While I was gardening

The art of gardening and the science of life.

Conifers in Containers – A Good Fit

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Photography by Plumb Pixel Photography, Terri Johnson, Owner


Container gardening is many things: an outlet for creativity, a way to successfully grow plants not adapted to your area, a season-extender, enjoyable, and potentially expensive (but isn’t all gardening?).  Over the years I’ve grown a wide variety of plants in containers with varying degrees of success, but in recent years I’ve settled on two primary plant groups for my container gardening – succulents, and dwarf conifers.

At this time, I have two conifers in containers and have had tremendous success with both.  The first, Chamaecyparis thyoides, ‘Red Star’, has been in the same container for 5 years, with root-pruning done at year 3.  This gorgeous little tree loves water which is why I keep it in a container. (My garden soil is too sandy and I don’t water enough to keep it in the landscape.)  This trees’ most significant aspect is the beautiful purple/red cast in winter, intensified by sustained cold weather.  At this writing the little columnar-shaped tree is almost 3 feet in height and about 35 inches around at its widest, tapering to a gentle, narrow point.  As it will remain in the container with root-pruning every 3 years, its size will remain small and compact.  It grows successfully in full sun – just remember to keep it well watered.

Cham thyoides, 'Red Star' 0005Cham thyoides, 'Red Star' 0018

The second conifer I grow in a container is Chamaecyparis obtusa, ‘Mariesii’.  This is a beautifully variegated, true dwarf conifer prefers to be grown in partial shade, protected from afternoon or reflected sun.  Bright yellow/white tips are interspersed throughout the foliage.  Its shape is not especially symmetrical or uniform, but information states that this plant will become more symmetrical as it grows.  I have grown it for 2 1/2 years at this writing and have found no problems with it, and it appears to be more drought tolerant (as long as it receives afternoon shade) than most trees in its genus.

If you are looking for a focal point for a shady part of your garden, I recommend this lovely, lacy little tree!

Cham obtusa 'Mariesii' 0008Cham obtusa 'Mariesii' 0021




Author: dphare2014

Horticulturist, Lead Steward Carkeek Park Demonstration Gardens, Author

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