pines, spruces, and firs imported from the
northern states or Canada. Redcedars are usually compact and
grow in the conical form, the familiar Christmas tree shape.
They are freer of diseases than Arizona cypress, a tree of simi-
lar growth habit. A major objection to redcedar is the prickly
nature of its foliage. Arizona cypress, by contrast, has soft,
smooth foliage. A disadvantage common to both redcedar and
Arizona cypress is the weak flimsy nature of the branches, which
makes it awkward to hang ornaments or lights on them. How-
ever, as will be discussed in a later section, this disadvantage
can be overcome by pruning or shearing. Another major ob-
jection to southern grown Christmas trees is the rapidity with
which they become dry and brittle, usually within two or three
days after cutting. This is characteristic of trees that have no
dormant period. Northern Christmas trees are usually dormant
when cut and for this reason stay fresh longer than southern
Among the pines, sand pine, which has relatively dense
foliage and short needles, shows the greatest promise for Christ-
mas tree production. If grown on the proper site and with
adequate pruning it makes an excellent tree, capable of com-
peting with the best imported Scotch pine. A major objection
to sand pine has been its growth habit, which is frequently very
irregular. Many sand pines grown in the wild or in plantations
fail to form either an upright, straight trunk or a symmetrical
shape. These shortcomings could be overcome by screening seed
sources or by genetic improvement. Sand pine may also be
attacked by mushroom root rot (Clitocybe tabescens [Scop. and
Fr.] Bres.), which causes extensive mortality in some planta-
tions. Loblolly and slash pines usually have more uniform
growth and fewer diseases than sand pines, but they require
frequent heavy pruning to reduce the distance between whorls
of branches and make a compact tree. They also have longer
needles than sand pine and are therefore' less suitable for Christ-
ESTABLISHING THE PLANTATION
The area selected for planting can have a major bearing on
the success of a Christmas tree operation. The small landowner
who wishes to plant a few trees as a hobby, or for supplemental
income, may have little choice and even less concern about his
planting site. However, the commercial grower, looking for an
area on which to grow large numbers of trees, should consider
such factors as accessibility to market, local competition, ease
of protecting his trees from fire and theft and, of course, the
productivity of the soil.
Redcedars and Arizona cypress grow best on fairly well-
drained soils. Flatwoods soils, however, have been used success-
fully for cedar plantings when provision has been made for
adequate drainage. This is usually provided by a system of
shallow ditches to remove the surface water and lower the water
table during rainy periods. Planting on low beds elevated 8
inches above surrounding ground level is recommended for
poorly drained locations.
Sand pine should be planted only on well drained soils, but
slash and loblolly pines succeed on both well drained or poorly
pH.-A common problem of most flatwoods soils, as well as
many of the well-drained sands, is that the soils are too acid for
good redcedar growth. The pH should bel adjusted to the range
of 6.0 to 7.0, or even higher. In fact, cedars grow well on lime-
stone soils. Arizona cypress is adapted to soils of a rather wide
pH range, but seem to grow best in moderately acid (pH 5.5 to
6.5) soils. If the soil is suspected of being too acid, have a rep-
resentative sample of the surface soil (to an 8-inch depth) taken
by the county Agricultural Extension Agent for analysis. If
the pH is below 6.0, a ton or so of limestone per acre will need
to be added in advance of planting so that it can be worked into
the soil. The amount of limestone will depend upon the texture
and organic matter content of the soil, as well as on the pH.
Soil pH is usually not a problem in the production of pines.
However, they grow best in acid soils between pH 4.5 and 6.5.
Fertility.-Redcedars and Arizona cypress, like the pines,
have a fairly low nutrient requirement, but they thrive in rea-
sonably fertile soil. Inherently fertile soils or the use of a heavy
application of fertilizer promotes extremely rapid growth which
sometimes results in spindly, open trees of poor conformation.
In old cultivated fields, where fertilizers have been used regu-
larly, no additional fertilizer is usually needed for redcedar or
Arizona cypress production. In new fields, or fields without a
history of fertilizer use, fertilizers should be applied as soon as
the trees have been well established. Fertilization is discussed
in a-later section.
