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Conifers thrive in garden soil, but there are many good reasons to plant them in containers. As a result, Thuja and Co. can bring us joy even in the smallest of spaces. As mostly evergreen creatures, they remain decorative all year round and can be used flexibly in terms of design. However, pot cultivation requires more attention. They must never run out of water and nutrients, and every conifer occasionally needs a new home or at least fresh soil.


Everyone has an idea of what a conifer is. Only a garden expert will probably know which plants belong to the conifers, because there are many of them. The word conifer has its origin in the Latin language and means "cone bearer".

  • also known as softwoods
  • rich in species and represented worldwide
  • mostly evergreen

notice: Cones appear to be absent in some species of conifers. Arborvitae, for example, develop fruits that resemble round berries. But despite this look, these are actually cones.

species of conifers

Conifers have populated this earth for ages, some have already accompanied the dinosaurs. Over time, many species could emerge that have developed their own characteristics to match their living environment. Below are some softwoods that we often encounter in this country:

  • araucaria
  • yew
  • Spruce
  • jaw
  • Tree of Life (Thuja)
  • umbrella fir
  • juniper
  • cypress

notice: Did you know that the larch, which is also a conifer, first turns its needles golden in autumn and then sheds them?

Japanese pine, Pinus parviflora

Conifers in the bucket

A young conifer, no matter what kind, gets by very well if it is only allowed to root one bucket. But what does it look like when the plant gets bigger and bigger over the years? You can decide which of the numerous types of conifers is allowed to move permanently into a bucket according to the following criteria:

  • the size potential of a variety
  • the available space for their bucket existence
  • Liked growth habit, crown, etc.

Small conifers are ideal for staying in a pot for a long time. Small cypress or small shell cypress, spherical pine, dwarf juniper, sugar loaf spruce and dwarf arborvitae are some examples.

site conditions

Whether left or right of the entrance, as a terrace border or balcony greening, many places are upgraded with a thuja in the bucket. But in order for it to adorn the assigned location with its magnificent appearance, it must find ideal conditions there, as well as the other conifers. With a few exceptions, conifers prefer a sunny to partially shaded location. Dwarf cedar and yew prefer shady places. Some species do not tolerate drafts.

tip: If you place the bucket on a mobile base, you can easily move even large and heavy specimens to a new location.

The right bucket

This is not just a question of taste, although this can of course also play a role. When it comes to the choice of materials, the manufacturers draw on unlimited resources and offer us pots made of aluminium, concrete, terracotta, wood, ceramics, plastic and stainless steel, among other things. Each material has its specific characteristics that will benefit us or bother us, depending on what we "plan" with the conifer. Here are a few pointers:

  • Ceramics and earthenware are not frost-proof
  • Wood is natural and insulated
  • Concrete is very heavy and unwieldy
  • Plastic is not always UV resistant
  • Stainless steel is noble but also expensive
  • Pot twice the size of root ball

Does your conifer have to spend the winter outside in sub-zero temperatures? Will you move the bucket more often? Which material makes the tree of life or another conifer stand out best? If you have the answers to these questions ready at the time of purchase, you will easily reach for the ideal pot specimen. However, it should always have sufficient drainage holes.


If a plant has to get by with so little soil, it should at least be made according to its ideas. The market thinks it knows these requirements very well and offers special coniferous soil. These are their characteristics:

  • Moisture is stored well
  • permeable
  • is slightly acidic with a pH of 3.5 to 4.5
  • rich in humus
  • enriched with nutrients

tip: You are welcome to mix your own compost with the coniferous soil when planting.

Buy or draw yourself?

If you already keep your own conifers, you can use them to gain new plants for your tubs. The popular tree of life, for example, can easily be propagated by cuttings.
Otherwise, the garden market, whether online or on site, is plentifully stocked with conifers. You may have to search longer for a rare specimen, but you will definitely find it. Of course, the purchase on the market is associated with costs that are eliminated with your own propagation.

Leyland cypress

planting time

In most people, gardening passion is kindled with the first rays of sunshine of the year. Then you want to beautify your home and garden for the upcoming outdoor season. Thuja, cypress and other coniferous plants are in demand as a structure and green background. And indeed, spring is a good time to plant conifers. Alternatively, autumn planting also offers good results.

