How Long Does It Take to Grow a Christmas Tree?

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Have you ever been tempted to grow your own Christmas tree and wondered how long it takes? Or maybe you’re pondering the thought that you could start a small Christmas tree farm?

If you’ve got land to spare, then growing Christmas trees is a great way to use it, but you need to be aware that it can be a long-term commitment.

The trees commonly used for our festive decorations are usually a rapidly growing variety, but even the fastest-growing tree will take time before it is big enough to use.

How Long Does It Take to Grow a Christmas Tree?

Spruce Christmas tree seedlings

There are many different Christmas trees, each with a different growth rate. The slow-growing Balsam Fir grows 12″ per year, whereas the fast-growing Leyland Cypress can grow over 24″ yearly. Some Christmas trees can grow 4ft each year in the right conditions.

How fast your Christmas tree grows depends on the stage you purchase it at, how tall you want it to be, and the type of tree. However, it generally takes four to seven years to produce a 5 ft Christmas tree.

Be aware that many Christmas tree varieties grow very tall, so you’ll see significant growth for quite a few years. You can shape them by pruning to some extent, but you may lose that traditional “Christmas tree look” if you need to prune the top.

How Fast Does a Christmas Tree Grow?

Trees do not grow at a continuous rate throughout their lifetime. So, when thinking about how fast a Christmas tree will grow, we must look at the different life stages.

These are:

  • The seed stage, which is slow.
  • A growth spurt from the sapling.
  • The mature phase when the growth rate slows down again.

The first stage is when the tree seed germinates and grows into a sapling. This early growth is long and slow – it can take up to 4 years for a tree to reach just 1 foot tall.

Now you understand why many Christmas tree growers prefer to purchase saplings rather than grow trees from seed!

The second stage is when the tree will grow at the fastest rate.

Once the sapling has developed strong roots, it will start to put on a massive growth spurt – like when children hit their teenage years! During this period, in the right conditions, a Christmas tree could grow up to 4 feet in one year.

As a tree gets closer to its mature height, the growth rate will start to slow down. Most of the varieties commonly used for Christmas trees are trees that can grow to an enormous size, so if left unchecked, they will grow for several years.

For example, when uncut, the Scots Pine can grow over 60 ft tall, and the record holder for the tallest of these trees is 131 feet. That would make quite the Christmas centerpiece!

How Long Does It Take to Grow a 5ft Christmas Tree?

5 foot Christmas trees in pots

People in smaller homes very commonly opt for a 5-foot Christmas tree. This is one of the most popular sizes, as it will fit easily underneath standard household ceilings.

It takes at least four years to grow a 5ft Christmas tree from a sapling if the tree variety is a fast grower. Slower-growing trees will take longer than this, but they are more likely to have a full, dense shape. 

How Long Does It Take to Grow a 7ft Christmas Tree?

Families in larger homes may decide to get a bigger tree, with 7-foot trees one of the second most popular sizes. These taller trees are often the festive tree of choice for businesses such as restaurants and stores.

It takes between 8 and 12 years to grow a 7-foot Christmas tree from a sapling. If you are cultivating the Christmas tree from seed, expect to add at least three years onto this timeframe.

How Long Does It Take to Grow a Christmas Tree on a Tree Farm?

Christmas tree farm

If you’re considering allocating some of your land to start a Christmas tree farm, that can be an excellent way to bring in some extra cash for your homestead.

Once you have bought your saplings, the main cost of running a Christmas tree farm is manual labor, so if you can do the work yourself, you should make a healthy profit!

From the point at which you plant your saplings, you should have enough decent-sized trees to start selling them after eight years. By this time, you will have a range of trees between 5 and 7 feet tall, but some will still be smaller than this.

Expect to replace about an eighth of your trees with new saplings yearly to ensure a continuous supply. You will also need to control weeds under your trees and undertake regular pruning and shaping to create perfect conical Christmas centerpieces.

So, now that we’ve explored the timeframe for growing Christmas trees let’s look at some of the most common tree varieties for the season and discuss their growth rates.

How Long Do Different Types of Christmas Trees Take to Grow?

Like most plants, different types of Christmas trees only grow quickly and healthily in certain areas. Here are a few examples of some of the most common types of trees produced by Christmas tree farms in the USA.

Many people don’t realize that different types of trees grow at different speeds! And nowadays, Christmas trees come in many different varieties, each with specific desirable traits.

Each variety of tree has particular growing conditions in which it will thrive. After all, a tree planted in the wrong place will not grow at the optimum rate.

Let’s look at the most common types of Christmas trees and find out how long they take to grow!

