Living Christmas trees may not be prevalent in South Texas, but there are a few good options if you want a little Christmas all year through.
Compared to the rest of the country, South Texas has limited choices for pine trees. But there are a variety of conifers that can superbly play the part of a Christmas pine tree.
Here are a few I recommend if you want a little Christmas all year through:
Arizona cypress – not related to the bald cypress, Arizona cypress is conical conifer that grows in west Texas and beyond. It comes in a variety of blues and silver foliage, and is very drought-tolerant.
Juniper Blue Point
Juniper – the best Juniperus for living Christmas trees are the oriental species, specifically “blue point” or “keteleeri.” As with most Juniperus, these varieties are very drought-tolerant.
Italian stone pine – when you think Italian stone pine, think pesto. Yes, the pine nuts in pesto are from the Italian stone pine. The distinctive features of this pine are the long needles and large flat canopy. This is by far the most popular living Christmas tree you can buy in the nursery.
Aleppo pine – Aleppo pine is a good pine for San Antonio. Smaller in stature and a more round canopy than Italian stone pine, Aleppo pine is a great addition to any landscape. As with all pines, full sun and well-drained soils are required for long-term health.
Deodar cedar – a true cedar, deodar cedar thrives in our soil. Unfortunately, it does not always appreciate our 90 percent humidity and 90 degrees at 12 midnight in the summer nor our 40 degree temperature drops in spring and fall. Deodar cedar does best where it has room to spread since it can get 60 feet tall and 50 feet wide.
Afghan pine – I add Afghan pine with some trepidation. Prior to the 1980s, Afghan pines were the No. 1 pine species planted along and west of IH-35. Then the rains came and nearly all Afghan pines died of Diplodia fungus. Still, this is a great living Christmas tree because of its size and shape. Just find a location that faces west, is on a slope and has no irrigation anywhere.
When thinking about evergreens this time of year, whether for the Yuletide festivities or as an addition to your landscape, think about the aforementioned species. Hardy, drought-tolerant and evergreen, they’re all winners.