Dwarf Conifers Add Landscaping Interest

A conifer is a plant that bears its seeds in cones. Most of the familiar ones (such as spruce, pine, and hemlock) are evergreens, although a few (larch, dawn redwood, ginkgo) are deciduous. But what is a dwarf conifer…why would you want to grow one…and are they easy to grow? Here are the answers to those common questions:

What are dwarf conifers?

In simple terms, a dwarf conifer is a slower-growing version of the more familiar full-size species. The American Conifer Society classifies dwarf conifers as those that grow 3 to 6 inches per year, reaching a maximum size of 6 to 15 feet after 10 to 15 years.

Why plant them?

Particularly with the smaller lot sizes of many new houses, many home gardeners don’t have room for evergreens that will grow to 20 feet high and 12 feet wide or larger. Dwarf conifers allow you to maintain the proper scale of your plantings over the years. Because dwarf conifers come in a wide variety of shapes and a range of colors, you can find plants that will fit almost anywhere in your landscape. They are especially attractive planted in combination with ornamental grasses or flowering perennials.

Shapes include globular, narrow or broad upright, weeping, and prostrate. Colors include a range of greens from light to dark as well as yellow, blue, and purple. There are also a variety of different types of needles, from short and tight to long and feathery.

Are they easy to grow?

Dwarf conifers can be planted any time of the year when the ground isn’t frozen, although summer plantings will require more follow-up watering. For best results, mix organic matter with the native soil when planting. Garden soil for trees & shrubs will provide quality organic matter, and it’s fortified with plant food to feed for up to 3 months.

Since most conifers prefer a slightly acidic growing environment, it’s a good idea to use a plant food specially formulated for acid-loving plants for follow-up feedings Other than feeding and watering, dwarf conifers require very little maintenance. They almost never need to be pruned, divided, or sprayed. The plant will simply grow slowly into the shape for which you selected it.