Dwarf Alberta spruce trees (Picea glauca Conica) are often grown in large ornamental pots (such as whiskey barrels), although there are some drawbacks in growing them this way. The genus that they belong to is known as a group of plants that is best suited to cooler climates, so those of you who garden in the South may wonder if you, too are able to grow these popular specimens. The answer is a qualified "Yes," but the extra landscape maintenance may not be worth it for you. We will first consider these two issues (growing them in pots and growing them in hot climates) separately.
Pros of Growing This Spruce as a Potted Plant
It is a widespread practice to grow dwarf Alberta spruce trees in containers, and the following short list of pros will give some reasons why:
- For containers, you have to narrow your selection down to dwarf trees (the larger types would not be well suited to containers). Even dwarf Alberta spruce trees can become 12 feet tall and will eventually outgrow most containers, but only after many years have elapsed; they stay short for a very long time. An example of another safe choice is dwarf Japanese white pine (Pinus parviflora).
- Their shape is also compact, which lends itself to growth in containers in strategic places. You do not want to grow a tree next to a doorway, for example, that will be sending off a shoot here and a shoot there. Such shoots will be in the way, and you will have to take the trouble to trim them off.
- Few other evergreens match their beauty. Their needles are small (3/4 inch long) and tightly-packed. The effect is an appealingly "fuzzy" look.
- Their needles are fragrant, which is a nice bonus to enjoy in a plant that you will be walking past every day.
With all of these points in their favor, take advantage of potted dwarf Alberta spruce trees and use them in the following ways:
- Their conical shape makes them ideal outdoor Christmas trees for a front entry. Place one on either side of the door, on your porch. Many people using them for this purpose decorate them with red bows, Christmas ornaments, etc.
- Install a pair to flank the beginning of a garden walkway. The symmetry created by the pair will draw the eye to the spot, helping visitors to become oriented and making it easier for them to navigate your property.
- In or out of a container, Dwarf Alberta spruce tree is a good choice for a cemetery plant because it does not require much maintenance and has a naturally tidy appearance.
Cons of Growing This Spruce as a Potted Plant
It will be a challenge to give this little conifer 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. Compare the amount of soil a container-grown plant has to the amount one has that is planted in the ground. The latter has much more. 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 a dry climate. 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).
Growing Dwarf Alberta Spruce in Hot Climates
If you live in a place such as California or Florida, you may have some trouble growing dwarf Alberta spruce trees. They are best suited to regions that fall within USDA planting zones 3 to 8. They generally dislike the heat and/or humidity of zones higher than that.
Their dislike for warmer climates does, however, suggest another benefit of growing dwarf Alberta spruce trees 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 tree into a shady location.
But following this regimen means a lot of extra work for you. You will have to decide what means more to you: Growing this particular specimen or keeping your yard low-maintenance. You may well decide that a better option for you is growing plants better suited to your region, such as palm trees.