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Credit: Flickr / seanmcgrath

Q: I would like to know how to plant a dwarf Alberta spruce in a container.

It's easy to plant a dwarf Alberta spruce in a container. Just give it well-drained soil (add a few handfuls of pumice to the potting soil) and put it in a pot that is a few inches larger all around than the pot it is in.

Sun. This ultra-slow-growing conifer needs full sun.

Moisture. Dwarf Alberta spruces need good drainage, but they don't like to dry out. This can be a problem when grown in a pot. I have a vivid mental picture of one that dried out and dropped all its needles.

Spider mites. The other thing to watch out for is spider mites. Dwarf Alberta spruces thrive in very cold climates where spider mites get killed off in winter. If you live on the coast, you need to check the foliage of your spruce regularly. Hosing the foliage down from time to time also keeps them at bay, as mites don't like water. I've seen many spruces defoliate completely from mites that were so small they could hardly be seen. If you see any flecks under the needles, poke them to see if they run away!

In case you haven't guessed by now, I prefer other small conifers in containers (dwarf pines, Hinkoki cypresses) for coastal B.C. But for colder climates, dwarf Alberta spruces are great.