Try these living Christmas trees in South


If you dream of having a tree like this in your yard, wake up and smell the pine trees.

We’re more likely to have snow at Christmas than to successfully grow most firs and spruces in Louisiana.

“A conical, needled evergreen is not a really common plant to survive here,” said Denyse Cummins, retired LSU AgCenter horticulturist. “There’s Eastern red cedar, but who wants that prickler in their landscape?”

She’s got a point. Three gigantic cedars live in my backyard and I give them a wide berth except at Christmas, when I snip off branches with their pretty blue berries to use in holiday arrangements.

So what can you plant if you want a “Christmas tree” in your yard?

“Arborvitae and Leyland cypress make a nice holiday tree, but are a little fussy in the garden, getting twig blight if grown in less than perfect conditions,” Denyse said.

Leyland cypress is also LSU AgCenter forester Ricky Kilpatrick’s top choice because it resembles a cedar “but doesn’t stick and make you itch.”  He too warned of its disease tendencies and recommended  alternating types of fungicide so the tree doesn’t build up resistance.

Ricky also mentioned deodar cedar, which has a natural Christmas tree form when young, but flattens at the top when mature.

And both Denyse and Ricky had a couple of unusual recommendations.

“I very highly recommend Cryptomeria japonica as a living Christmas tree, but I haven’t seen it offered for sale here,” Denyse said. “I only know about it because my husband gave it as a Christmas tree to his parents 35 years ago. I’m now living in that house and it is a wonderful, unusual tree all grown up in the landscape. Pretty cinnamon bark; different foliage.”

Ricky’s pick? Savannah holly, a smaller variety of American holly. “It’s real Christmasy looking and good for planters and things like that.”

Foster Cook, a co-owner of Akin’s Nursery, offers Arizona cypresses and Blue Point junipers to customers who are looking for living Christmas trees. Both have a natural pyramid form and have done well locally, he said.

So the choices are pretty limited.

But don’t be blue this Christmas. Bet gardeners with Noble firs in their yards dream of having blooming roses in December.