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Planting Dwarf Trees

Planting Dwarf Trees

Small plants require special care in order to grow and flourish. When you are just beginning to build your collection of dwarf conifers or Japanese maples trees, it is important to know exactly what to do with the dwarf and miniature varieties, as well as young plants. It may seem like trees just need soil and water, but there is much more to helping the trees thrive in their environment.


Decorative Japanese Maples

Since most of the dwarf trees we sell are rare and unusual, including the varieties of Japanese maples, it is vital that they are planted in quality soil. Japanese maples need to be planted in well-drained soil, and prefer a pH of 5.0-6.5, meaning a slightly acidic soil. Not to worry, most of your existing landscapes are slightly acidic. Japanese maples have root systems that are quite shallow, so if the soil does not drain well, then your dwarf maple could suffer from root rot, and exhibit signs of stress (leaf curling and drying), and eventually die. After taking the time to order an attractive Japanese maple, please time maintain the plant.

Most beautiful Japanese maple prefer partial shade. Though there are also many varieties which can tolerate full sun and some which perform extremely well in shade. Siting a Japanese maple in the shade of another beautiful tree is good for some varieties. Those with variegated leaves are even more sensitive than most others; the lack of pigment in the leaves can cause the tender leaves to burn and brown in hot sunlight. When we send your tree, we advise looking at the plant tag for instructions on whether to plant the variety in the sun or shade.


Rugged Dwarf Conifers

When you choose a dwarf conifer, it is also important to know exactly what conditions you need to help that plant succeed. Most dwarf conifers like full sun, especially the green or blue conifer varieties. However, if you choose a yellow or golden conifer, make sure to take a look at our website, or the plant label to determine if it prefers partial shade or full sun. For even the most light-sensitive varieties, morning sunlight is often acceptable. Most conifers prefer a well-drained, acidic soil, but many will also perform fine in alkaline soils. Few varieties like wet soil. The varieties which can tolerate wet soil include larch (Larix sp.), dawn redwood (Metasequoia glyptostroboides), bald cypress (Taxodium sp.) and black spruce (Picea mariana).


Replanting in a Larger Container

When planting a dwarf tree, there are two options for planting: in a container or in the ground. When planting in a container, select a well-draining, light soil media, and make sure your container is the appropriate size. You should typically select a container that is no larger than double the diameter of the container you purchased your tree in. Root growth and tree development for young trees and shrubs improves with containers that are not too big.


Re-Potting a Yew (Taxus) into a slightly larger container. Note the gap on each side of the root ball.


Roots like to hit the walls of the container, then branch out and will continue growing long into the fall and early in the spring in the areas near the container wall. Dwarf trees prefer peat-based soil or bark-based soil; both types of soil can be purchased at local garden centers. These soils help with drainage, last many years, and can provide plenty of room for root growth. To insure there are no air gaps in the soil, it is best to use a stick or other blunt object to force the soil down between the root ball and the container edges.



Planting in the Ground


If you prefer to plant your dwarf trees in the ground, it is vital to prepare the ground rather than just plant the tree without preparation. To give the tree plenty of room to grow, you should dig the hole as deep as, but a bit wider than the container.



If planting in clay soil or in an area of poor drainage, plant your tree on a berm so that the roots are not sitting in water. Do not plant on top of sand or gravel as a solution, as a small quantity of well-draining soil beneath the tree will not solve the greater problem of poor drainage and stagnant water. You should remove the tree from the container, tease apart the roots, and place the root ball in the hole.


Fill the hole with the soil that you dug out, carefully but firmly packing the soil into the hole to avoid air pockets. It is very important that the soil is pressed firmly because the root ball could become dry if there is too much air in the soil.


It is also important to not plant the tree deeper in your garden, than it was in the container. This means that the level of soil at the base of the trunk should not change. Packing soil around the base of a trunk, and on top of a root ball will stress the tree out, and will result in death.