Balsam Fir

balsam fir foliage
The Balsam Fir produces lovely, dense foliage that makes for a very bushy, beautiful Christmas tree. Rumor has it, it was one of the very first tree varieties to become a Christmas tree in Renaissance Germany.

Growth Rate – Slow; 12 inches per year

The fir tree is most commonly grown in areas with colder winters and cool summers, such as in the eastern U.S.

The balsam fir is one of the easiest Christmas trees to grow, requiring little maintenance to keep them looking perfect. They are also one of the world’s most popular Christmas tree varieties and are very common amongst Christmas tree farms.

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Douglas Fir

douglas fir tree
The great Douglas Fir is native to Western North America.

Growth Rate – Medium; 13 to 24 inches per year

The Douglas fir prefers a milder climate to the Balsam fir and is popular in the northwest U.S.

This variety is perfect for holding its needles after cutting, preventing the dreaded needle drop! It is also naturally cone-shaped and needs little trimming to get that perfect, pointy look.

Douglas fir is a popular choice for Christmas tree buyers, as it has a deep blue-green color and dense needles. It also has the classic Christmas tree scent that we all adore!

Scotch Pine

pinus sylvestris scotch pine
Scotch Pine (Pinus sylvestris) has long, blue-green needles with a lovely, fresh scent.

Growth Rate – Medium; 12 to 24 inches per year

The Scotch pine has a deep taproot, allowing it to thrive in areas prone to drought.

This pine tree needs regular trimming as it will not grow in a natural cone shape.

The best thing about the Scotch pine is that it hangs onto its needles for a long time, even without water.

Leyland Cypress

leyland cypress christmas trees
The Leland Cypress is among the fastest-growing Christmas tree varieties, and its dense foliage and natural conical shape make it a perfect candidate for Christmas decorating.

Growth Rate – Fast; over 24 inches per year

This sapless tree is commonly grown in the southern states of the U.S. The Leyland cypress is a fast-growing variety of Christmas trees, with the young saplings shooting up by 3 to 4 feet per year in the right conditions.

Its large, bushy, conical appearance makes it one of the most attractive and classic-looking Christmas tree types available.

How to Choose and Grow a Christmas Tree

young christmas trees ready to be planted in the garden
Look at Christmas trees that are native to your area, if possible. They’re the varieties that will adjust to your climate the best and grow the fastest!

These tree types are just the tip of the iceberg – in the U.S alone, there are more than 35 commonly grown types of Christmas trees!

The most important thing is picking the right tree type for your soil and climate. There is no point expecting a fast-growing Leyland cypress to thrive in a cold environment, and a Balsam fir will not thank you for being planted in a warm area.

To see what type will grow best in your area and climate, it is worth asking what other farmers and homesteaders in your area grow.

Tree saplings can be pretty expensive, plus you have to make a significant time commitment when you allocate a piece of land for trees. You must pick the best variety at the start to give your trees the best possible chance of thriving.

Likewise, if you are interested in growing evergreen Christmas trees on a large-scale farm, you might want to consider sustainability and companion planting.

For example, growing too many pines on one plot of land can interfere with soil quality, but planting pines alongside hardwood trees can make the hardwood and pine trees grow more quickly and with a better, straighter trunk.

Thus, finding companion plants and a decent plot for your Christmas tree farm is critical from the get-go.

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6 Tips for Cutting and Preserving Your Own Christmas Tree

Trekking through the woods in crisp weather to choose and cut your special Christmas tree is a time-honored holiday tradition.

If you want to add the cut-your-own Christmas tree custom to your seasonal festivities this year or are still waiting for your homegrown trees to finally mature, here are some tips to have a successful tree-hunting experience.

1. Get Your Tree at Home, From a Farm, or From a Park With Permission

A Christmas tree farm in Vermont that offers many homegrown maple goodies too. See the saws on the wall ready for you to use!
A Christmas tree farm in Vermont that offers many homegrown maple goodies too. See the saws on the wall ready for you to use!

There are still options if you don’t have a suitable evergreen on your property. Some of the best places to get a Christmas tree are on farms, a friend’s land, or a park. However, getting permission and permits are critical.

Christmas Tree Farms

There are thousands of choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms in the U.S., so you have plenty of options.

Do research before heading to a Christmas tree farm to ensure your chosen site is open for business. Some Christmas tree farms are only open on the weekends or for limited weekday hours.

Smaller family operations may have closed their choose-and-cut operations despite having current business listings.

If you’re taking kids on your Christmas tree quest, or you want to make your trip a grownup fun day, check out the extra holiday amenities available for visitors to tree farms.

