Last year, issues ranging from robust demand to labor shortages and a lack of mature crops conspired to push Christmas tree prices up and drive availability down. 

This year? "It's going to be even worse," said Andrew Vultaggio, who owns AV Tree Farms Inc. and grows his own trees in Michigan. "Last year, I said, 'That was the low of the lows.' I didn't expect this year to be so bad."

Christmas tree growers and dealers said consumers should shop early and be prepared to travel further and spend more than they have in the past — and be willing to explore alternate options if their dream trees aren't available.

Matt Frost, who owns Urban Roots Garden Center in the Irish Channel, said that for the first time in the shop's 10-year history, they wouldn't stock Christmas trees due to "skyrocketing" prices and a 1,100-tree order minimum from his supplier. He's suggesting cypress trees, boxwoods, and Norfolk pines to his customers as alternatives to the popular Fraser firs.

"Customers who have only gotten their trees here for ten years are obviously super bummed, but they're understanding," Frost said. "They're trying to figure out where they can get Christmas trees. Some garden centers are going to get overwhelmed."

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