Right Conifer, Right Place


Conifers come in all shapes and sizes from dwarf conifers for containers and pots, to conifers that can be used for screening and structure as a well established hedge.

Container Growing

They may not seem the obvious choice but dwarf conifers live happily alongside other plants in containers, or by themselves as specimens. They are a particularly good idea for year round colour on patios and useful with winter and early spring flowerers, which can then be swapped for summer annuals. Try experimenting with shapes. For example, a prostrate conifer with some taller bulbs or a small pyramidal conifer with something more 'relaxed'. Examples include:

  • Picea glauca 'Alberta Globe'
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Ellwood's Gold'
  • Juniperus communis 'Compressa'
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Springtime'
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Snow White'
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Ellwood's Pillar'

Rockery and water features

Conifers are excellent planted by water features as the strong shapes of their foliage make wonderful reflections in the water and they don't lose their leaves into it. Use prostrate varieties to cover up the edges of your pond liner.

In the rockery, dwarf and prostrate conifers both have a place, particularly as they provide good weed cover and have so many varieties of shape and colour.

Examples for ponds include:

  • Thuja orientalis 'Aurea Nana'
  • Juniperus x media pfitzeriana 'Aurea'

Examples for rockeries include:

  • Juniperus x media 'Gold Coast'
  • Thuja orientalis 'Aurea Nana'
  • Juniperus horizontalis 'Golden Carpet'
  • Juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'
  • Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Pygmaea Argentea'

Screening and hedging

Conifers are a popular choice for hiding an ugly feature such as an oil tank or a garage, not least because they will do the job the whole year round. They also make good hedges and some types can even be clipped into topiary shapes given time. Examples include:

  • Thuja plicata
  • X Cupressocyparis 'Leylandii'
  • X Cupressocyparis 'Castlewellan'
  • Taxus baccata
  • Chamaecyparis 'Lawson Cypress'
  • Cupressus 'Cypress'

X Cupressocyparis 'Leylandii' may have received a bad press in the last few years, but they are extremely useful and if kept under control, will never get out of hand.

They offer very quick cover-up jobs and can easily reach 3 metres (10ft) high and 1.2 metres (4ft) wide in five years. They come in a variety of different colours ranging from Castlewellan (yellow) to Robinson's Gold (lemon yellow).


Soil preparation for all types of conifers is important and a hole not less than 1m (3ft) across and 23cm (9in) deep should be dug when planting. Add suitable organic material such as garden compost, well-rotted farm manure or spent mushroom compost and mix in before filling around the plant’s roots.

Watering and Feeding

The danger time for establishment of all newly planted conifers is April, May and June it is important to keep a regular check on watering in dry weather watering both foliage and soil. Feeding annually each April with Dried Blood will increase the growth rate but more importantly enhance the colour of the foliage.

Keeping them under control

  • Cut them in an 'A' shape once a year and they will never get out of control.
  • Make sure you do this regular trim but don't cut back to the wood, as it will damage the plants.

List of most popular conifers and their uses

  • Thuja (Arbor Vitae) - ornamental and hedges
  • Juniperus (Juniper) - different types can be used in borders, rockeries and containers.
  • Taxus (Yew) - ornamental, hedges and topiary.
  • Picea (Spruce) - different types can be used in borders, rockeries and as specimen plants.
  • X Cupressocyparis 'Leylandii' (Leyland Cypress) - fast growing, great for hedging and hiding unsightly features.

What you'll need


  • Secateurs
  • Fork and spade
  • Stakes (if necessary)

Shopping list

  • Conifer(s) of your choice
  • Bonemeal /dried blood
  • Well-rotted farmyard manure or other planting material
  • Pots  and compost (if using drawf conifers)
  • Watering can
  • Mulch




Choosing The Right Conifer

10 Things You Didn't Know About Conifers