Instructions for planting

Whether you prefer full-growing trees like juniper or thuja, or choose a different type of conifer, the planting process remains the same.

  1. Choose a pot that is twice the volume of the young conifer's root ball. It should offer enough freedom to not prematurely limit upcoming growth.
  2. Place the container plant in the water so that the root ball is soaked with water. Only when there are no more bubbles is it ready for planting. If you bought a bare-root conifer, it is sufficient to place it in water for an hour.
  3. First fill the bucket with coarse material such as gravel, expanded clay or potsherds. This approx. 2 cm high drainage layer is important so that water cannot accumulate.
  4. Cover the drainage layer with fleece.
  5. Put some of the coniferous soil on top.
  6. Place the conifer in the middle of the pot.
  7. Hold the plant straight with one hand as you fill in any voids with coniferous soil. Leave approx. 5 cm free up to the edge of the pot so that the soil is not washed out of the pot when watering later.
  8. Press down the substrate and water thoroughly.


Only in this text is the planting immediately followed by repotting, in practice you can take your time with this.

  • repot every 2-3 years
  • or when growth/quality declines
  • use larger pot and fresh soil
  • Rule of thumb: 30 cm diameter for every 120 cm tree height
  • Spring is ideal
  • Caution: do not injure roots

tip: The larger the pot, the more free soil surface is visible. You can also plant ground cover or different flower bulbs.


The more limited the housing of a conifer, the less it tolerates careless handling of the watering can. After all, juniper, arborvitae and other conifers that you keep in pots can't help that their roots draw from a limited supply. In addition, the soil in a bucket dries out faster at high temperatures. A splash of water is not a solution, because too much moisture is devastating for the health of the root system. Here are the pouring rules:

  • only water when the soil has dried
  • only water the soil, spare above-ground parts of the plant
  • Water temperature should correspond to the ambient temperature
  • Water in the morning or evening, never in the midday heat
  • usually daily in hot weather, otherwise about twice a week
  • no water should remain in the saucer
  • water modestly even in winter on frost-free days


Every specimen that you keep in the bucket not only needs your admiration, but also regular nutritional support. These guarantee that the wood develops according to its purpose and does not show any signs of deficiency. If you used coniferous soil when planting, as recommended by us, the young plant is well cared for for the first 2-3 months. But then you have to fill up the nutrient depot.

  • supply with liquid fertilizer every four weeks
  • alternatively use a long-term fertilizer 1-2 times a year
  • Fertilization period is spring to August

tip: Since conifers prefer acidic soil, coffee grounds are an ideal natural fertilizer for them. It gives them numerous nutrients and at the same time lowers the pH value of the soil.

To cut

No conifer needs the scissors to grow. But when we keep her in a pot, we are not content with just letting her grow, we expect a nice, dense crown.

  • use scissors to shape
  • comply with the species-specific recommendations
  • pay attention to balance / stability
  • don't cut into old wood
  • Autumn and spring are ideal
  • prefer to shorten step by step than make radical cuts
  • especially thuja and juniper are receptive to cuts
  • densely growing specimens allow for imaginative shapes
Japanese yew , Taxus cuspidata

Diseases & Pests


Although conifers are long-lived, some fungal diseases can weaken them or end their life prematurely even in the bucket. The list of possible diseases is long, for example root rot, rust fungi or thuja dandruff. It is important to optimally care for the tub specimens so that they develop a high level of resilience. If you notice any abnormalities, such as stunted growth or discolored needles, investigate the cause immediately and take appropriate measures.


Leaf miners, spider mites, lice, all of these and much more like to settle on the conifers. The same applies here as was previously written for the diseases: care for the plant in a species-appropriate manner and check for abnormalities. Only if you act promptly, the plant will hardly suffer any damage.


Conifers can also stay outside in the bucket in winter. Many owners are happy about this, because over time the plants get really big and heavy. Who has enough space to stow them away in winter? And who wants to do stressful moving work? But it doesn't work without work! The pot cannot keep the icy cold away from the roots, so more comes through than the hardy conifers can tolerate.

  • the more sheltered the location, the better
  • Wrap the pot with fleece, jute or bubble wrap
  • raised or placed on styrofoam
  • Protect soil with leaves or straw
  • only water sparingly on frost-free days
Locust Yew, Podocarpus

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