Growing Colorado Blue Spruce (Picea pungens) in a container

brando31June 23, 2009

Colorado Blue spruces are my favorite conifer, but, I do not have a spot in my yard for a large tree. I like some of the dwarf picea pungens cultivars, but I'm having an awful hard time finding one in my area. I have some online, but they are quite expensive (I realize this is partly do to dwarfs being more expensive in general). Also, most dwarf picea pungens tend to be more mounding in form as opposed to pyramidal, which I prefer.

What I am considering is growing a regular Colorado Blue Spruce in a container. I know picea pungens is far from the best conifer for a container, but given that I have seen them used as bonsai, I assume it must be possible to grow them in a large container.

So, this is my question: If I start with a small picea pungens in a 1-gallon container, how long might I be able to contain it in a container? Would it be possible to grow it in a container indefinitely?


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This is a question I have asked over the years and the answer I got more or less each time was yes. Depending on how large a specimen you wanted, and depending on how large a pot you had, you could have pretty much anything you wanted in a pot. Three keys:

**Proper soil in the pot. It must drain FAST. It would also benefit it to have occasional nutrients added. There are a number of ways to do this.

**Super cold protection. Since the roots are more exposed to the air temperature in a pot(even a big one), they need to be protected from extreme hot and cold weather. This may be an issue for you in 5b. It's not for me in 7b.

Frequent watering. Since a pot-bound plant cannot 'search' for water over a large area(in the ground), it will need more frequent watering then the same plant in the ground. During hot stretches, I have been watering my potted conifers about 2-3 times a week.

So far, all of my plants are relatively small and in huge pots compared to their current size. I have a couple '100 gallon' pots with very large upright conifers in them that I am hopeful will be OK for about 10-15 years. After that I'm sure I'll have to plant them in the ground(that's going to be fun to move then - yikes!).

A dwarf conifer would be easy to pot. Also keep in mind the price for conifers is cheap compared to how long you'll enjoy them. Why spend $20 on a movie you might not like and maybe won't remember in five years if you won't spend $20 on a neat conifer that will only add character and be fun to watch grow over your lifetime.

Picea pungens 'St. Mary' would be a good one in a 10-20 gallon pot.

Hope that helps!


    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 1:30AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5


the problem in Z5 is wintering over the pots .... it can be done.. but failure is an option ...

and.. by the time you get the pot.. and fill it with proper growing media .... your cost will have doubled ...

just mail order a properly sized plant... that has an annual growth rate which will keep it within your parameters ...

link to st mary's broom ... previously mentioned .. what you see in the pic.. is its 2 to 3 inch annual growth rate ...


Here is a link that might be useful: st mary

    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 7:23AM
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dcsteg(5 Shawnee, KS.)

That's hard to believe the photo in the link is a 2 year old graft...5-6 maybe more I would think.


    Bookmark   June 23, 2009 at 7:43AM
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For good tips on growing plants in containers you might also check out the Container Gardening forum. Lots of info there on growing many types of plants and trees in containers.

I'm currently growing some pines, spruces and firs in containers, mostly small trees grown from seed. I've had no real problems and the winter weather hasn't been much of a problem so far, even last year's severe winter.

My goal is to grow the conifers in containers for a few years then plant them in our backyard, so our end goals are a bit different. Growing trees in containers is fairly straightforward once you know what soils to use, how often to water and fertilize, etc.



    Bookmark   June 24, 2009 at 2:14PM
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Sherwood Botsford(3a)

I don't think that overwintering is an issue.

1. I've got about 3000 colorado spruce in #2 Stuewe Tall pots placed in checkerboard in concrete mesh. This means that the pots are exposed to the full fury of Alberta's 3b winter. They are slower than a field tree but not hugely.

2. My taxman has a white spruce on his balcony in a 2 foot cubical crate. It's about 12 feet tall.

If you really want to worry about it, build a crate and line it with styrofoam. I think the books are wrong in part about root temperataure. I think the cooling rate is the critical factor.

Sherwood Botsford
Sherwood's Forests Tree Farm
"Trees for Rural Living"
50042 Range Road 31, Warburg, AB
(780) 848 2548

    Bookmark   July 16, 2009 at 9:47PM
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