Choose from an Indiana tree farm

Many families cherish the experience of finding and cutting their own Christmas tree.

My memories involve five people going to pick our tree, cramming onto one bench seat of a truck (no extended cab for us). If you are looking for information about choosing your particular tree, then read on.

Do you want a certain fragrance, shape, color, needle retention or cost? Only a few evergreen species grow native to Indiana, and with the exception of eastern white pine, most of these are not acceptable Christmas trees due to type and amount of foliage.

Indiana tree farms now grow many non-native varieties, such as Scotch pine. You also probably will be able to find the slightly pricier fir and spruce trees on Indiana tree farms.

Of course climate and soils vary around the state, so availability differs by area. It can take at least seven years for some trees to reach the proper size. The ones that grow easiest in your area will be less expensive.

Canaan fir trees are very similar to Fraser fir, but more adaptable to Indiana conditions. It has a great cone shape, 1-inch needles (with excellent needle retention) and dark green color.

So once you find the right cut tree and get it home, it’s best to have it in water in less than eight hours. After that, the exposed trunk cells can become blocked. To remedy this, cut half an inch off the bottom to freshen things up and get the water absorption going again.

Try not to place the tree too close to heat sources that will dry it out quickly. Pick a stand that will hold enough water for the tree. Larger trees can easily go through two quarts of water per day for the first week.

Check the tree’s water supply in the stand each day so that it doesn’t run out.

Some people use a living tree each Christmas, then plant it outside after the holidays. These are found with the roots in “ball and burlap” or B and B.

The live tree is dormant when you purchase it in late November or December. Bringing it into a warm house for more than 10 days causes it to break dormancy. The shock of going back outside to be planted afterward can cause the tree to die.

It is best either to have it inside for less than 10 days or just keep it on your porch. One last hint, prepare the planting hole before the soil starts to freeze.

On the Web

To see Purdue’s table of Indiana-grown Christmas trees, by characteristics, visit