Some Christmas tree farms open to the public only grow and sell trees during the holidays and have no unique attractions.

However, others offer paint-your-own ornament sessions, gingerbread-house-building activities, and other arts-and-crafts projects that brighten the season.

In colder tree-farm locations, fire pits and bonfires provide warm spots to escape the chill and roast a few marshmallows.

Harvesting Christmas Trees on Private or Personal Property

You don’t have to visit a commercial Christmas tree farm to pick out and cut your holiday evergreen. If you own a large tract of woodland or know someone who does, you can find a tree on the land for free.

However, never trespass on private property to find a holiday tree, even if the land isn’t fenced or you can’t find the owner. Always get permission from the landowner before you search for a tree on their property.

Alert the landowner to the time and date you plan to visit their woodland because Christmas tree gathering season overlaps with hunting season in many states.

Dodging bullets while searching for the perfect tree isn’t a festive holiday activity!

Also, now’s a great time to plant some saplings for the years to come! It’s never too late to grow your own Christmas tree, even if it’s already Christmas eve.

Harvesting Christmas Trees With Permission from a National Forest

If you insist on having an authentic, old-fashioned Christmas tree harvest, but don’t know anyone who owns land or a wood lot, consider hunting for your tree on national forest land in your area.

You’re permitted to harvest Christmas trees and firewood for personal use in most national forests, but you need the proper permits.

Look up the contact number or email address for the USDA National Forest District Office near your home.

The staff at the district office have the information you need concerning specific permits, dates, times, and tree-cutting rules in the national forest closest to you.

If you ask, they’ll direct you to the district offices that have jurisdiction over more distant national forest properties.

Carry your permit the entire time you’re on national forest land. Bring an official USDA Forest Service map along to avoid getting lost, and stay within the designated tree-cutting areas.

You should receive a tree tag with your permit. Place the tag on your tree before you load it onto your vehicle.

2. Pick Out the Right Christmas Tree for Your Needs

cut your own christmas tree on farm in snow
Measure the space in your house before heading to the Christmas tree farm for the perfect tree that fits your space.

Before you head out to harvest a fresh tree, carefully measure the height and width of the space where your Christmas tree will be on display.

Subtract around a foot to one-and-a-half feet off the height measurement to account for the height of the tree stand and the ornament you place on the topmost branch. The final number should give you an accurate measure of the tree you need.

Bring along your tape measure to check out the trees you shop for. Choose a tree that stands around a foot taller than you need since the tree will lose some height after being cut down.

Be sure to measure the width of the tree, too, so it fits in the space you measured back home.

Study trees from all angles to find a symmetrical tree with few bare spots. If you find a tree you love, but it has a bald spot, you can always hide the imperfection by placing it against a wall or in a corner.

Pull on some needles to see if the tree has suffered from drought or too-little watering. Cut-your-own trees should have supple needles that don’t drop easily.

It’s normal to have dead needles in the innermost branches of evergreen trees.

3. Learn How To Cut and Harvest a Christmas Tree

You’ll most likely want a bow-saw to cut your Christmas tree down. Most farms will provide these saws for you, but if you’re not at a farm, don’t forget to bring one.

If you cut your tree on private land, you can probably bring a small chainsaw to cut the trunk. However, chainsaws aren’t allowed on national forest land for tree-cutting by individuals.

How To Cut Down Your Own Christmas Tree

how to cut your own fresh christmas tree with bow saw
Cut your Christmas tree about 6″ above the ground. Make sure you cut as horizontally as possible and cut through the trunk – don’t push the tree over!

Once you’ve found your tree, no matter whether you’re at a farm or out in the wild, here’s how to cut it down:

  1. Clear away debris and loose branches around the bottom of the trunk.
  2. Have someone else hold the tree by the middle of the trunk so it remains upright while you cut.
  3. Make a mark in the trunk with saw teeth or a pen, but be sure the mark is only around six inches above the ground.
  4. Aim the saw teeth so your cut is as horizontal as possible.
  5. Make long, steady cuts back and forth in the trunk where you made your mark.
  6. If your hand and arm get tired, take a momentary break and start again.
  7. When your saw is nearly through the trunk, the tree may lean. Don’t be tempted to push the tree over at this point, but continue sawing until you’ve completely severed the tree from its base.

4. Check for Wildlife

Check your Christmas tree for wildlife before you cut and before you take your tree home!
Check your Christmas tree for wildlife before you cut it, and clear off webs and nests before you take your tree home!

