A Landscaping reader emailed me with the following question regarding growing a dwarf Alberta spruce tree in a container:
"I received a dwarf Alberta spruce tree for Christmas, but I live in California on the coast (I believe in zone 9-10). Everything I read about these trees says they need to be in zones 3-8. What do I do differently to keep mine alive in a pot outside?"
Here's the answer I gave to this gardener:
Tips for Growing Dwarf Alberta Spruce in Containers
Growing a dwarf Alberta spruce in a pot in your area has a good side and a bad side. Here's how to do it, looking at the bad side first....
It'll be a challenge to give it the right amount of water. Too much water, and the tree will die. Providing good drainage (drain holes in the bottom of the pot, etc.) is a step in the right direction, but over-watering can still happen.
On the other hand, too little water can be just as much of a problem. Think about it: compare the amount of soil a container-grown plant has to the amount one has that's planted in the ground. The latter has much more, right? And the greater the amount of soil, the more water retention there will be. With relatively little soil around their roots to retain water, potted plants dry out quickly.
A container-grown plant will tend to dry out even more quickly in the dry climate in which you live. Even if you employ a soil-moisture meter (like those used for houseplants), it will still be a struggle to keep the soil evenly moist in the pot (which is your goal).
Now for the good side of growing dwarf Alberta spruces in containers....
Plants in pots can be moved. Take advantage of this mobility! During the middle hours of a hot day, move your dwarf Alberta spruce into a shady location. This is what you can "do differently" in your attempt to grow a zone 3-8 plant in zone 9 or 10.