Small yards often do not leave space for large, ornate and formal evergreen gardens. However, there is room on every deck, patio or porch for a few pots of various sizes. As a bonus, proximity to the house makes watering, weeding and fertilizing so easy.
You can grow just about anything in a pot; however dwarf or slow growing plants will last longer before outgrowing their space. In the past few years dedicated growers have been selecting and producing many dwarf conifers that are ideal for container culture. Single plants can be surrounded by annuals that can be swapped out with the change of the seasons. Several can be grouped in one pot, or you can even create an elaborate miniature landscape or fairy garden. Chamaecyparis, juniper, pine, cryptomeria and hemlock do fine in our climate. Fir and spruce struggle a little in our heat and humidity, but with the good drainage provided in a pot and a little shade from the heat of the day they are definitely worth a try. Since most conifers don’t have a particularly large root system they group well together.
Suitable containers include glazed, terra cotta or fiberglass pots, stone and faux stone troughs or wooden planters. However pretty much anything that holds soil can be used as a planter, even found items such as old shoes. Drainage is the most important feature of a container. It must drain well or your plants will die a sad and ugly death. The size of the plant should be in scale with the size of the pot: big plants in small pots look awkward; small plants in big planters are lost. Dwarf slow growing plants can be grown in shallow bowls and small containers, but remember that these will dry out rapidly in hot sun and even the most drought tolerant plants will suffer. As a rule of thumb, larger containers are better for very hot areas as they offer the plants’ roots some protection and dry out more slowly. Glazed and fiberglass pots do not dry out as quickly as wood or terra cotta. Fill your container with a high quality potting mix such as Metro Mix 360 or Daddy Pete’s Potting Mix. Miracle Gro Potting Soil works well too.
The basic container formula – Thrill; Fill; Spill – works for a mixed dwarf conifer planting as well as it does for mixed annuals. For instance, a narrow upright Alberta Spruce like Jean’s Dilly, a fluffy chamaecyparis like Blue Feathers and a groundcover juniper such as Mother Lode will make a colorful and interesting year round show. Tuck in some tiny annual flowers and spiky little sweet flag for additional color and variety.
Your conifer container will require very little care beyond water and fertilizer. Nutrients wash out of the soil quickly so a slow release fertilizer such as Osmocote is ideal. Most will need minimal pruning. When eventually their roots become too crowded they can be moved into a larger pot or up to one third of the roots can be pruned and they can be returned to the same pot. Plants can be maintained for years in this fashion. Think Japanese Bonsai. It is the same principal.
In addition to our wide selection of large conifers, we have a great selection of miniature conifers that have just arrived, so stop by and see us. We will be glad to help you put together something special and unique.