Christmas trees require more intensive care than most forest
tree crops. A well-prepared site, as well as cultivation for weed
control, is essential. Consequently a site should be selected that
has a minimum of stumps, boulders, or other obstructions that
might interfere with the use of machinery.
Source of planting stock
Christmas tree growers can obtain planting stock from
nurseries operated either privately or by the Florida Forest
Service. Orders for tree seedlings can be placed from July 1st
through September 30th (or until supplies are exhausted) for
trees to be planted the following winter season. When the bun-
dles of trees are received, they should preferably be planted im-
mediately. If a week or so delay in planting is anticipated, the
bundles can be left intact, kept as cool as possible in a shaded
area, and watered periodically with a garden hose or by dipping
them in a barrel of water. If a longer delay is encountered, the
bundles should be broken open, and the trees placed in shallow
trenches and watered occasionally.
Perhaps the best source of redcedar planting stock is home-
grown seedlings from your own backyard. This entails gather-
ing seeds, cleaning and storing them, and planting in special
seed beds. Neiland and Jensen (6) have prepared an excellent
circular on this subject. The chief advantages of home-grown
stock are that the seed source can be selected and seedlings can
be lifted just before planting, which greatly increases their
chances for survival.
Time of planting
Seedlings are usually planted during the cooler months of
the year, preferably from December through February. Select
a period immediately following a heavy rain, if possible. Christ-
mas tree seedlings can also be planted during the summer
rainy season where planting stock is available. Several com-
mercial pulpwood companies successfully plant pines during
this period of the year.
Spacing between plants
The spacing of the trees in the plantation is extremely im-
portant. Above all, they should not .be planted too close together.
Spacing, however, depends principally upon the type of equip-
ment to be used in the care of the plantation. A 5 by 8-foot spac-
ing is perhaps adequate, but a 5 by 10-foot spacing is sometimes
necessary to allow for machinery passage. Trees may be planted
j as close as 4 by 4 feet, and then alternate rows of trees can be
lifted for sale as living trees at about three years of age. Seed-
lings can be planted by machine or by hand, depending upon
the equipment and money available. For some purposes hand
planting is better, since it is possible to cross-check the trees,
permitting cultivation or mowing across as well as along the
rows of trees.
MAINTAINING THE PLANTATION
Control of unwanted plants is one of the most important
problems in the early establishment of a Christmas tree planta-
tion, particularly on lands that have been under cultivation for
some time. Dense shade from surrounding weed growth can
kill seedlings of redcedar and Arizona cypress by encouraging
development of disease organisms and by excluding light from
seedling leaves. Weed control is therefore particularly impor-
tant during the plantation's first year of growth.
Where the ground is cleared of obstructions and is suffici-
ently well prepared, cultivation is an excellent means of con-
trolling weeds. This can be accomplished with ordinary farming
equipment, or, in small plantations, by hand hoeing. Cultivation
during the first year should be followed in later years by mow-
ing, a more common means of weed control. Ordinary farm
rotary mowers are particularly useful for cleaning the middle
of the rows, but small garden tractors or heavy duty lawn
mowers may be used for mowing around individual trees. After
the second year, or after the trees have grown more than two
feet in height, mowing may be necessary only in the middles.
Seeded cover crops have also been used to control weeds. In
Alabama a mixture of rescue grass (Bromus catharticus Vahl.)
and crimson clover (Trifolium incarnatum L.) was satisfactory
for this purpose (3). Bahia grass (Paspalum notatum Flugge),
which often forms a heavy sod, can be used in Florida, but may
need to be removed near the trees by mechanical or chemical
During recent years numerous chemicals have been devel-
oped that prevent or retard the growth of weeds. Pre-emer-
gence sprays, such as simazine or atrazine, can be placed in spots
or 2-foot wide rows in which trees are planted about two weeks
later. These should effectively control annual weeds for from
three to six months. Post-emergent sprays are also available.
These are applied after the trees are set out and when the weeds
have begun to grow. In most instances, when spraying chemi-
cals in established plantations, it is essential to avoid wetting
the trees with spray material. Herbicides should be used cau-
tiously in Christmas tree plantations in Florida, as little is
known about the effect of these chemicals on the trees under
Redcedar and Arizona cypress
Missouri workers (2) reported best growth of eastern red-
cedar on soil with a high pH, high calcium and soluble phos-
phorus, and adequate potassium and magnesium. Studies in
Alabama (3) and in Georgia (1) also indicated improved
growth of Arizona cypress and eastern redcedar following appli-
cation of a complete commercial fertilizer (6-12-12) at the rate
of approximately 300 pounds per acre.
