Top 10 Dwarf Conifers for Small Spaces

Small space gardening is made easy with our list of the top 10 dwarf conifers.

It’s easy to see why conifers are a staple of most backyard landscapes. They provide reliable shelter for birds, offer nice color and year-round structure in the garden and are mostly maintenance-free. Now you can have those same virtues in a smaller package, thanks to newer downsized varieties. While often referred to as “dwarf conifers,” many of these are technically just slow growers. They will eventually get larger in 20 or 30 years, but most stay fairly compact and are classified based on their growth rate and size at 10 years. With the help of conifer expert and author Richard L. Bitner (Timber Press Pocket Guide to Conifers, 2010), we put together this Top 10 list of dwarf conifers, specifically with small space gardening in mind.

Oriental spruce

(Picea orientalis  species, Zones 4 to 7)

While Norway spruce is a favorite of many gardeners, the oriental spruce tends to be a better alternative. The needles are glossy green and soft to the touch. For smaller gardens, look for slow-growing cultivars like Nana (usually stays under 3 feet high), or Tom Thumb, with golden foliage.

Why we love it: It’s very tolerant! While you might have to protect it a bit during winter, it will tolerate some shade, drought and wind.

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  1. Mary says

    Since when is the Colorado Blue Spruce a ‘dwarf’? Here in Utah these trees grow quickly up to 60 feet tall and 20 feet diameter. They often fall over in windstorms after growing to full height. I do have the Montgomery spruce going in my yard and I love it although it can also get rather wide. People are so uneducated, they buy these tiny trees in box stores and plant them right next to their houses and walkways. This article does absolutely nothing to educate anyone about how huge this tree can grow.

  2. Ronald says

    You’re right about Colorado Blue Spruce being a full size tree. There are however a handful of mid sized-dwarf varieties that are great plants for smaller gardens.
    Picea Pungens ‘Fat Albert’ is a wonderful cultivar, and like the name suggests is a shorter and wider variety.
    Even smaller is P. Punges ‘Glauca Globosa’ which only grows a few inches each year.
    While most true species of evergreens can grow to impressive heights, many of the cultivars that you find at a nursery are bred for a desirable quality, i.e. slower growing, brighter colors, etc.
    Just be sure to ask questions or do a little homework when purchasing a new plant. Otherwise as Mary says, you run the risk of planting something that will quickly outgrow your space.
    Don’t be scared to branch out (no pun intended) and try something dwarf or miniature. Plant availability is ever changing, and new and exciting cultivars are constantly being introduced.
    Happy planting~

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