Can We Grow Christmas Trees in Henderson County?

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Christmas tree

Unfortunately Fraser firs do not grow well in Henderson County.

Christmas Tree Production In NC

Consumers tend to prefer alpine conifers such as Fraser fir because of the tree’s classic Christmas tree look. North Carolina is a huge Christmas tree producing state with much of the production in the mountains. It might seem like we should have Christmas tree farms here in Henderson County yet we only have one.

The reason why we do not have Fraser fir farms in Henderson County is that alpine trees like Fraser fir will not survive our heat, humidity and pests. Our area is even less appropriate for these alpine plants now than it was in the past. There was a time when people ice skated regularly on frozen ponds here. Our temperatures have been warming and rains have been less than reliable over the last decade. I wrote an article about the Colorado Blue spruce situation. One could extrapolate the information in the article to all alpine conifers.

Our area is notorious for the root rotting fungus phytophthora killing firs. I visited a  farm where they are not having much success growing firs. They have good success with Norway Spruce for Christmas trees for a number of years. A while back they planted a crop of fir and many of the firs got phytophthora and died.

Is There No Chance of Growing Christmas Trees In Henderson County?

There is room for choose-and-cut Christmas tree production in Henderson County. I suggest we stay away from Fraser fir and focus on conifers that do well here such ‘Green Giant’ arborvitae (Thuja ‘Green Giant’), Leyland cypress (x Hesperotropsis leylandii), white pines (Pinus strobus), VA Pine (Pinus virginiana), Carolina Sapphire Cypress (Hesperocyparis arizonica), ‘Clemson Greenspire’ cypress (Hesperocyparis arizonica), red cedar (Juniperus virginiana), Murray Cypress (X Cupressocyparis leylandii ‘Murray’), Deodara cedar (Cedrus deodara). These trees can grow here despite our warming weather. Farmers likely will not get the higher prices that Fraser firs get but prices could be strong.

‘Green giant’ arborvitae have a nice Christmas Tree shape

Growing Christmas Trees

As we do for every crop, we recommend potential farmers deeply consider the costs, risks and work involved in becoming a farmer. NC State Extension Agents can assist you with this decision. Once you decide to move forward, farmers should do formal soil tests to determine soil pH. The cheap pH meters one finds in garden centers are not reliable. You can get soil boxes from the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Henderson County Center and forms to mail the sample off to the NC Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services.
Christmas tree

Arborvitae and Arizona cypress do well when grown in warmer areas as Christmas trees. Photo from Mississippi State

The field should be plowed using a sub soil plow, then a disc plow then a harrow plow then plant fescue grass over the acreage. Lime and fertilizer should be added according to soil test results. Next, till the tree rows. Christmas trees are usually planted using one to three gallon container plants on a 10’x10′ spacing (see above). This means you can get about 435 trees per acre. Trees must be pruned regularly to maintain the classic Christmas tree shape. Fertilizer is required to achieve quicker production. Finally, irrigation during drought is recommended to keep plants healthy. Preventative fungicide treatments may be required on particularly wet years to prevent fungal disease.