Two fertilizer experiments were conducted in north-central
Florida with southern redcedar from 1958 to 1964. In these
experiments trees were planted 51 feet apart in 8-foot rows in
Jonesville loamy fine sand. Each of the replicated, randomized
block experiments was initiated at time of planting one-year-
old nursery stock in previously cultivated fields.
In the first experiment, three levels of nitrogen (0, 1, or 2
ounces) from ammonium nitrate and three levels of potassium
oxide (0, 1, or 2 ounces of K20) from potassium chloride were
applied per tree in all nine combinations. The fertilizer mate-
rials were distributed on the surface of the soil over a circular
area 2 feet in radius around each tree.
A second experiment contained a non-fertilized plot, 50, 100,
200 and 400 pounds per acre of 8-8-82 fertilizer applied annually,
100 pounds per acre applied every two years, 200 pounds per
" Fertilizer grades express a per cent N, P0Os, and K2O. The following
factors may he helpful in converting from the oxide to the elemental form
1 unit P20o = 0.44 units phosphorous; or 1 unit phosphorous = 2.3 units
1 unit K20 = 0.83 units potassium; or 1 unit potassium = 1.2 units K20
acre applied every four years, and 400 pounds per acre applied
only at the initiation of the experiment.
The effects of fertilizer on tree growth and quality in these
experiments were inconsistent. A complicating factor was a
heavy infestation of eriophyid mites (Tirsetaeus cupressi [K]),
which caused a large number of trees to be deformed and re-
tarded in growth (5). The area on which these experiments
were conducted was on an old field, and the residual fertility of
the soil was fairly high. The pH of the surface soil was about
5.7, and the ammonium acetate (pH 4.8) extractable Ca, Mg, P,
and K contents averaged 480, 90, 26, and 40 pounds per acre,
respectively, prior to treatment.
In the first experiment a significant response in height
growth was obtained to nitrogen application for the first three
years. The best growth was obtained from the one ounce per
tree rate. However, by the time the trees were harvested at 5
years of age, there were no significant effects of either nitrogen
or potassium fertilizers on tree height. Furthermore, there
was no apparent relationship between tree color or grade with
fertilizer treatment in this experiment.
Applications of 8-8-8 fertilizer resulted in significantly in-
creased height growth over that of the unfertilized trees in
Experiment 2, but there were only small differences among the
various rates of fertilizer. The 50 pounds per acre annual treat-
ment resulted in the greatest response, followed by the 100
pounds per acre biennial and the 400 pounds per acre initial
application. While small annual applications resulted in more
rapid growth than larger applications made less frequently,
foliage color and tree grade improved with increasing rates.
In a separate test initiated in 1963 on Arredondo fine sand,
in north-central Florida, growth data indicated that surface ap-
plications were superior to similar treatments applied near the
roots. The use of 1/ ton of limestone also improved tree growth
on this soil, which had an initial pH of about 5.6.
In summary, results of fertilizer tests and field observations
support the following fertilizer recommendations for southern
redcedar and Arizona cypress:
1. Apply lime to acid soils to bring the pH up to at least 6.0.
2. The use of commercial fertilizer may be unnecessary on
old cultivated fields with a history of fertilizer use. This
is particularly true of the sandy loams and loamy sands.
If in doubt about the fertility status of your soil, arrange
with your County Agricultural Agent to have it tested.
3. On new land, or land that has been idle for some time,
an application of 50 pounds of ammonium nitrate and
100 pounds of concentrated superphosphate per acre (or
100 pounds per acre of diammonium phosphate, 18-48-0),
should be applied annually after the first year in a strip
down the row of trees.
