Betty Adelman is the owner of Heritage Flower Farm, an award-winning nursery in Mukwonago, Wis., specializing in ornamental heirloom plants.

This article applies to:



Christmas Conifers for Containers
by Betty Adelman    

Golden foliage on this ‘Golden Mop’ false cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Golden Mop’) can deck any hall for Christmas.

‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ Korean fir (Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’) fir is as easy to grow as it is beautiful.

Blue concolor fir (Abies concolor) is beginning to be available as a cut Christmas tree but small ones look outstanding in pots.

Dragon’s eye Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’) is itself a Christmas present.

Save that tree from the New Year’s rubbish heap. Buy a potted or ball-and-burlap tree, bring it inside for Christmas and then plant it outside afterwards. It’s a three-fer: you feel virtuous by not disposing of a carbon sink; you get a tree for the holidays and then in your yard for years to come. A live tree perfumes the air with that iconic pine fragrance that artificial trees lack and eliminates messy needle drop and fire hazards of drying cut trees.

Best of all, because the tree’s a keeper, it’s an opportunity to pick special kinds not available as cut conifers. Here are a few exceptional evergreens to consider.

Korean fir ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’ (Abies koreana ‘Horstmann’s Silberlocke’), Zones 5 to 7, matures to 15 feet tall and 8 feet wide. Grow it in sun and well-drained soil. Its glaucous needles encircle the stems and curve up to reveal their silver bottoms. Cones, blue-violet when young, punctuate its high style.

Blue concolor fir (Abies concolor), Zones 4 to 7, is a native of the Western U.S. It bears flattened blue-green needles that sweep skyward. It grows up to 50 feet tall and 20 feet wide in sun and most any soil except clay. Crushed needles emit the fragrance of fresh oranges instead of pine.

Dragon’s eye Japanese red pine (Pinus densiflora ‘Oculus Draconis’), Zones 4 through 7, have alternating yellow and green zebra-like bands on needles that stand out in any landscape. Variegation on the 3- to 5-inch long needles is especially prominent in fall. The contrasting rust and grey scale-like bark adds to the picture. This 50 foot tall by 20 foot wide pine grows slowly in sun to part shade and well-drained soil.

How To Do It

  • Pick a healthy tree that is hardy at a nursery, giving consideration to your ability to move its weight. Dirt around the roots will be heavy and the bigger the roots, and more dirt, the better.
  • For the first 5 to 7 days at home, protect the tree from freezing temperatures by putting it in a garage or breezeway or insulating the roots. Water the roots to keep them moist, not wet.
  • Once inside the house, place the tree in a cooler location (away from heat sources) with exposure to sun. The cool location is very important to prevent the tree from budding out.
  • If the evergreen does not have glaucous needles, you may spray now with an antidessicant. This will help prevent it from drying out after you plant it outside in frozen dirt when the roots cannot take up water.
  • Protect the floor by putting the root ball or pot in a container that will not leak.
  • Water the roots as needed to keep them moist but not wet.
  • Choose a location to plant the tree outside giving consideration to the tree’s ultimate height and width in relation to its distance from other objects such as buildings, other trees and overhead wires.
  • Dig a hole (before the ground freezes) the depth of the root ball or pot and 2 to 3 times the width of the ball or pot.
  • Save the excavated dirt in a place that will not freeze to use as backfill when the tree is planted.
  • Keep the tree inside no more than 10 days.
  •  Take the tree outside to a protected location to acclimate it to the cooler weather for 5 to 7 days. Keep the roots moist, as needed.
  • Plant the tree using the same principles as planting any tree.
  • Apply mulch keeping it away from the trunk and water it well.
  • The roots will not be able to grow until spring making it advisable to stake the tree and spray it with an antidessicant (if you have not already).

These steps require some planning but are not difficult and will give you a Christmas tree all year long and for many years to come.

Photography by Mary Dalton


Posted: 12/03/12   RSS | Print


Share this story on:
Facebook       Twitter            

Other People Are Reading