When it came to buying a Christmas tree in Houston it paid off to procrastinate.
Prices, already high last year, jumped further this year as retailers sought to lock in supplies despite increases spurred by skyrocketing fertilizer and fuel costs. But that strategy appears to have overestimated demand, leaving many tree sellers with stock they are now hustling to sell down before the holiday passes and glorious trees become plain old mulch.
In a survey of wholesale Christmas tree growers across the U.S., every grower surveyed said that the cost of growing and selling Christmas trees has gone up from last year, according to the Real Christmas Tree Board, an industry research group. As a result, more than 70 percent said they increased their prices from 5 percent to 15 percent, and another 16 percent said price increases would be even higher.
That held true in Texas, where Stan Reed, executive secretary of the Texas Christmas Tree Growers Association, said fuel and fertilizer fed the increases. There are only about 150 farms in Texas that can grow varieties of pines, cypress and red cedar that are used as Christmas trees, according to Reed. Other popular trees, such as fir and spruce, are imported from North Carolina, Michigan, Oregon and Wisconsin.
Reed said a seller importing 600 trees from Oregon paid $10,000 this year, compared to about $6,000 last year, making each tree just under $7 more expensive to import.
Buying from farms or lots that source from within the state may be cheaper, but even at those locations the increased price of fertilizer has tacked on an additional costs to be passed on to consumers. Global fertilizer costs have soared over the past year, rising 80 percent in 2021 and another 30 percent in the first half of 2022, according to the World Bank.
But while those higher prices were passed along to shoppers earlier in the season, many Houston tree sellers have launched deep discounts in the past week or so. At Houston Garden Centers, which has more than 20 locations around Houston, Christmas trees are half off. And Buchanan’s Native Plants in the Heights started giving away trees Monday.
Those free trees are first-come, first-served, so don’t wait too much longer. There were some drought-related issues last year that also contributed to a tight tree supply and more incentive to stock up for this year. However we got here, if you’ve been holding out to wait for a bargain, this is your time. I hope your kids forgive you for making them wait.