Issue: November 18, 2006

Can I grow a spruce tree from Rockefeller Center Christmas tree? | Fungus gnats on bonsai fig tree.

Can I grow a spruce tree from Rockefeller Center Christmas tree?


I visited Rockefeller Center in New York City on Friday, November 10th, to attend the Radio City Christmas Spectacular. The Rockefeller Center Christmas tree had just arrived, and small samples of branches were being given out to folks passing by. I was fortunate to take home a 12-inch cutting with 2 offshoots. It is now in water on my kitchen windowsill and doing very well. I would like very much to grow it into a new tree. Would you please advise me as to the most successful method? Thank you very much!

Maria S.


This year's Christmas tree at Rockefeller Center is a Norway spruce. Spruce (as well as pines and firs) are often very difficult or impossible to start from cuttings under home conditions. The Norway spruce can sometimes be more easily started from cuttings but according to my research, it is best if the trees are young and growing vigorously. Special propagating environments (greenhouses, high concentration rooting hormone solutions, mist propagation beds, acid sand, and bottom-heat) may be necessary for success. Another consideration is that many conifers experience "plagiotropism" - a horizontally growing branch used to make new plants will produce horizontally growing new plants. The new "tree" may appear more like a ground-cover.

It would be easier to start a new spruce from seeds or by grafting a desired cultivar onto a seedling. If you had gotten a cone with seeds in it you would have had a better chance. If you have a spruce tree on which you could try grafting this special branch, you might have success. However, this is not the proper time of year for grafting. Root formation on the cutting kept in water is extremely unlikely. However, by placing the cutting in water, you have increased the time that you can keep this special remembrance of the Rockefeller Center Spectacular fresh and attractive.

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Fungus gnats on bonsai fig tree.


We gave our secretary a bonsai fig plant for her birthday. She recently noticed that it has tiny flies. How do you get rid of them? They seem to disappear if the soil is dry.

Elena B.


You have described fungus gnats. These are small insects whose larvae feed on fungus and plant roots of potted plants. They need moist soil to prosper, hence their disappearance when the soil is dry. They reappear when the soil is moistened. They may be treated by drenching the potting soil with a solution containing a Bacillus thuringinesis product labeled to control gnats. These bacteria make a toxin that paralyzes the stomach of the gnat larvae and causes them to stop feeding and eventually die. The adults may be attracted to yellow sticky traps (a modern form of fly paper) hung in windows or other bright locations. The adult gnats will get stuck in the adhesive on the trap and cease to be a nuisance flying around the home.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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