It’s time again for Christmas trees and mistletoe

Published 12:00 am Friday, November 30, 2012

SALISBURY — Holiday vacations give many gardeners time to work in their landscapes and do other outdoor chores as well as ask questions about Christmas decorations. Below are a few questions posed to Cooperative Extension over the past few weeks.

Q: We buy a live Christmas tree every year for the holidays. What can I do with the tree after the holidays? Is there a place I can take the tree?

A: Rowan County’s Department of Environmental Management will offer free Christmas tree collection/disposal at the Julian Road Solid Waste and Recycling convenience center beginning Monday, Jan. 2 through Saturday, Jan. 26. The Julian Road Solid Waste Recycling Center is located at 1455 Julian Road, Salisbury. The hours of operation are Monday-Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Contact Caleb Sinclair at 704-216-8606 for more information.

Q: I really like the fraser firs used for Christmas trees. Can I grow them in our landscape?

A: Fraser firs grow best at elevations above 3,000 feet, so unfortunately fraser firs will not grow well in Rowan County. Those that want a balled and burlapped tree should choose white pine, Norway spruce or Colorado blue spruce. Fraser firs will not thrive here.

Q: I want to prune my grape vines and use the vines to make a wreath for Christmas decorations. Can I prune my vines now and not hurt them?

A: Lightly pruning the vines now will not injure them. However, heavy pruning as a normal cultural practice in the late winter and early spring is recommended.

Q: My friend from church gave me some paperwhites and they are now in full bloom. Can I plant them after they have bloomed outdoors?

A: No, paperwhites bulbs are not hardy in our climate and will not survive the winters. They are generally throwaway plants.

Q: Will mistletoe kill trees? I understand it is a parasite and generally parasites eventually kill their hosts.

A: Mistletoe is indeed a parasite, but the types found here do little damage. Other species of the parasite are a serious problem in certain European countries. The white, round, translucent berries are spread by birds throughout the tree. The seeds are coated with a sticky layer, allowing the seeds to readily stick to the bark. The seeds germinate, sending a modified root into the host cambium layer for its nutrients. It takes a year or so for the plant to become established on the host tree. Once the mistletoe roots are established, the evergreen plant grows quickly, easily identified after leaf drop in the fall. The plant is most prevalent in the crevices of oaks and maples throughout Rowan County.

Darrell Blackwelder is the County Extension Director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County. 704-216-8970.