4. Fertilizer should be applied in late March, one to three
months after planting, or before cultivation for weed
Considerable research has been conducted on fertilizing slash
pine in Florida (7). Pines growing in deep well-drained sands
generally do not respond to fertilizers, unless irrigated. On the
other hand, slash pine growing in poorly drained flatwoods
soils, or irrigated deep sands, often respond to applications of
nitrogen and phosphorous fertilizers. An application of 200 to
300 pounds per acre of ordinary superphosphate at planting
time is recommended on these soils, unless they are old cultivated
fields. Superphosphate may be broadcast and disked into the soil
or applied on the surface down the row of seedlings. Nitrogen
materials, such as ammonium nitrate, should be applied after
the trees have become established usually during the second
or third years. A single application of 20 to 40 pounds per acre
of nitrogen is usually sufficient. However, a second application
may be necessary during the summer before harvest to improve
the color of the foliage.
PRUNING AND SHEARING TREES
In growing a relatively high priced, specialized product,
such as Christmas trees, it is imperative that a high percentage
of the plants be of marketable quality. For example, one of the
most serious objections to both redcedar and Arizona cypress
for Christmas use is their long, willowy branches. This fre-
quently causes them to be thin and scraggly in appearance, and
unappealing to the buyer. Perhaps of more serious consequence
is the fact that the limbs are not strong enough to support
ornaments and lights. Even dense, symmetrical trees often
have limbs that are flimsy and weak. Consequently, shearing
and pruning of redcedars and cypress is recommended, primarily
for the purpose of obtaining shorter, stiffer limbs capable of
supporting the usual Christmas tree decorations.
Other reasons for pruning and shaping include making the
trees more uniform in conformation and density and with a
desirable taper. This latter term has to do with the width of
the base of a tree compared to its height, usually expressed as
a percentage. Normal taper is between 50% and 60%. An im-
portant purpose for pruning pines is to control pine shoot
moths, which are an important factor in deforming these trees.
In regard to shearing Christmas trees, the grower should
realize that unshapely, poorly formed trees usually will not sell
regardless of price. Such trees have retarded the acceptance of
locally grown trees by many Floridians and stimulated increased
imports of symmetrically shaped northern trees. For these
reasons a local grower may have to resort to pruning and shear-
ing, in spite of the high labor costs involved, to protect his in-
vestment of time and money in a plantation of Christmas trees.
The time of pruning or shearing Christmas trees depends
in part upon the species of tree under consideration and in part
on the age of the trees involved. Some of the pines should be
pruned as early as their first year of growth as well as during
each subsequent year. Otherwise the long, bare lower limbs
spoil the appearance of the trees. On the other hand, the shap-
ing of redcedar and Arizona cypress generally should be delayed
as long as possible to permit them to make maximum height
growth. This usually means pruning them only once, in their
growth cycle; that is, during their last year before harvest.
Some extremely poorly formed trees, however, may have to be
pruned for two or three years prior to harvest in order to bring
them into an acceptable form.
In southern latitudes pines may have to be shaped twice a
year to prevent too much distance between the whorls of
branches. The first shaping may be done as early as April or
May and the second one sometime during August. Usually once
a year is sufficient for redcedars and Arizona cypress. This
can be done almost any time from May through August. A
single light pruning is recommended in the last year of growth
for well-shaped, dense redcedars or Arizona cypress trees that
have made satisfactory height growth. This removes the flimsy
tips of the branches and twigs and provides firm supports for
ornaments. Such a pruning can take place as late as September
or even later, but in this event the tips of the branches that
have been trimmed remain light colored at harvest time and
detract from the appearance of the tree. Earlier pruning
permits these tips to weather and become less conspicuous by
the Christmas season.
Figure l.-Unpruned five-year old Arizona cypress. The thin, wispy top
and the weak lateral branches make this tree unsuitable for marketing.
Figure 2.-Cutting the top out of a poorly formed redcedar. The small
shoot at the base of the branch below the pruning shears will eventually develop
into a new leader.
Figure 3.-The top has been removed and lateral branches pruned to give
a normal taper.
Tools for Shaping Trees
A variety of hand tools can be used for shaping Christmas
trees. These range from ordinary pocket knives to special
pruning knives or machetes and from simple garden pruning
shears to long-bladed hedge clippers or even power driven
shears. Pocket knives or pruning shears are perhaps best for
pines, since it is necessary to carefully cut individual branches.
