Christmas Trees: A Closer Look at Growing and Varieties

Have you ever wondered what goes into growing a Christmas tree? The typical seedling that gets planted at a tree farm is around 3-4 years old. That means the seedling has already been growing in a nursery for years before it is planted in the ground to grow into a Christmas tree. After planting, that tree still needs years to grow before it is just the right size. The average 5- 6 foot Christmas tree is around 10 years old.

While we may only think about Christmas trees during the holiday season, operating a tree farm involves year-round maintenance. Herbicides and pesticides are often used in the spring and at the end of the summer to keep the trees pest and disease-free. The summer months are typically when the major pruning happens. Because trees don’t generally grow into what we consider a “perfect” Christmas tree shape, they need some guidance. Pruning certain branches (including the very top of the tree) helps to shape the tree by deciding what the plant should put its energy into growing.

While “pine tree” is what immediately comes to mind when most people think of Christmas trees, there are several varieties. In our area, the most common Christmas trees include Fraser Fir, Douglas Fir, Concolor, Scotch Pine, and Blue Spruce.

Fraser Fir

Fraser Firs are very common and very popular in Maryland. These trees grow relatively tall and thin, and are a dark green/blue color. They have sturdy braches with pockets of space between, making them perfect for holding and showing off ornaments. They have short, soft needles, and are known to hold their needles well. While a Fraser’s needles are dark in color, they have a silvery tint on their underside. These trees are native to the Southeast U.S., so they do require more care to grow in Maryland’s climate.

Douglas Fir

The Douglas Fir is a close relative to the Fraser Fir, and is another popular choice for its sturdy branches and good needle retention. And you can’t forget the fresh pine scent! Douglas Firs have slightly longer needles that are softer to the touch and very green in color.


Concolors are probably best known for their scent. Their light citrus aroma is what makes them stand apart. These trees have longer needles and a fuller shape. They are blue/green in color and hold their needles well. And while they may not be able to handle your heaviest ornaments, they continue to be a popular choice for their citrus scent.

Scotch Pine

The Scotch Pine is a pro at holding those heavy holiday ornaments with their strong branches. These trees range from bright green to dark green in color, and have excellent needle retention. The Scotch Pine happens to be the most planted commercial Christmas tree in all of North America!

Blue Spruce

Blue Spruce trees have dark green needles with a blue tint to them, and they tend to grow in a more symmetrical shape. Just down the road in Washington D.C., the National Christmas Tree is actually a Colorado Blue Spruce, originally grown in Virginia.

White Pine

While they aren’t commonly sold as Christmas trees, the White Pine’s braches are often used as Christmas garland. They may not be good at holding ornaments, but their long needles and large, narrow pinecones are a well-loved feature in holiday decorating.

For a list of Christmas tree farms in Frederick County, click here.