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Landon Gray of Cardinal Christmas tree lot in Mount Pleasant expects Thanksgiving weekend and the first weekend in December to be the busiest periods for selling trees this year. He said the lot sold 30 trees on Sunday alone last weekend, more than he expected. Leroy Burnell/Staff

A lot more Christmas trees are expected to make their way from lots to living rooms this year.

Sales for the more than $2 billion fresh-cut tree market are projected to be jollier than ever, based on early indications from national, state and local industry officials.

"From everything I'm hearing, growers are going to sell all the trees they have available, and it's going to be a very good season," said Tim O'Connor, executive director of the National Christmas Tree Association.

He attributed the expected jump in sales to a growing economy and a tighter supply of trees since fewer were planted after the last recession. That's helped growers maintain a profit and not over-plant.

Mother Nature also helped this year.

"Most of the major growing regions had good growing weather," O'Connor said. "It's going to be a good year for Christmas tree growers across the nation."

Last year, sales of farm-grown Christmas trees soared 55 percent over 2015 to $2.04 billion, based on the association's annual consumer survey. More than 27 million trees sold at an average mean price of $75. At the same time, sales of artificial trees also grew 117 percent to $1.86 billion. That's up drastically from the previous year's 28.2 percent plunge. Nearly 18.6 million fake trees sold at an average mean price of $99 last year.

The green movement and the improved economy helped to boost sales for both types of trees, according to industry officials.

Oregon is the nation's No. 1 Christmas tree producer, ahead of North Carolina.

South Carolina is way down the list, with 35,000 or so trees, compared to Oregon's nearly 6.5 million and North Carolina's 4.3 million, based on the latest figures compiled by the U.S. Department of Agriculture from 2012. Figures are updated every five years.

Almost all of the tree farms in South Carolina are choose-and-cut, where holiday shoppers select a growing tree and have it cut to take home, according to Steve Penland, a grower in York County and secretary of the S.C. Christmas Tree Association.

"Our sales are expected to be extremely strong," Penland said. "We have had such an increase in population in our county adjacent to Charlotte. There is development all around us."

Penland's 60-acre tree farm has been selling the centerpiece holiday decoration since 1966. Last year, he sold about 3,000 trees and expects that number to jump this year.

"We can't grow enough trees," he said. "Our sales keep going up and up."

He attributed the growth in sales not only to the population and the economy but to children who have now grown up and want to relive the experience they had with their parents of visiting a farm and taking home a tree.

"It's a family tradition and a wholesome activity," Penland said.

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Kelly Brady searches for the perfect tree at a Cardinal Christmas tree lot to fit the 20-foot ceiling in her Mount Pleasant home. Leroy Burnell/Staff

About 80 percent of the trees sold in the Palmetto State will be selected the weekend after Thanksgiving and by Dec. 10.

Cold weather won't dampen sales, but rainy conditions will.

"If it's bad weather on Thanksgiving and the following two weekends, it hurts sales," said Kim Yerich, president of the state Christmas tree group. "But we can't control the weather."

Nearly four dozen farms in South Carolina are part of the state association, including Yerich's Lebanon Christmas Tree Farm near Ridgeville, which has been growing trees for more than 30 years.

"We had adequate rain this year and a crop that is really pretty," said Yerich of his 20-acre tree farm on Needle Lane.

He believes tree farmers across the state will have a very merry year.

"If we continue on the trend of the past five years, we should be up 5 to 10 percent over the year before," Yerich said. "Some farms could be up as much as 20 percent."

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Christmas tree lots began sprouting up across the Lowcountry in the lead up to Thanksgiving. Leroy Burnell/Staff

In addition to the growing economy and more people working, Yerich believes location plays a huge role in a tree farm's sales.

He said one grower in rural McCormick County has "beautiful trees," but the farm is not near a major population center and sales are often flat.

"We are lucky to be where we are," Yerich said of his farm on the outskirts of the thriving Charleston metro area.

His sales begin Thanksgiving afternoon and will run right up to Christmas.

"I've sold trees on Christmas morning," he said. "If military personnel just getting home want to come in at the last minute, I try to be very accommodating. I live here on the farm."

The owners of Booth Christmas Tree Farm near Conway expect sales to be bright, as well. They opened the weekend before Thanksgiving on the farm near Myrtle Beach.

"I'm hoping for at least a 10 percent increase," said Lauren Booth, who co-owns the family farm with her parents, Haley and Loretta Booth. "For the past few years, we have had at least a 5 percent increase. I even ordered more trees this year."

In addition to the six varieties grown on the family's 40-acre farm during the past 55 years, Booth placed an order for close to 1,300 Fraser firs from the Appalachians of North Carolina. She sold close to 600 trees on the family's choose-and-cut farm last year.

Most tree farms offer hay rides and other family-friendly events to make the tree-search outing memorable.

Those owned by Yerich and Booth are no exception.

They will also offer activities, such as Santa letter-writing for children, Christmas movies and a food truck. Santa himself might even make an appearance.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 843-937-5524. Follow him on Twitter @warrenlancewise.