With redcedars and Arizona cypress it is best to begin by
pruning the top and individual branches with pruning shears
or a knife and then finish with hedge shears or a machete.
Hedge shears are much safer to use than a machete, but they
are also much slower. If a machete (or Bolo knife) is used,
it must be razor sharp and used with great care, particularly
if used with a downward stroke, as each swing of the blade
brings it dangerously close to one's leg. Some growers prefer
an upward swing of the machete, but here the hazard comes
from the blade flipping out of one's hand. After the top leader
shoot has been pruned to the prescribed height, a worker
experienced in handling a machete can rapidly trim the lateral
branches to the desired conical form.
Redcedars and Arizona cypress also can be rapidly trimmed,
after cutting the top by hand, with power pruning shears.
These are usually driven by electricity supplied by portable
generators. Some growers may find it profitable to invest in
Methods of Shaping Christmas Trees
Redcedar and Arizona Cypress
These trees can usually grow two to four seasons without
having to be pruned. If, at the end of this period of time, the
trees have a tall, thin, scraggly appearance (Figure 1) they
must be cut back and shaped up. The top should first be cut off,
usually just above a branch with a small shoot at its base
(Figure 2). If possible, this should be at a height of about
6 feet. Next the main lateral branches are pruned back to
give the tree the normal 50% to 60% taper of a Christmas
tree (Figure 3). The final step is to take the hedge shears or
machete and shear off the smaller outer branches and twigs
that remain. Figures 4, 5, and 6 illustrate the steps in shaping
a redcedar tree with a thin, wispy top into its final form. This
tree was pruned in July and was ready for sale at Christmas.
Exceptionally poorly formed trees may have to be pruned in
Figure 4 (Left).-A frail five-year-old redcedar badly in need of pruning.
Figure 5 (Center).-Same tree showing the top cut off and the left side
clipped with small hand pruning shears.
Figure 6 (Right).-Same tree completely pruned with hand shears and
two consecutive seasons in order to bring them into an accept-
The benefit derived from shaping redcedar and Arizona
cypress in the manner described above is illustrated in Figures
7 through 12. Before pruning they were inferior trees and
hardly worth marketing (Figures 7 and 10). Immediately
following pruning they appeared as in Figures 8 and 11, but
within six months they had filled out and were premium trees
that brought top market prices (Figures 9 and 12).
As mentioned previously, pines require that each branch
be given individual attention. The chief objective is to produce
a tree with less than 12 inches between each whorl of branches.
This is accomplished by pruning the leading branch to this
length and cutting the lateral branches 6 to 8 inches shorter.
Each whorl should be pruned in this manner. The frequency
Figure 7 (Top left).-Redcedar
four and one-half years after plant-
ing. This tree is too tall and poorly
formed for a Christmas tree.
Figure 8 (Top right).-Same tree
immediately after pruning.
Figure 9 (Opposite).-Same tree
six months after pruning. This tree
has a slightly irregular outline but
it should bring a premium price.
Please substitute the following pages for pages 17 and 20.
"1 Figure 10 (Opposite).- Arizona
cypress six and one-half years after
planting. This tree is almost too
big for pruning, but without it the
tree is almost worthless.
Figure 11 (Below left). Same
tree after pruning. In pruning this
tree it was necessary to use a step-
Figure 12 (Below right).-Same
tree six months after pruning. Note
the density and high quality of this
Figure 10 (Opposite). Arizona
cypress six and one-half years after
planting. This tree is almost too
big for pruning, but without it the
tree is almost worthless.
Figure 11 (Below left).--Some
tree after pruning. In pruning this
tree it was necessary to use a step-
Figure 12 (Below right).-Same
tree six months after pruning. Note
the density and high quality of this
of pruning can be determined by the development of the termi-
nal shoots. When they extend more than 12 inches without
forming a new whorl of lateral branches, pruning is needed.
Insect, Mite, and Fungus Pests
A healthy Christmas tree plantation demands constant at-
tention to various pests that cause deformation or mortality
to the trees. These insects or diseases can sometimes become
major problems that spell the difference between success and
failure of an enterprise.
