CAN I GROW A CHRISTMAS TREE FROM SEED?

Seed grown Christmas trees

Well, the obvious answer to 'can I grow a christmas tree from seed' is of course you can. Why? Because the entire christmas tree industry is based grown produce. the two questions you should really ask is which particular species do I want to grow and where do I find the seeds themselves. In the United Kingdom two trees dominate, the Norway Fir - picea abies and the Nordmann spruce - Abies nordmanniana. The reasons why this is are as follows. Firstly because of customer perception,  every body recognises these two species as Christmas trees, and secondly because they are super fast to grow. Anywhere from 6-10 years, depending on soil conditions climate etc.

Abies pine cones

Now growing Norway Firs and Nordmann spruces in your garden for future Christmas is perfectly fine if you intend to cut them down to bring them in when they are ready but these trees are absolutely not suitable as garden plants due to their final, mature sizes, unless you are a member of the landed gentry. And even then, lets be honest, a full sized Norway fir isn't particularly attractive as a specimen plant. At least it isn't in my opinion. For permanent growing display consider instead the Korean pine - Pinus koraiensis or the Blue spruce - Picea pungens amongst many others. If you are still determined to grow a traditional tree then why not at least put an ornamental spin on it and consider Picea abies 'Perry's Gold'. However if that is your 'thing' then you must look at the phenomenal Picea pungens 'Golden Feathers'. I digress as you can not grow these selected colour forms by seeds, they can only be propagated vegetatively. 

So where do you get your Christmas tree seed from? You can either purchase them from an online store or garden centre or you can collect your own seed from cones from September onwards. Assuming you have a well-formed and healthy tree in mind, select pine cones that are still closed but brown, Ignore cones that have already opened as the seeds are likely to have been released already.

Pine seeds from pine cone

Keep you cones in a paper bag and bring them into the warm. The seeds will be ready for planting once they are released form the cone. However conifer seeds are best sown from February to March. 

Using a good quality compost such as John Innes 'Seed and Cutting', fill your 3 inch seed containers or root trainers to approximately 1 cm from the top. Sow one seed per container and apply a thin covering of horticultural grit or vermiculite to the surface. Gently water in so that the seeds are not disturbed and place outside into a cold frame. keep the compost mist but not waterlogged. If a cold frame is not available then place outside in a bright position but one that is out of direct sun during midday. If it is suitable to do so place a sheet of glass or clear plastic over the pots to maintain humidity.

Pine seedlings

Come the spring, root trainer grown seedlings can either be potted on into 2-3 litre pots using a soil-based, ericaceous compost or planted outside into nursery beds with a 1-1.5 metre spacing. Pot grown seedlings can be potted on as necessary depending upon your requirements

To create and maintain the typical Christmas tree shape it is essential to produce a single leader. If forking or competing side shoots occurs, remove the shoot furthest away from the main axis. This is best cut in March or April. To produce the even, compact, pyramidal Christmas shape, lightly trim your specimen each year, again in March or April.

Main image credit - Madereugeneandrew CC BY-SA 4.0 File:Christmas tree farm near New Germany, Nova Scotia, Canada.jpg

For related articles click onto the following links:

CAN I GROW A CHRISTMAS TREE FROM SEED?

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CAN YOU REPLANT A CUT CHRISTMAS TREE?
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