Evergreens need well-drained soil to grow

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

I celebrated 30 years with Ohio State University Extension in November. Wow, that is a long time to stay in one job, but I have loved (almost) every minute of it!

When I first started in 1992, a lot of farmers were interested in getting into the Christmas tree business, growing them from seedlings and selling through a cut-your-own tree.

While working at the garden center before Extension, I learned about Christmas trees and the popular species for homeowners. However, I didn’t know about growing them.

I attended workshops and then taught about growing Christmas trees in our area. I quickly learned that growing Christmas trees in Ohio wasn’t easy, particularly if you didn’t have the right soil and environment.

Ohio has a few native evergreens and the tree species that make good Christmas trees aren’t native to Ohio. Eastern redcedar, which is a juniper (Juniperus virginiana) is a rough-looking evergreen that you generally see growing along the roadside, along highways and in other rocky areas.

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The other common native evergreen in our area can be found in nature preserves such as Cedar Bog (near Urbana) and Clifton Gorge. The northern white cedar is an arborvitae (Thuja occidentalis).

Common species used for Christmas trees are Scotch and white pine, spruce (primarily blue), and firs. Popular firs are fraser, concolor, and balsam. Douglasfir, while not a true fir, is also quite popular because of its soft needles.

One of the species that was introduced to Ohio in the early 90s was the Canaan fir or the West Virginia balsam fir. It was brought to Ohio because of its ability to tolerate our heavy clay soil.

Most species used for the holiday are those that grow best in well-drained, sandy, or gravelly soil. They don’t like our clay soils that hold water. And they don’t tolerate wet soil.

Look around your neighborhood to see the common varieties of evergreens growing. The most successful species that you see are Norway and blue spruce as well as white pines.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

You may see some Scotch and Austrian pines, however, most of these are being affected by the disease diplodia tip blight and are slowly dying out.

Unfortunately, many of our blue spruces are dying out as well. This is due to another disease called rhizosphaera or needlecast disease.

Occasionally, I find a beautiful concolor fir growing in the Miami Valley. I love this tree and need to get a couple of them in my landscape. I should have pretty good luck with this because while I have clay soil, it’s very well-drained.

On that note, I love it when I discover a tree that shouldn’t be growing around here because of our soil. If it’s healthy, it means that it’s found the perfect place for growing.

It’s always about the right plant in the right location for plant success.

Pamela Corle-Bennett is the state master gardener volunteer coordinator and horticulture educator for Ohio State University Extension. Contact her by email at bennett.27@osu.edu.