Caring For Conifers In Containers: Growing Conifers In Pots

Nursery Of Potted Conifer Trees
(Image credit: Alexnow)

Planting a conifer tree in a container has so many benefits. A gardener with limited space can place a potted conifer on the patio or porch and it’s easy to offer the tree the ideal soil. While it’s difficult to grow a full-size tree in a pot, it’s easy when you use dwarf conifers for containers.

If you are interested in growing small trees in pots, read on. We’ll tell you the best conifers for this purpose and how to take care of them once they are in containers.

Dwarf Conifers for Containers

Conifers are trees that bear cones to hold their seeds. They are excellent landscape plants, adding subtle shades and interesting shapes as well as textural contrast. But pines and spruce trees are too big for many yards. That’s why you may need to pick dwarf conifers.

Never heard of dwarf conifers? They are conifers that are bred to stay smaller than the species normally does. True dwarf conifers are some 1/20th of the regular conifer size. They grow only about a few inches (8 cm.) every year and, over the first ten years of their life, they may reach 6 feet (2m.) tall. 

Potted Conifers in the Garden

There are several ways to lay out a garden that include potted conifers. Many gardeners use a potted cypress tree or potted cedar trees as a backdrop for flowers in containers. It’s equally possible to use only dwarf conifers to create a miniature landscape.

Both potted cypress and cedar trees work well in these designs. Arborvitae in pots mix well with the conifers. Potted cypress tree care is not difficult. These container conifers should be left outside all winter. Each type of conifer will have its specific needs but most require full sun, well-draining soil and adequate water. They do not require fertilizer. 

Specific Dwarf Conifer Recommendations

Try one of the Hinoki cypress (Chaemacyparis obtusa 'Compacta') cultivars, like 'Golden Sprite,' a dwarf golden Hinoki-cypress, or 'Mariesii' variegated golden Hinoki-cypress.

 For arborvitae in pots, consider one of the small Thuja available like Thuja occidentalis Hetz Midget or Thuja occidentalis Teddy. For potted cedar trees, look at Weeping Blue Atlas Cedar (Cedrus atlantica ‘Glauca').

Teo Spengler

Teo Spengler has been gardening for 30 years. She is a docent at the San Francisco Botanical Garden. Her passion is trees, 250 of which she has planted on her land in France.