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Tabletop Christmas Trees


Not everyone is able to enjoy a full sized Christmas tree in their home. For some, budgets may be stretched or space can be at a premium. Others may not have the time to put up a tree this holiday season.

Whatever the reason, an alternative to full sized Christmas trees are tabletop plants that can be decorated for the holidays, offered as holiday gifts, and in some cases can be used for several years. 





Norfolk Island Pines have been used for holiday decorations for many years. They have a series of layered branches, five to a layer, that are covered with short soft dark green needles. The stems are widely separated, making room for hanging decorations, but in some cases have a sparse look.

Pine tree seedlings are well adapted to container culture, and potted plants can live for several years with minimal care. The problem with these tabletops trees is that when they get too big for the container or the patio they need to be replanted in the landscape, and not everyone has an appropriate place for them.

Besides their use as full sized Christmas trees, small Leyland Cypress rooted cuttings can be used as tabletop decorations as well. Their dark green smooth scale-like foliage makes an excellent contrast with red bows and a variety of other decorations. This tree is a hybrid of two West Coast relatives of the redwood family.

Rosemary is a culinary herb, but Californians may also recognize that it is used as an evergreen shrub. It can also be kept as a potted plant and pruned into many different shapes, including a traditional cone-shaped Christmas tree. Decorations can be added, and the sturdy woody stems can support heavier glass or metal ornaments with little branch droop.

The distinctive aroma of rosemary can add to the scents of the holidays. To maintain the shape, trim off branches that grow outside of the desired shape, then use the cuttings for cooking, strewing on walkways to release the aroma, or even added to the grill or fireplace to release their smell. The challenge with caring for this plant is to keep it on the dry side, but not so dry that it dies of drought. Repotting may be needed as they can get rootbound, and if put outside in well drained soil it can survive most of the temperatures found here.

Italian Stone Pine is an occasionally available holiday plant. Seedlings of this true pine tree have blue-green needles. Young foliage measures about an inch long, making this young pine tree look a bit like a Colorado Blue Spruce, but without the prickly needle feel. They are native to the dry cool climates of Spain and Portugal, and have been used as a source of "pine nuts," so it is also known as the European Nut Pine.

The seedlings of this tree are grown in containers and sheared for a desirable cone shape. During the holidays they can be found in garden centers and florist shops and can be purchased already decorated as a holiday gift. They too like it dry, but since they also prefer cooler temperatures, will not be successful here if planted outside in Florida's humid warm climate.  Enjoy it for the season and if you can’t mail it back to Spain, add it to the compost pile when it starts to look ragged.
Snow Tip Pine with Lights


False Cypress is another new tabletop Christmas tree offered by retailers, also known known as  the Lawson or Port-Orford cedar, a native of northern California and southern Oregon.   "Elwood" is the dwarf cultivar used as a tabletop tree, and  the crushed foliage has a pungent smell.  Japanese like its wood,  Bonsai enthusiasts makes it into collectibles and Europeans love it in their landscapes.

Source: Florida Cooperative Extension Service / IFAS /University of Florida

 
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