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Mr. Smarty Plants - Eastern red cedar for indoor Christmas tree

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Tuesday - November 06, 2007

From: Fort Worth, TX
Region: Southwest
Topic: Trees
Title: Eastern red cedar for indoor Christmas tree
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

I would love to have a live b&b or container tree for a Christmas tree, then plant it in the ground after Christmas. Would a Eastern Cedar survive if I brought it inside for a couple of weeks before planting?

ANSWER:

Since the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower is all about plants native to North America, that is always the first thing we check when we get a question about a specific plant. Juniperus virginiana (eastern redcedar) certainly passes that test; it occurs naturally in Texas and certainly should do well in Fort Worth. To talk first about having it outside, it is fairly fast-growing and makes a wonderful screen when several are planted. On the downside, Juniperus virginiana has become invasive in some areas, reducing the size of grazing lands and pulling water from the soil, thus threatening live oaks and other beneficial native trees.

When we start talking about having a living tree indoors, there are problems there, too. The smaller Eastern red cedars are pyrimidal in shape, which would be good for your purpose. But, if you wanted a larger tree, its shape might not be so attractive. And have you considered how BIG the root system might be for such a tree? If you stay fairly small, both those problems should be fairly easy to deal with. Further, in December, even in temperate areas, there is going to be some central heating going in your house. If that plant has been outside, at a tree nursery or in the ground, it has been hardening off and preparing for cold weather. The combination of root loss on digging and the indoor environment of high temperature and low humidity is very detrimental to the tree's health and the survival rate of these trees is low. Being suddenly subjected to blasts of warm air, possibly from vents that are nearby, is going to be a big shock to the tree, causing drying and possible fire risk.

Having dealt with health risks to the tree, how about health risks to the family? The fleshy cones of the Eastern red cedar, which resemble berries, and the leaves are both toxic. These are considerations if you have children or pets in the house. Allergies are probably the main reason that many people have gone to artificial trees, shunning even cut trees beause of molds on the trunks. One of the biggest allergy problems in Central Texas is Cedar Fever. Not only are there allergic reactions to the male, pollen-bearing trees, but many people can get hives just from touching the foliage, male or female!

There are the pros and cons about Eastern red cedar, as we see them. You'll have to make your own decision about whether an indoor living tree is worth the trouble.

 


Juniperus virginiana

 

 

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