As Christmas trees grow, they become homes for all sorts of critters, and you don’t necessarily want to bring those bugs and birds along with you when you head home for the holidays.

Before you cut, check your tree carefully for spider webs, birds, mice, and other woodland residents. Then, check again before you load the tree and head home.

Commercial tree farms usually have shaking machines that rapidly vibrate the trees after cutting. The fast vibration causes loose needles to drop off the tree so they don’t end up all over your house.

Shaking also helps detach bugs and other creatures that are residing in the pines. Take advantage of the shaking service to avoid bringing home unwelcome holiday guests.

If there’s no mechanical shaker on the farm, or you’re harvesting a tree from the woods, vigorously shake the tree yourself. Then, use a nearby stick, a small tree bough, or a hat to dislodge any stubborn creatures.

Take care not to break your Christmas tree’s branches as you evict any stubborn residents. Plus, if you’re like me, you’ll want to be careful anyway, so you don’t hurt any critters.

5. Transport Your Tree Safely

cut christmas tree transporting on roof of car
Many commercial Christmas tree farms offer a tree baling service. This keeps your tree’s branches safe and neatly together. It also makes it easier to transport!

While choose-and-cut Christmas tree farms generally have twine and other tree-transporting materials available, bring your own sturdy twine and bungee cords to be safe.

You don’t want your freshly cut tree to fly off on the highway because the farm ran out of supplies and your tree wasn’t secure.

Whether you transport your tree on top of your car, in the trunk, or in the bed of a truck, take time to bind the tree with a few loops of twine around the tree body. Evergreens are easier to manage when you reduce the diameter of the branches.

Always move the tree toward the cut end when loading it on or into your vehicle. This technique keeps wide, tender branches from breaking off as you drag or maneuver the tree.

Consider wearing your safety glasses as you position your tree on your car. If the tree slips, your eyes are safe from any wayward needles.

Attach the tree to your car with plenty of twine, rope, and bungee-cord reinforcement. Check the security of your knots and attachment points before you drive away. Ensure the tree doesn’t restrict your visibility through the windshield or rear window.

Drive carefully when transporting your tree. Stop a few minutes into your drive home to ensure the tree is secure and not sliding forward or backward. Take the time to reinforce the tree’s attachment points if necessary.

6. Care for Your Christmas Tree Throughout the Season

Understandably, evergreens can experience stress after being cut down and brought to a new spot. A stressed-out Christmas tree drops needles fast and may dry out much quicker than a tree that can gradually acclimate to a new environment.

So, it’s critical to let your freshly cut Christmas tree become accustomed to life at your place by keeping the tree in a bucket of water in an unheated garage or basement for a day.

However, as soon as you cut down the tree, it likely tried to heal, sending sap to seal the wound. This sap will also prohibit the tree from absorbing water.

To remove this “scab” of sap from your Christmas tree, shave off an inch from the cut end of the trunk.

Then, fill a few gallon jugs with water and place the containers in a convenient location. If you want it to last, your tree will need hydration!

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing and Harvesting Christmas Trees

How Much Water Does Your Christmas Tree Need

Fresh-cut trees can take up a gallon or more of water when first brought indoors. Check the water in the tree stand at least twice daily, and refill the empty reservoir carefully using your gallon jugs.

Set your tree up in an area with no stoves, fireplaces, heating vents, or other heat sources. To be safe, use Christmas lights that feature LED bulbs or other cool-to-the-touch bulbs.

How Long Will a Cut Christmas Tree Last?

If you keep your tree well-watered and away from any heat sources, your fresh-cut tree should last at least two to three weeks indoors before the needles drop.

Always unplug the light strings before heading to sleep to keep your tree fresher for longer.

Can You Keep a Christmas Tree Alive All Year?

You can only keep a Christmas tree alive all year if it still has roots. Keeping a rooted Christmas tree in a pot will allow you to have a tree at your disposal every Christmas, but if it has no roots, it will die within a few weeks.

What Christmas Tree Grows The Fastest?

Leland cypress is the fastest-growing Christmas tree variety. The Leland cypress can grow up to 2ft yearly and has impressively full, bushy, and cone-shaped growth.

Final Thoughts

Now, you know how long it takes to grow Christmas trees, what kinds of trees they are, and how to harvest your own!

Do you grow your own Christmas trees? What sort of growth rate have you seen? What’s your favorite variety of Christmas trees? Let us know in the comments!

Thank you for reading, and happy holidays!

More on Holiday Homesteading:

How Long Does It Take to Grow a Christmas Tree -Tips-for-growing-and-cutting-down-christamas-trees

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