Darrell Blackwelder column: What to do with holiday plants and trees

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 19, 2014

Homeowners are buying or have received holiday plants and Christmas trees. Below are a few questions posed to Cooperative Extension concerning these holiday plants.

Question: Our family has decided we want to plant a Christmas tree in our yard and decorate it each year. Can we buy these trees locally and plant the Christmas trees that are on sale throughout the county?

Answer: The majority of Christmas trees sold are Fraser fir. These really grow best at elevations of 2,500 feet and higher, normally in the mountains. The species will be difficult to grow in our area. You may want to consider a tree that has a similar appearance, such as the Colorado blue spruce, dwarf Alberta spruce, Carolina/Canadian hemlock or Norway spruce. These seem to have a better survival rate in our elevation and climate.

Question: Can I keep my poinsettia until next year? The plants are so pretty and I really hate to throw them away.

Answer: poinsettias can be grown as a houseplant during the winter months and moved outdoors as the threat of frost is gone. The plant will need constant pinching and care during the summer months. Move the plant indoors in September under natural light. Keeping a poinsettia for next years’ Christmas season can be done, but it will take a dedicated gardener. Many enjoy the challenge ,while others stimulate the economy by buying the holiday plant each year. The plants you hold over for next year will rarely look as good as those produced locally.

Question: I know that mistletoe is a parasitic plant that grows in many deciduous trees throughout Rowan County. My question is, since the plant is a parasite; will it eventually kill the trees?

Answer: Mistletoe growth can often restrict growth of smaller trees, but the parasite rarely kills the tree. In some areas it may be a problem, but in our area the effect of the parasitic plant is nil.

Question: What can I do with my Christmas tree after the holidays? Is there a place I can take the tree?

Answer: Rowan County’s Department of Environmental Management offers live Christmas tree recycling/disposal at the Julian Road Solid Waste and Recycling Convenience Center through Thursday, Jan. 31, 2015. There is no charge for this recycling service. The center is located at 1455 Julian Road, Salisbury.  The hours of operation are MondaySaturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Contact Caleb Sinclair at 704-216-8606 for more information.

Darrell Blackwelder is the county Extension director with horticulture responsibilities with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension Service in Rowan County.