When it comes to Christmas trees, when is a shortage not a shortage?

Michigan consumers looking for a real Christmas tree will have plenty of options.

A full Christmas tree field with some trees being cut down.
It’s Christmas tree time! Michigan is the third leading producer of Christmas trees, behind only Oregon and North Carolina. Photo by Bert Cregg, MSU.

In what seems to have become an annual event, media outlets are again proclaiming a Christmas tree shortage. For perspective, a recent search on YouTube turned up “Grab your wallet, there’s going to be a Christmas tree shortage…” or similar stories going back at least 10 years. A common theme in these stories is the intrepid reporter finds a local tree lot that sold out of trees, the lot was unable to find trees to re-stock, and voila, a story of a Christmas tree shortage is born. The usual suspects for the purported shortages are the Great Recession, growers retiring from the business and various weather events.

In this year’s shortage scenario, the alleged shortfall in trees is due to Canadian wildfires. However, the linkage to Christmas tree supply is murky. It’s unclear if the media outlets think the smoke that made its way across the United States somehow impacted our Christmas trees (it didn’t) or if the fires impacted Canadian Christmas tree exports (they didn’t). The U.S. does import trees from the Canadian Maritime provinces, but the fires were not near the production areas.

So, is there a Christmas tree shortage this year?

Like other aspects of our economy, the Christmas tree market has been affected by lingering supply chain and transportation issues. For consumers, the situation is analogous to going to the grocery store and not finding your favorite brand of ice cream—the manufacturer didn’t quit making it (Christmas tree growers are still producing trees), but somehow your timing and the arrival of the product didn’t mesh.

To make sure you find the right real Christmas tree for your family this year, Michigan State University Extension suggests these tips.

Check with the farm or tree lot before arriving. Most choose and cut farms have websites or social media accounts that detail days and hours of operation. Checking beforehand is always a good idea, especially if you are going to bundle up the whole family for the outing.

Dates and times a Christmas tree farm will be open.
It pays to check ahead. Many Christmas tree farms post their hours on their websites or social media. Photo by Peterson’s Riverview Nursery, LLC.

Shop early for the best selection. Like any other product, the earlier you look for a tree, the better selection you’ll find. Most tree lots and farms open the day before or the day after Thanksgiving.

Be flexible on Christmas tree species. Back to the ice cream analogy, your favorite brand might be gone for the moment, but there are still other ones to choose from. It’s the same with Christmas trees. Can’t find a Fraser fir on the lot? Try a concolor fir or a Canaan fir. You may start a new tradition. Can’t find a 7-footer? A 6-foot tree might be easier to set up. Or buy an 8-footer and trim a little off the bottom.


Be prepared to look at other farms and retail outlets. As we get closer to Christmas, some individual lots or farms may sell out of trees. Sometimes, consumers are frustrated to be told a tree farm is sold out but see remaining trees in the fields. We need to bear in mind that it takes around 8 years (or more) to grow a Christmas tree. Therefore, growers need to stagger their harvests and can only cut 1/8 (or less) of their trees in a given year to have trees for sale next year and beyond.

A sign placed in front of many Christmas trees that says "Not for sale, next year's trees."
Tree farms need to stagger their harvests in order to have a steady supply of trees for future harvests. Photo by Bert Cregg, MSU.

Use a web locator to find farms or lots near you. The Michigan Christmas Tree Association and the Real Tree Promotion Board have interactive maps to help find tree farms and tree lots near your location.

More information on selecting and caring for your Christmas tree from MSU Extension


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