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Plant Christmas Tree Memories
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
Dare to be different in your Christmas tree selection. Select a living Christmas tree that can be planted in your landscape when Christmas is over. This tree will serve as a special memory of holidays from years past.
As you go shopping for plants for the landscape throughout the year, look at small trees and shrubs with Christmas in mind. Think about buying one, but postpone the purchase. This Christmas you can kill two birds with one stone by buying one and decorating it as your Christmas tree instead of that soon-to-be- dead Douglas fir from up North.
A rather wide selection of evergreens, both shrubs and trees are available for use as Christmas trees. The possibilities are junipers like the eastern red cedar, Hollywood juniper, Leyland cypress, hollies and the Arizona cypress. For a really unique, southern style Christmas, try the Little Gem Magnolia.
If you purchase one early in the month, place the tree or shrub in a sheltered outdoor spot on the patio or porch until ready for use. Your goal should be to keep the plant indoors for only 10 to 14 days. Before bringing indoors, water the plant thoroughly and tie a garbage bag or plastic around the container. This will keep the plant moist.
After taking the plant outside, hose it down to remove dust and freshen the leaves. Plant in the landscape, water well and mulch. Keep living Christmas trees inside for no longer than 14 days. Container-grown evergreens can be planted in the landscape with outstanding success in the winter.
The Norfolk Island pine is an excellent living Christmas tree you can keep indoors as a houseplant for many years. I was at a nursery this week when they were unloading the most beautiful Norfolk Island pines, perfect for living Christmas trees.
A couple of years ago, I overheard one lady tell another that the Norfolk Island pine came from just off the coast of Virginia. While there is a seaside city in Virginia called Norfolk there is no relationship to this tree.
Norfolk Island pines come from the South Pacific where they reach heights of 200 feet. Because they are tropical by nature, they will freeze.
The Norfolk Island pine -- kept rootbound -- can last for years as a house plant. Since it is an island living, sun-loving plant, it like the brightest light possible. We often fall short here, and the plants get leggy and misshapen.
Plant them in decorative containers -- preferably in pots large enough to allow the plants to grow -- with a good quality, loose potting soil. Feed with a complete balanced fertilizer with every third or fourth watering.
When decorated with ornaments and placed in a bright sun room, you can have a Christmas tree to make your neighbors jealous. There are few pests that attack the Norfolk Island pine, occasionally a mealy bug or spider mite, but they are easy to control on this plant.
Providing enough light and keeping the plant growing symmetrically are the biggest challenges. Take care of that growing tip, and you'll be decorating it again next year.