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Pinus densiflora 'Umbraculifera'

One of the most frequently asked questions is, "what is a dwarf conifer?" To clear up some of the confusion, here's a simple guide to use:

To explain this let me start with the last part first. A conifer is a plant which bears its seeds in cones. Some examples would be the pines, spruces and hemlocks. Almost all of the conifers have needles which they keep for at least one year (hence the name evergreen), but a few are deciduous (Larix, Metasequoia, Taxodium, Pseudolarix). That was the easy part. Now lets tackle the tough one. What is a dwarf? This is where the confusion starts. Technically speaking a dwarf is simply a slower growing version of the species. You could conceivably have a dwarf 18-20 feet tall. A good example of this would be the white pine (Pinus strobus), which will mature at around one hundred feet tall. The dwarf white pine (Pinus strobus 'Nana') will reach about 18 feet high after many, many years. But it is still considered a dwarf because it is so much smaller than the species. Some dwarf conifers, like Pinus mugo 'Mops', will attain no more than 3 feet in height and width in 50 years. The difference between 3 and 18 feet is substantial and each plant must be placed in an appropriate location. A plant 18 feet high and 12 feet wide just wouldn't do next to your front door. So basically, a dwarf conifer is just a much slower grower than the species. How much slower? I'm afraid that just depends on the particular cultivar.

The above is part of an article on the web at The Garden Web.

We have adopted the annual growth rate standards of the American Conifer Society. (This is that annoying scrolling thing on the right side) These standards take in to consideration that growth rates vary in different locations in the country due to climate, geographical location, moisture and soil type. This is only to be used as a rough guide, your growth may differ, but it should prove to be very helpful in picking specific plants for the tough location. The standards should simplify the confusion about what is a dwarf and what to expect from your plant on the future years.

Please prune the dwarf Blue Spruce to return to the top.

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All photos copyright by Jim Smith and may not be used in any manner without the authors written consent.


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