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Saturday, December 14, 2019

How to Keep a Live Christmas Tree in the Tropical Climate

I must say these beauties are truly magnificent for display especially if you want to have something real for Christmas. Nowadays when I only see plastic Christmas tree that had been manufactured from China is all but fake.

I remember during my childhood days when Christmas is seriously celebrated with authenticity where everything must carry weight, after all Christmas only comes once a year and why not do the best for that year's celebration. Life was simple, easy and doable then.

People cared more and celebrated life often. 
Now in this generation - it's emphasis is more materialistic than the spirit of Christmas.

Enough said about ancient times, 
however these memories brought me to remember about these trees.

And I'm glad to find that these are still available in local nurseries in Sg.Buloh. 
The small saplings to a medium size tree with quite a reasonable price - I would say given for them to grow for that measurable size might had taken at least few years if I'm not wrong.

Here in the tropics, 
there is no winter and so the range of types of these kind of trees are quite limited.

When you mention about Life Christmas Tree - the reference is often associated with evergreen coniferous trees and the ones that can weather the heat and rain without any snow to say:
Juniper, Cypress & Pine Trees are the ones commonly available here.

Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star' (Flaky Juniper)

I remember purchasing this one few times but had succumbed to root rot and died due to the high humidity and the wet condition in my garden. I believe these types require more dryer and fast draining medium for it to thrive. This is a dwarf version and may take years to grow - perhaps more applicable if you are a bonsai enthusiast. 

This one will do so well at open balcony where it can be tucked away from rain but receive a well indirect open air & sunlight. Similar behavior like succulents, less water & more sun. Keeping the medium slightly moist & only water when it's totally dry.

Dwaft Goldcrest Green

This is what I had found so far being mislabeled in local nurseries here as Goldcrest green which is another name for a bird. I'm unable to find it's ID however I'm contented to understand that these evergreen are commonly sold here in my region.

This one have a softer, smooth foliage compared to a sharper, needle like brush that can be hard similar to the rest of the evergreen here.

Most of these plants are sold in a small or medium size pot with a reason price ranging from RM15- RM25 which is quite a big deal noting to the fact that they take years to grow to this size. 

I beileve these are planted using seedling instead of rooted marcot cuttings.

Goldcrest Cypress (Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Goldcrest’)

These are Goldcrest Cypress also known as Lemon Cypress, the foliage emits a beautiful lemon scent when rubbed upon. I believe these are cultivated on Cameron Highlands and brought down here for the festive season. A lot of care is needed as not to over-water as it may seriously cause root rot that will cause the tree to die.

If you are planning to purchase one, consider it as a singular annual decorative plant rather than considering it as a permanent yearly affair. The tree might not survive for another 6 months on a hot rainy weather.

Regardless, it is a beautiful tree.

Chinese arborvitae (Platycladus orientalis)

Oriental arborvitae also known as Chinese thuja, Chinese arborvitae, biota or oriental thuja.
I understand this is found more towards the northern region of Asia and had found its way there.

The flat leaves with fan like branches. The foliage do emit a fresh pine fragrance when crushed.

These trees like shrub are very common here as they had been used as ornament plants planted around the parks, housing areas and roadsides years ago. The downside about this particular type of evergreen is that it does not form the typical Christmas tree like shape. 
Pruning this one can be considered a challenge if not done properly as they can be lopsided and unsightly.  

Chinese Juniper (Juniperus chinensis)

I would say, Juniper Trees are the most common and the hardy types compared to the rest of the evergreen conifers found here. They can weather the storm, even if you cut down the tree - they will grow back in a years time from the roots to the stump. 

Again, its a mean plant - I would say, the foliage are rough and sharp, easy to bruise and therefore do handle with caution as not to hurt yourself when handling this shrub.

I also noticed that they are much preferred to be used as Bonsai Tree subjects due to the nature of the branch and tree - they are excellent material - slow growing and flexible and can handle stress well compared to other trees.

How to Care for Live Christmas Tree:

1) Watering

Do not over water, I must emphasis on this matter.
Too much water can kill the tree, especially if it is in the pot, indoors and with added weight of decoration added on it - it is greatly under stress. So I would suggest - place it in bright shade and let it have it's best first and only decorate the tree closest towards the day of your celebration festival time and also immediately relieve the tree ones you had settled your celebration days closed.

Do not wait for few weeks and it will be too late for the poor tree to recover from all the weight and the electric light bulbs and wires around it. Most trees don't make it unless it is outdoor and established itself planted on the ground outside the porch area.

2) Potting or Planting it on Ground

I would suggest that you plant it in a pot and let it grow first before transplanting it directly on ground. Few of my friends had regretted planting it in front of their house as when they plan to shift and was unable to take back their prized possession as the uprooting this tree was unsuccessful and the tree died due to root damage. I had seen Juniper trees grow huge unrestrained and it have no typical formation and the branches all over, thick wild bushes.

The plus point of Planting it direct to the Ground gives this Tree good root stability and giving it a freedom for the roots to trail and for the tree to grow faster without much care.

I would recommend to use fast draining medium a good mix of potting soil. 
Do not overpot immediately after purchasing this one, rather only re-pot as the tree grows larger. 

Regardless, I found Juniper, Cypress and Oriental arborvitae are very hardy plant. They can handle the weather well once their roots had established.

3) Light

This is the catch: If you are growing them as Christmas Tree and planning to keep them indoors.
Do not keep them inside (indoors) more than 2 weeks or they can and will succumb to stress and may start shedding their leaves and die.

They require bright direct sunlight open spaced garden and will not able grow in shade or indoor areas. Unlike tropical trees where trees grows close together. This one prefer to have space away from the root-ball. They constantly shed the needle-like foliage so do keep in mind about this when planting it around clean spaced area like porch or walkways where you require daily cleaning.

These only bear conifer when placed in a highland areas and therefore will not bear conifers/berries in lowland hot climate zones.

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Tropical Garden, Batu Caves, Malaysia
My Malaysian Tropical Garden mainly focused on unique and colorful plants ranging from rare to common plants all around the tropical belt across the world. Ideal for inspiration for challenging areas in the garden space - indoor gardening, balcony gardening and small green spaces especially for ariods, bromeliads, begonias, edibles, cascading & vertical garden plants, succulents & cacti, orchids, together with both shade and sun loving plants.

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