Home Gardening Center Tip Sheet: Conifers in Container Plantings

By Sonia Uyterhoeven

·· Container Gardening ··

Conifers in Container Plantings

Many dwarf conifers make excellent container plants. When choosing a conifer to grow in a container, look for slow-growing plants (1 to 6 inches per year). Also, pay attention to the shape of the conifer--spreading conifers may not be suitable for containers, while mounding or upright forms can make beautiful additions to your container garden.

- Choose a container that is at least 4 to 6 inches wider than the container the conifer came in.

- People generally place pieces of broken terra cotta pots over and around the drainage hole to prevent the holes from clogging. If you are want to increase the weight of the container you can fill approximately 1/10 the size of the planter with small stones. Weight at the bottom of the container is important as conifers can become top heavy and blow over in strong winds.

- Add a small amount of soil-based mix to the container. Use a combination of soil-based mix and sharp sand (3:1-1/2 or 3:2 ratio) for good drainage.

- Gently loosen the roots of the conifer with a hand fork or your fingers.

- Place the conifer in the container making sure that there is a space of 1 inch between the rim of the container and the soil mixture.

- Add the rest of the soil mix to the container and water the plant well.

- Add a layer of fine gravel (grit) or mulch to prevent water evaporation.

Most dwarf conifers can remain in the same container for several years. Conifers can be planted as a specimen in a container, or you can create a miniature landscape with a variety of containers. For city dwellers, pines and junipers fare well in more exposed sites. Choose a heavy container such as terra-cotta or a wooden barrel to give the plant stability.

When choosing a conifer at a garden center, remember that container-grown conifers tend to do better than conifers bought as root-balled plants. The latter was grown in the ground and contains soil organisms that may lead to problems in the confines of a small container.

Feed conifers during the summer with an all-purpose fertilizer; slow-release fertilizers tend to be the most efficient. Remember to water your container regularly so that it does not dry out. During excessively hot spells, mist the foliage in the evening to prevent the needles from dropping out.

Suitable Container Conifers

Dwarf Golden Hinoki-cypress - Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Golden Sprite
Variegated Hinoki-cypress - Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Mariesii'
Dwarf Hinoki-cypress - Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana Gracilis'
Golden Hinoki-cypress - Chamaecyparis obtusa 'Tsatsumi Gold'
Dwarf Threadleaf Sawara-cypress - Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Filifera Aurea Nana'
Miniature Sawara-cypress - Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Tama-himuro'
Dwarf Blue Colorado Spruce - Picea pungens 'R.H. Montgomery'
Dwarf Mountain Pine - Pinus mugo 'Honeycomb'
Dwarf Mountain Pine - Pinus mugo 'Paul’s Dwarf'
Dwarf Mountain Pine - Pinus mugo 'Pot o’ Gold'
Dwarf Eastern White Pine - Pinus strobus 'Coney Island'
Miniature Eastern White Pine - Pinus strobus 'Sea Urchin'
Dwarf American Arborvitae - Thuja occidentalis 'Hetz Midget'
Miniature American Arborvitae - Thuja occidentalis 'Teddy'
Dwarf Eastern Hemlock - Tsuga canadensis 'Jervis'

Suitable Companion Plants for Containers

Dwarf Japanese Maple - Acer palmatum 'Kamagata'
Semi-Dwarf Japanese Maple - Acer palmatum 'Koto no ito'
Semi-Dwarf Japanese Maple - Acer palmatum 'Shaina'
Dwarf Japanese Maple - Acer palmatum 'Sharp’s pygmy'
Cotoneaster - Cotoneaster apiculata 'Tom Thumb'
Cotoneaster - Cotoneaster buxifolius 'Nana'
Cotoneaster - Cotoneaster dammeri 'Strieb's Findling'
Carol Mackie Daphne - Daphne burkwoodi 'Carol Mackie'
Buttercup Winterhazel - Corylopsis pauciflora
Boxwood - Buxus microphylla ‘Koreana'
Boxwood - Buxus sempervirens 'Vardar Valley'
Japanese Holly - Ilex crenata 'Soft Touch'
Dwarf Mountain Laurel - Kalmia latifolia 'Elf'
Dwarf Mountain Laurel - Kalmia latifolia 'Little Linda'
Dwarf Mountain Laurel - Kalmia latifolia 'Sarah'
Dwarf Mountain Laurel - Kalmia latifolia 'Tiddlywinks'

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·· Container Gardening ··

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