Conifer plants are arboreous, gymnosperous seed plants which are spread across most of the planet. Due to their evergreen nature and ecological importance, gardeners and home owners around the world seek to grow these woody plants.
Some facts worth noting before choosing conifers includes;
- Although conifers provide the world with its tallest, largest and thickest trees, some, such as, Deodar cedar are dwarfs and would only reach a height of 2 -6 inches in about 10 years. The dwarf conifers are usually great for rockeries.
- Most conifers have long, needle-like leaves while some have flat, broad, strap shaped leaves. Their foliage showcases colours ranging from yellowish-green, brilliant yellow, orange, russet, cobalt blue, bluish green and reddish brown.
- Yes, they are evergreen trees but some exceptionally change colour through out season change.
Choosing Fast Growing Conifers
Strenghtened with information concerning the height, foliage and colour differences present among the different divisions of conifers is only enough to make decision concerning the growth rate, shades and privacy that works best for you.
For conifers that change colours through the season, ask soem additional questions regarding what shades you should expect. Some foliages change their colour plainly based on nutritional deficiencies so be sure to supply all the necessary needs.
However, more information is needed to make decisions that concerns the root system and structure of your preferred choice.
Conifers sold in nurseries are either grown on free ground or in a container. Field grown conifers are directly lifted from the ground and more likely to be root balled and may require more care than its counterpart.
Make sure the root balls are moist and do not have unfittingly large roots sticking out of the ball.
Containerised conifers are usually root bound because this method is customarily used control excessive growth. So it’d be necessary to tease the roots apart with your hand or hand fork before transplantation. Like its name implies conifers grown in containers are sold in a potting medium while conifers grown in the field are sold in a sacking.
Checking out for the plant’s branching is also important. Make sure it is able to stand uprightly without support from external forces. You wouldn’t want to have an awkwardly shaped tree/ shrub messing up the perfect image you have set for your garden.
The ability to mimic the requirements provided by the natural habitat of conifers in your garden is a great task. Most species cannot adapt in a condition different from what they were used to. The demands of two different species are greatly distinct so make sure to ask tons of questions concerning the specie purchased.
When to Plant Conifers
Remove your conifers from their outer packaging and Immediately plant in the soil. If you however, can’t plant inmediately, store in a frost-free, sun-free, cool and dry place. Moisten the soil occasionally by dunking in water to avoid drying out. Most conifers are best planted in early autumn is the best time to plant conifers so they would have enough time to establish themselves before the soil turns frosty due to winter. However, frost-proof conifers, such as Himalaya Cedar, they should be planted in early spring. Try to plant on an overclouded day as trees lose less water to transpiration on days like this.
Where to Plant Your Conifers
For proper growth, plant conifers in a well-drained, slightly acidic and organic-rich soil. Creation of raised beds can solve the problem of bad drainage. If you have problem with soil type, you should consider blending in a mixture of half ericaceous and half normal multi-purpose compost with the soil.
Never plant in compacted soil as this may prevent the roots from penetrating the ground around it. String cold wind may cause browning of the foliage so plant i n a sheltered location. You may invest in a shading rim to shield the plant from strong wind.
Most conifers prefer sunlight do try positioning them in the part of the garden that meet the lighting requirements.
How to Plant Conifers
Dig your planting hole to be as twice as wide as the diameter of the container and as deep as the depth of its previous casing. If the plant is rootbound, use a fork to tease the roots out to discontinue the habitual circling adopted in the container. However, rootballed plants should be placed in the hole intact.
Use a fork to break up any compact soil around the planting hole to secure the roots firmly in the ground. Briefly submerge the rootball in water to help moisturise the soil. To ensure that conifers feed properly underground, sprinkle symbionts such as mycorrhizal fungi around the sides.
While placing the rootball into the planting hole, make sure the trunk flare is at ground level to compensate for the tree settling. You can use a bamboo stick to check the depth of the planting hole.