Insects and Mites
The most serious pests of pines used for Christmas trees
include tip moths, sawflies, webworms, and pales and other
weevils. These either kill or deform many of the pines used
for Christmas purposes. Some of these pests may be avoided
in forested areas by delaying planting for one entire growing
season. This permits any destructive insects present to com-
plete their life cycle in the slash or freshly cut stumps and
disperse from the planting site. Most insect pests can be
effectively reduced through the use of DDT or other newer
and safer insecticides. For chemical control of insect pests
the grower should consult the Extension Entomologist of the
Agricultural Extension Service.
Redcedars and Arizona cypress are bothered by few of
the pests that attack pines, but are nevertheless extensively
damaged by infestations of a tiny mite, Tirsetaeus cupressi
(K.), mentioned in an earlier section. The effect of this mite
on cedars is described in detail by Kuitert (5). Damage con-
sists of attacking tender growing shoots and causing them
to grow in grotesque shapes. The internodes are also shortened,
giving the tree a more or less stunted growth form. Sometimes
mites are so abundant that virtually all growing tips are
infected and the tree assumes a dwarfed, spherical form.
Figure 13 illustrates the twisted, knotty growth typical of
redcedar twigs infected with mites.
According to Kuitert (5), mites can be effectively controlled
with either 25% carbophenothion3 or a mixture of 13% di-
methoate4 and 5% tedrafion5. Trees sprayed with these miti-
"Generic name for active ingredient of Trifthion.
'Generic name for active ingredient of Cygon.
"Generic name for active ingredient of Tedion.
cides quickly resume normal growth and form a marked contrast
to untreated trees.
Figure 13.-Redcedar heavily infested with the cedar mite, Tirsetaeus
Of very major importance to both redcedars and Arizona
press are two fungal blights, Phomopsis juniperovora Hahn
and Cercospora sequoiae var. juniperi Ell. and Ev., which
infect portions of individual trees, entire trees, or even whole
plantations of trees. In the Carolinas, Christmas tree produc-
tion has been drastically curtailed by the latter fungus. Blights
have been of only local importance in Florida. Phomopsis
usually infects the tree from the top down, whereas Cercospora
begins at the base and spreads upward in the tree. Control of
both is important in the early survival and growth of redcedar
and Arizona cypress.
The development of these two fungi on seedling cedar and
cypress are two fungal blights, Phomopsis juniperovora Hahn
dark, moist conditions favorable to their growth. Adequate
weed control during the first one or two growing seasons aids
greatly in the suppression of these fungi. Fungicidal sprays
such as phaltan, merbam, or zineb are usually effective in pro-
tecting new growth from infection. These should be applied
monthly at product label rates. Such a spray program may
have to be continued until the trees attain 4 feet in height.
Trees that become badly infected after spraying is discontinued
should be removed and destroyed. Mowing and other weed
control measures should be continued until the trees are har-
HARVESTING AND MARKETING
Size and Shape of Trees
The most popular size for cut Christmas trees is between
5 and 7 feet in height with a taper of from 50% to 60% (9).
Smaller trees 3 to 4 feet high are second in customer preference
and taller trees 8 to 12 feet in height are in least demand.
These guidelines will aid in planning the harvest of different
size classes of Christmas trees each season.
Many factors influence the length of time it takes to pro-
duce a 5 to 7-foot cut tree. Some of there are: 1) the soil
type, 2) the amount and kind of fertilizer applied, and 3) the
prevalence of disease and insect pests. Under normal conditions
four or five years may be required to grow a 6-foot tree. Some
trees, however, may reach this height in as few as three years.
Figure 14.-Redcedar branch from a stump developing into a second tree.
A very desirable advantage of selling cut redeedar or
Arizona cypress is that several trees frequently can be removed
from the same stump, although Christmas tree growers are
not in general agreement on the advisability of this practice.
Under this practice, the original tree is harvested so as to
leave one or more thrifty limbs on the stump. A month or so
later all but one of these limbs are removed. This lone branch
quickly develops into another tree, usually in less than three
years, because of the well established root system present.
One disadvantage of stump culture is that considerably more
shaping and shearing is required to produce a marketable tree.
Figure 14 illustrates how a second tree is produced from a
redcedar stump. Seldom is it possible to handle pines in this
manner, as the stump dies when the top is cut.
Living Christmas Trees
The alert grower can substantially augment his income
from Christmas trees by developing outlets for living trees.
