Conifer plants tend to shine in the wintertime, whether they are in containers or in the landscape. Although most are stately and towering, dwarf conifers are smaller, often slower-growing than the species and are somewhat more practical for growing in pots or for smaller, urban gardens. Their evergreen presence can offer bold texture or have a softening effect, depending on the selection.
A great use for dwarf conifers is to pot them in containers for one or two seasons before graduating them to a spot in your garden. Some varieties would even make excellent living Christmas trees to be brought indoors for a bit during the holidays before returning outside.
The beauty of a conifer is not in its flowers. Some have brightly colored, new spring growth, while others change colors when exposed to winter temperatures. Needle colors may be green, golden, blue-gray, or even variegated. Some have upright, narrow shapes; others may be low-mounding or semi-weeping. As you can see, with such variety, there is likely a dwarf conifer that is perfect for your next planting project, just waiting for you to come find it!
To give you more ideas, here are a few of our favorite dwarf conifers:
Cupressus macrocarpa ‘Wilma Goldcrest’ (Lemon Cypress): One of our most popular choices for its bright yellow, feather-soft and lemon-scented foliage; moderate grower with a narrow, upright habit to 6–8 feet fall by 3 feet wide; brightest color is in full sun and plants need regular watering and well-draining soil.
Taxus standishii: This Yew is upright and slow-growing to about 7 feet tall by 3 feet wide over time; its golden-green foliage color holds well year-round, with best color in full to partial sun; occasional red berries in fall/winter are colorful, but toxic, if eaten.
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Van Pelt’s Blue’: Another upright, narrow selection, this false cypress has stunning powder-blue, feathery foliage and a slow-growth rate to 10–15 feet tall by 3 feet wide; best color in full sun or partial shade; needs excellent drainage.
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana ‘Snow White’: Soft, gray-green foliage has white tips in spring and a columnar shape over time; very slow-growing to about 4 feet tall by 2 feet wide in 10 years; best color in full sun or light shade; needs excellent drainage.
Cryptomeria japonica ‘Black Dragon’: Japanese cedar type with dark-green, almost black needles that grow in shapes that may resemble a dragon to those with vivid imaginations; slow, upright and rounded habit to about 10 feet tall by 6 feet wide in 10 years; best in full sun or light shade with some wind protection.
Tsuga canadensis ‘Golden Duchess’ and ‘Golden Duke’: Graceful arching branches and a low, mounding form with bright golden new growth and subtle gold-green color in summer; ‘Golden Duchess’ grows to about 3–4 feet tall by 3–5 feet wide; ‘Golden Duke’ can be more upright to 6–10 feet tall by 2–3 feet wide; best color is in full sun or bright filtered light, but may burn in intense, hot conditions.
Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Mariesii’: Fine, lacy foliage looks almost frosted with creamy, speckled variegation; best in full sun or light shade; early habit is upright, but mounding over time to 4 feet tall by 3 feet wide.
Photos from Monrovia