After placing the plant in the hole, back fill with the dug out soil until the root crown is almost invisible. If possible, ask for help while backfilling so while you fill the hole with soil, the other person would hold the plant firmly in position. Ensure there are no air pockets during the backfilling process.
Firm the soil around the plant and if required, stake the plant so it is not rocking in the wind. Water the soil well enough and make sure the would is always well drained
Conifer General Care Tips
Conifers require regular watering within the first eighteen months of planting till their roots are completely established. Spray water using a connected hose twice or thrice a day when you notice dry ground. You may decrease watering during winter but you must exponentially increase watering during summer. During heat waves, you may consider installing an automatic irrigation system, however you must be careful with irrigation as they may cause over flooding which may lead to rotting of the root.
Conifers do not require much from the soil and can thrive even in poor soil but it wouldn’t hurt to help them grow healthily by providing the right nutrients to the soil. All plants need soil nutrients in nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium . Conifers may benefit from water soluble 10-10-10 or 16-8-8 garden fertiliser.
Early spring or late fall remains the best season to apply fertilisers. Slow release fertilisers is advisable as they supply all necessary nutrients within a reasonable time frame without interference. After breaking dormancy, conifers can be then be allowed to grow without feeding.
Typically, conifers should be allowed to move to determine their flexibility. For conifers with yet to be established roots system, it is advisable to install stakes at 45° angle so as to prevent wind rock which may lead to tearing of the root.
Mulching is important to provide a preferrable soil temperature during weather changes, keeping it cool during summer and relatively warm during winter. It reduces weed infestation and enhances the water retaining ability of the soil.
The mulch should be done about 6-7 cm deep around the tree, make sure it is as far as possible from the trunk to prevent disease and rotting. The use of composted bark and shredded leaf mulch is highly advisable.
Conifers are best pruned in late autumn or early spring. However, dead, diseased or damaged branches should be removed on sight, irrespective of season. Unlike other woody plants, conifers do not require frequent pruning because they cannot regrow new leaves and shoots from old branches, therefore, make sure a large fraction of fresh, green branches remain after pruning.
Still, completely ignoring the tree and refusing to give a nice prune once a while may cause thinning of the vegetation or an inaesthetic untamed growth.
To prune, employing the use of a simple pruning shears, electric brush cutters or even chainsaws(for taller trees), strip the trunk by cutting part of the branch 20 – 30cm to form a lateral branch.
Pest and disease
Like all woody plants, there are pest and disease that needs to be controlled to aid the growth of a heathy conifer. Pests such as whitespotted sawyer, Bark beetles and the Douglas-fir tussock moth are insects that aggressively attacks conifers, leaving some for dead and deforming a reasonably large percentage.
Manually removing the insects or using insecticides may be an effrctive method to control the pests.
Conifers are highly susceptible to fungal attacks. Pitch Canker, introduced in 1986 is usually transferred when an uninfected conifer comes in contact with parts of an infected conifer or contaminated garden tool. The disease progresses from colour change, needle drop and most time lcauses death if not controlled.
Immediate removal of infected trees and cleaning of garden tools is a great way to control the spread. Another disastrous disease is caused by a cocci bacteria . They cause immeasurable damage to the tree and promote fungi growth. Use of a bactericide is recommended, but seek professional advice from an agronomist.
If you decide to propagate, take semi ripe cuttings from a healthy conifer at reasonable distance of 10-15 cm from a step to a leaf joint. Late winter is the best period to harvest cuttings. After that, you dip the cuttings in a hormonal treatment before putting in a planting medium.
To prepare a planting medium, prepare a pot or deep tray and fill with a 2:1 mix of cutting compost, horticultural grit and perlite. Make spaced holes with a dibber or pencil, then place in the cuttings. Water and drain well. Then finally, place the pot in a warm and airy place. Do monthly checkups to monitor the root growth.
In about a year, you’d have the exact replica of the parent plant ready to be transplanted.