Many of these are purchased as decorated indoor trees with
the expectation of planting them outside later on. Others are
used specifically as landscape trees which are lighted during
the Christmas period. Some are even planted as a hedge, an
acknowledgement of the fact that cedars can be effectively
pruned and shaped. A few living trees are purchased exclusively
as indoor trees because they stay fresh throughout the Christ-
mas season. A point to consider is that living trees are smaller,
and therefore younger, than cut trees and they can provide the
grower with a faster return on his investment than cut trees.
There are many problems associated with marketing living
trees, however, as they need substantial additional attention
to put them on the market. First, they must be root pruned
in the summer before being lifted. Root pruning is done by
cutting a circle 15 to 18 inches in diameter around the tree
with an ordinary shovel. This severs the large surface roots,
causing them to put out smaller feeder roots close to the main
stem. When the tree is lifted these help hold the ball of soil
together as well as give the tree more roots for feeding pur-
poses. Furthermore, the larger roots have already healed over,
and water loss by the tree is reduced when it is lifted at
Christmas time. Lifting the tree entails digging around it
once again with a shovel (just outside of the previous cut)
and using a long-bladed spade, sometimes called a "trenching
shovel," to cut off the tap root. After the tree is removed
from the ground, the tap root should be trimmed back suffi-
ciently so the tree will stand upright on its ball. Any other
roots protruding out around the ball may also be cut back
at this time. The ball must next be wrapped with burlap.
This is done with special pinning nails used by nurserymen,
with 8-penny box nails, or with heavy baling twine. It is
extremely important to keep the ball tightly wrapped. Other-
wise the soil breaks apart and rubs against the tender roots,
greatly lessening the tree's chances for survival. Transporting
balled trees to market is also a real problem, as a 5-foot balled
tree may weigh from 80 to 100 pounds or more. This is the
principal reason why smaller trees are desirable for balling.
Another problem of marketing living trees is the balled soil
should be kept moist at all times. Arrangements should be
made for periodic sprinkling of the trees while they are on
the retail lot.
Outlets for Christmas Trees
A grower planning to make Christmas tree production a
commercial enterprise must first decide where he intends to
market his trees. A product without a market is worthless
regardless of the amount of time and money invested in it.
Some growers have contracts with large super markets, but
emphasis is usually placed on volume sales and a small profit
per tree rather than on limited sales of quality trees with a
greater mark up. Other growers obtain outlets in their own
town or neighborhood or in surrounding areas. Some outlets
for cut and living trees are listed in the following tabulation:
Type of Market
Type of Outlet Cut Trees Living Trees
1. Civic organizations (Kiwanis, Rotary, X X
Junior Chamber of Commerce, etc.)
2. Organized groups (Boy Scouts, Girl X X
Scouts, schools, churches, etc.)
3. Local grocery stores X
4. Nurseries X
5. Garden supply centers X
6. On-the-premises ("come and cut X X
your own tree")
7. Wholesale buyers X X
The first three outlets will probably account for the bulk
of the local grower's sales. However, it is essential that con-
tracts with appropriate local organizations be made from four
to six months in advance; in the case of large chain stores,
orders must be placed immediately following the Christmas
season, usually before February 15th. Some growers have de-
veloped substantial sales by inviting local people to come out
and cut their own trees (item 6 above). This is perhaps the
simplest way to market trees, but an attendant must be on
hand constantly to tell people where to look for a tree and
to collect the money. Another simple method of marketing
trees is to advertise for wholesale buyers from the larger
metropolitan centers. Such buyers usually bring all of their
own equipment and labor and cut trees for resale in southern
sections of the state. Naturally, the grower receives only a
wholesale price for his trees, but he avoids having to cut and
transport his crop to market. One difficulty with this method,
however, is that unless individual trees are marked by the
grower, the buyer tends to continually remove the best trees
from the plantation. The local grower, therefore, is left with
only inferior trees for his own use. This problem can be par-
tially overcome by marking the boundaries of a portion of the
plantation and requiring the buyer to cut his trees from that
Promoting Sales of Trees
Successful Christmas tree growers engage in various prac-
tices to further the sale of their trees. These include "spot"
radio advertising, newspaper ads, road signs, or direct contacts
with prospective wholesalers. They may also promote outlets
for their trees by contacting various schools, churches, civic
groups, or other organizations and encouraging them to open
a retail lot. Usually such groups market trees only on a con-
signment basis, which means that they pay only for the trees
that are actually sold. Some growers find markets by selling
pre-season coupons which are redeemed during the Christmas
season for a tree.
