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Indiana Department of Environmental Management

Indiana Department of Environmental Management

IDEM > The Life of a Christmas Tree The Life of a Christmas Tree


Christmas trees can be found everywhere during the holidays. They are used to decorate homes, yards, businesses, and town squares. They can be big or small, colorful or elegant, real or artificial.

Many Hoosiers choose to buy real Christmas trees instead of artificial trees. They enjoy the tradition of picking their own tree and the pine scent that it adds to their home.

Every year, Indiana Christmas tree growers harvest over 500,000 trees. Christmas tree farms are an efficient, environmentally friendly way to grow trees and provide families with healthy, well-shaped Christmas trees without damaging Indiana forests.

Let's take a look at how farms prepare Christmas trees for YOUR home.

Christmas trees are grown at nurseries from a seed to a sapling. This usually takes from 1 to 3 years. Once they are old enough to survive outdoors, the trees are planted at a Christmas tree farm using a spade or an augur.

It takes an additional 8 years before the trees grow large enough for your living room. During these growing years, the trees provide many environmental benefits to Indiana. Like all plants, the evergreen trees absorb carbon dioxide and release oxygen into the air. One acre of Christmas trees provide oxygen for 18 people each year. The roots of the trees stabilize the soil, which protects water supplies by preventing runoff. Finally, tree branches provide shelter for birds and other wildlife.

Every spring, the trees must be trimmed into their iconic cone shape. Trimming is done by hand using a large knife.

Just enough herbicides are sprayed near the trees to prevent weeds, grasses, and brush from sprouting near the trees. These unwanted plants steal greatly needed light, moisture and nutrients from growing trees.

Finally, December arrives and so do families looking for the perfect Christmas tree. Many farms harvest and package their trees to sell in retail stores. However, some Hoosiers still enjoy cutting down their own tree.

Some tree farms allow you to cut down the tree themselves and some do it for you. After the tree is cut, it is loaded into a machine that shakes out the pine cones and dead needles. Another machine wraps the tree up for easy transportation.

If kept properly watered in your home, the tree will thrive until January arrives. Trees are very thirsty and will "drink" up to a gallon of water a day.

But the life of a Christmas tree isn't over once all the presents are opened and the lights are put away. Community programs collect the trees for recycling in late December and early January. Over 90 percent of real Christmas trees are recycled. But before dropping your tree off at a collection site, be sure to remove all ornaments, lights, tinsel, wire, and other man-made objects.

Recycled trees are usually ground into mulch or cut into wood chips. In the spring, the mulch can be spread around trees and in flower beds. Wood chips are spread on hiking trails and under playground equipment.

Instead of recycling their Christmas tree, some Hoosiers preserve their tree until spring and plant it in their yard. Check with your local tree farm to see if they offer live Christmas trees with their roots balled up underneath them.

Enjoy your natural, environmentally-friendly real Christmas tree this holiday season and remember to recycle your tree when the season's over.

This video was made by the Indiana Department of Environmental Management. IDEM would like to thank to Dull's Tree Farm for their assistance in making this video.