We observe many holiday traditions; the Christmas tree is one of the most enduring. Beginning in Germany in the 16th century, fresh-cut evergreen trees were brought indoors and decorated to symbolize the festivity and hope of Christmas. How a particular tree came to be in our homes and caring for said tree is another interesting story.
Wisconsin has over 36,000 acres in Christmas tree production, which is fifth in the nation. Optimal soils for Christmas tree growth are well drained or somewhat excessively drained with a moderately acid sandy loam or loamy sand surface layer and a sand and gravel substratum. Balsam fir is the most popular Christmas tree species owing to its color (stays dark green in winter when other conifers become dull—some tree species are even dyed green to overcome the winter dullness) , shape (classic conical), pleasant smell and needle retention.
Speaking of needle retention, be sure to keep your tree well watered (yes, even cut trees need water and in fact they are still living and photosynthetic for a while after cutting). Most of the water is taken up in the first few days after being set up in your warm home, so this is the critical period. By the way, special additives to the water are not needed.
Balsam fir and similar short needle species (such as Fraser fir and blue spruce) take about 8-10 years to reach the average market height of 6 to 7 feet. Thus a grower must plan ahead to maintain a steady stream to the market (about 1.8 million Christmas trees are cut annually in Wisconsin). And in the mean time, they are providing valuable soil-conserving cover to the land and a picturesque landscape as well. The live Christmas tree is a fine tradition well worth preserving!