Dyeing is another means of stimulating sales of Christmas
trees. According to Trocke (9), trees sprayed with a green
color were preferred almost two to one over naturally colored,
unsprayed trees. A further advantage of spraying was that
water loss was reduced by 40% and the trees remained fresh
longer. Spraying with a colored dye may thus offset the rapid
drying common to redcedar and Arizona cypress mentioned
earlier. In spite of promoting a few sales by artificially coloring
trees, the grower is advised to proceed cautiously with this
practice. Spraying is costly in labor and materials and must
be offset by higher prices to the consumer.
Perhaps the best method for the individual grower to pro-
mote sales is to market only premium quality trees. This
means freshly cut, symmetrically shaped, compact trees. The
market for such trees is much more reliable than for sub-
premium trees, and their sale does much to ensure continued
outlets in future years.
Christmas tree growing in Florida is basically concerned
with three species: ) 1 southern redcedar, 2) Arizona cypress,
and 3) sand pine. The production of high quality trees de-
mands the selection of an adequate planting site; the controlling
of unwanted vegetation; fertilizing and liming of some soils;
spraying to control mites and blights (if they become trouble-
some) ; and pruning or shearing to obtain symmetrically shaped,
compact, premium quality trees. Obtaining markets and outlets
for trees is an extremely important aspect of making Christmas
tree production a success.
The prospective grower should consider the following points
before investing heavily in producing Christmas trees:6
1. Growing Christmas trees is not an easy, get-rich-quick
2. Most growers will not do the work necessary to be suc-
cessful, such as weed control, fertilization, spraying, and
3. Successful growers are usually persons selling only sev-
eral hundred trees each year, largely through local outlets.
4. Most attempts to grow Christmas trees on a large scale
have failed, because of heavy costs for spraying to con-
trol insects and diseases and also because of lack of
5. There is an increasing tendency for an imported, pruned
Scotch pine, or other northern tree, to be regarded as
a status symbol at the expense of locally grown trees.
This may be overcome by marketing only premium quality
trees capable of successfully competing with those im-
ported from northern growers.
"Remarks by A. S. Jensen, Assistant Extension Forester, Agricultural
Extension Service, Gainesville, Florida.
1. Dyer, C. D. and B. R. Murray. 1959. Growing Christmas trees. Ga.
Agri. Ext. Serv. Bull. 606 (For. 6), 11 pp.
2. Fletcher, P. W. and J. Ochrymowych. 1955. Mineral nutrition and
growth of eastern redcedar in Missouri. Mo. Agr. Exp. Sta. Res.
Bull. 577, 15 pp.
3. Garin, G. I. ond J. C. Moore. 1951. Christmas tree production. Ala.
Agr. Exp. Sta. Circ. No. 92, 18 pp.
4. Hall, C. W. 1965. Growing Christmas trees in the South. J. Forestry
5. Kuitert, L. C. 1962. Distortion of young cedars by an eriophyid mite,
Tirsetaeus cupressi (K.). Proc. Fla. State Hort. Soc. 75: 495-497.
6. Neiland, L. T. and A. S. Jensen. 1958. Growing redcedar in Florida.
Fla. Agr. Ext. Serv. Circ. 183, 8 pp.
7. Pritchett, W. L. and W. R. Llewellyn. 1956. Response of slash pine
(Pinus elliottii Engelm. var. elliottii) to phosphorus in sandy soils.
Soil Sci. Soc. Amer. Proc. 20: 509-512.
8. Sowder, A. M. 1966. Christmas trees the tradition and the trade.
USDA Ext. Serv. (Forest Serv.) Agr. Info. Bull. No. 94, 31 pp.
9. Trocke, J. K. 1966. Marketing Christmas trees. Mich. Agr. Ext. Serv.
Bull. 535 (Bus. Ser.), 13 pp.