Give a Tree for Christmas

Lee Ann Fields, Hatch, Dora Ann

With Arbor Day scheduled for the third week in January, giving a tree at Christmas is the perfect gift for those on your list who enjoy their outdoor spaces. In addition, the best time to plant trees in Louisiana is from now until February.

Before you shop, plan. Take a picture of the area in the landscape that could be enhanced by a tree planting. Note sidewalks, driveways, outlines of buildings and the compass directions. Look for overhead or buried utility locations. Call “Louisiana One Call” if you need assistance.

Next, select the plant site.First, determine the mature height and spread of the tree for the desired location. Be careful not to plant where trees block access to utility installations or where they will grow to interfere with utility lines or equipment.Clearance of at least 8 feet is required in front of electrical transformers on ground level. For more information on tree height and spread, visit your LSU AgCenter Parish Office or visit the Web site: and download the “Native Tree Growing Guide for Louisiana.”

Next, decide what to plant. Visit a reputable nursery and take your landscape picture along with all the information you noted about locations of sidewalks, driveways, outlines of building and the compass directions.With the assistance of the nurseryman, select trees with a straight, single central leader, no damage to the bark, or no broken or dead limbs. Check for wounds on the lower trunk and note any decay. The roots should be white and healthy looking. The trunk should be loose in the root ball.

Your gift should last a lifetime, so consider planting trees that have a proven performance. Those to consider are the Southern live oak, Southern magnolia, bald cypress, crape myrtles, deciduous oaks, southern sugar maple, hollies, vitex, Sweetbay magnolia and pines.

The Southern live oak (Quercus virginiana) is an evergreen tree native to the southeastern United States. These trees can be seen in some of the older landscapes throughout the South and are a good selection if you have the space for it to reach its matured height of 75 feet and spread of 100 feet.

The Southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) is a large evergreen tree with a spreading canopy which provides dense shade and an array of attractive flowers and fruit. Its flower, which is the state flower of Louisiana, blooms from late spring to early summer. The most planted variety is Little Gem because it fits nicely in small areas. If you want a larger variety consider Bracken’s Brown Beauty.

The bald cypress (Taxodium distichum) is the Louisiana state tree. These trees have fine-textured leaves, and many times they have a rusty brown fall foliage. Above-ground roots (knees) on cypress are most common in clay and poorly drained soils and less of a problem in well-drained sandy or silty soils.

Crape myrtles (Lagerstroemia) are our most popular non-native summer-flowering tree. Select crape myrtles based on mature size. They come in tall, intermediate, semi-dwarf, dwarf and miniature varieties. Great varieties for Louisiana are Natchez, Sioux, Acoma, Muskogee, Tonto and Tuscarora. Crape myrtles must have full sun (8 hours daily) in order to grow and flower their best.

These are just a few examples of the trees that will make that person on your Christmas list smile. To learn more about deciduous oaks (Quercus), southern sugar maple (Acer floridanum), hollies (Ilex spp.), vitex (Vitex agnus-castus), Sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) and pines (Pinus sup.) visit your LSU AgCenter Parish Office or visit the Web site: and download the “Native Tree Growing Guide for Louisiana.”

Submitted by:

Dora Ann Hatch, Retired LSU AgCenter Agent and Master Gardener


Native Tree Growing Guide for Louisiana, LSU AgCenter Publication,

“It’s time to plant a tree; choose the right one, “News Release Distributed 12/20/13
By Allen Owings, LSU AgCenter horticulturist

Trees for Louisiana Landscapes, LSU AgCenter publication: 1622

Note: I refereed to these articles for the capitalization of names for editorial purposes.

12/4/2018 3:15:04 PM
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