Curious about how Christmas trees are grown? Considering if you could grow your own Christmas tree? Well, you might be wondering how long does it take to grow a Christmas tree? Instead of buying one – you could grow one…….maybe.
In general, it takes about 8 years to grow a Christmas tree to 6 feet. The length of time it takes depends on the variety, the climate where it’s grown, and how tall you want it.
Learning how long it takes for a Christmas tree to grow has given me a whole new appreciation for the holiday tradition. I hope you do too.
What variety is the typical Christmas tree in North America?
The most typical Christmas tree variety in North America is a Fraser fir. The Fraser fir is so popular because of its resistance to travel long distances. This hardy variety grows in Southern regions in altitudes over 5,000 ft and has a delightful piney smell. Another reason it’s a favorite is that the needles only start dropping about 5 weeks after cutting.
Douglas fir is another common Christmas tree variety in North America. Although it is not a real fir, Douglas firs can also withstand long travel, won’t drop their needles, and are relatively fast growers. They are also very adaptable trees and will grow easily in most locations.
Christmas trees come from a few tree types. Most commonly, they are either fir, spruce, pine, cypress, or cedar trees. NC State published a nice overview of different Christmas tree varieties. This list is specific to North Carolina, but it will give you a good sense of the differences.
Are Christmas trees grown from seeds?
In general, Christmas trees are always started from seed. Root cuttings need special care, and constant attention, and don’t have a high enough success rate to justify the extra work.
When starting Christmas trees from seeds, the seeds must first be selected for the best genetics. Christmas trees spend a decade before they hit the market. For growers, it’s important to make sure they only invest time and space in the best.
To start a Christmas tree from seed you first need to stratify (expose the seed to cold temperatures to break dormancy) and scarify (create lesions on the seed exterior). Then the seeds are germinated in a cool and shady spot before being transplanted into the field.
Hybrid Christmas trees won’t produce viable seeds or the seeds carry different genetics. Sterile hybrid trees such as the Blue Ice cypress, need to be cultivated through root cuttings.
Taking and transplanting root cuttings to propagate these hybrid varieties is fast work. If the base dries on, the success rate will fall dramatically. Workers must quickly take the cutting, dip it in rooting hormone, and plant it out all within a matter of hours.
Christmas tree growers will start the trees from seeds. The most common exception is when propagating sterile hybrid varieties. In the case trees can’t be started from seed, growing from root cuttings will also work.
How long does it take to grow a Christmas tree?
It takes anywhere between 6 to 12 years to grow a Christmas tree. The exact timing depends on the tree variety, growing conditions, and how tall you want the tree. Christmas trees are not mature trees and it will take decades for your Christmas tree to reach its full height.
It takes fir trees between 3 to 4 years to reach 1 foot. At this point, the small trees can be planted out to their permanent location where they’ll spend another 5 to 7 years. When the trees reach about 6 or 7 feet, they are ready to be cut and sold.
This doesn’t mean that it takes 12 years for Christmas trees to reach their full height. All Christmas tree varieties have the potential to become towering trees. Fraser firs, one of the smaller Christmas tree varieties, can reach an astounding 65 ft after half a century.
Towering Christmas trees over 8 ft are not commonly available for seasonal decorations. It wouldn’t be practical for growers to wait 20 years to harvest and the trees wouldn’t fit inside the house. Although you can always grow your own Christmas tree and watch it get more impressive each year.
How long does it take to grow a Christmas tree to 6 or 7 feet?
How long it takes to grow a Christmas tree to 6 feet can take anywhere between 6 and 12 years. This range in growing time depends on the climate, the type of tree, and how tall the farmer wants the tree to be.
In general, the taller the tree the older it is. For convenience, Christmas trees are harvested when they are 6 or 7 feet tall. To fit this height, most growers cut their Christmas trees after 8 to 10 years.
Christmas tree growers manage their operations on a rotating basis. Each year new trees are seeded as the oldest trees are cut and sold. In the years between, trees are pruned to their perfect cone shape and tagged for sale when they reach the right height.
How long does it take to grow a Christmas tree to full height?
Depending on the variety of Christmas trees, it can take between 25 to 50 years to reach their full height. Fir and spruce trees, for example, grow slowly. They only gain about 12 to 24 inches of height each year. You could have to wait around 35 years to reach 60 feet.
Cypress trees on the other hand grow much faster. In most locations, it will grow between 24 and 36 inches per year. With plenty of room, cypress trees can reach between 60 and 80 feet tall but it will take around 25 years to reach full height.
At 60 feet the tree is fully grown but stops being useful for traditional holiday celebrations. Can you imagine trying to decorate a 60 or 100-foot tree? Putting the star on the top would certainly be a challenge.
Christmas trees are harvested at a convenient size, not their full potential height. Harvests are strategic so that the tree is small enough to fit in a house and the grower doesn’t have to dedicate half a century to each tree. If the same trees grew for 30 more years, they would go from 7-foot Christmas trees to 60-foot old-growth trees.
If you are curious to know how long it takes other trees to grow, make sure to check out our article.
Growing your own Christmas tree
The majority of people buy their Christmas tree already cut to size – around 6 or 7 feet tall. As this tree has been cut down, it will be discarded in the new year. That is not the only option though.
You could grow your own Christmas tree in a pot or plant it in your garden. This way you can look after and prune it as you like and watch it grow through the years. The second option gets my vote!
Growing up I thought that all Christmas trees were the same type of tree. I also never stopped to think how long it takes for a Christmas tree to grow.
In reality, Christmas trees are really just normal trees that are continuously pruned and harvested while they’re still small. It takes about 8 years to grow a 6 or 7-foot Christmas tree.
Christmas trees can be fir, cypress, pine, or spruce trees but all of these tree varieties can actually grow much taller! If you wanted your Christmas tree to reach full height, you would need at least 25 to 50 years.