wintering
Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:31 pm
Location: California Zone 9b

Dwarf Oriental Spruce

Hello there,

I'm brand new to this forum and I figured I'd dive right in with my most pressing holiday season gardening question. Recently my sweetheart and I picked up a potted dwarf oriental spruce (about four feet high and in a 10x11 pot) at our local nursery. Our hope is that we can use it every year for yule, migrating it indoors for a few weeks using a gradual temperature increase and then rotate it back outside. My mother has a little tree that she does this with that has done very well.

I've done my best to scour the internet about potted trees but I'm finding relatively little about this particular evergreen raised in a container. Most guides mention eventually planting the tree, but I'm hoping to achieve something of a large bonsai in continuously pruning.

My first concern is that I may have given it a bit of temperature shock when I first brought it home. I don't see any yellowing/browning happening and I've moved it into a room that basically mimics outdoor temperatures after the first six hours or so.

My second concern is that while the room may help it more gradually acclimate, I'm also afraid of daily fluctuations in temperature. I get relatively low light (ah, apartment living) and there is no insulation to speak of, so I worry about the tree suffering from rapid changes in temperature. I know for certain that it cannot survive away from the window, however, due to the light conditions.

Any suggestions you might have about how to best go about the re-potting (I got it a larger pot that's a bit aesthetically nicer than the green plastic one that came from the nursery and drilled some drainage into the bottom) would be welcome. There seems to be varied opinions about substrate and when to attempt the transfer floating about online. I'd also love to hear anything you have to say about watering, as I'm sure its needs must differ in a container and I'm simultaneously afraid of over and under watering. Help!


Please advise me and help me keep this little yule tree living happily and healthy. Any resources you'd care to link would also be much appreciated.
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tomc
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2665
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:52 am
Location: SE-OH USA Zone 6-A

Re: Dwarf Oriental Spruce

*Sigh*

Greetings, I really think you want from your nursery the Latin for your tree. Spruces grow all the way to the tropics with varied heartyness.

A truely tender tree like a Norfolk Island Pine will need protection above freezing. A yezzo or Alberta spruce needs a full on winter.

All of them even the most tender do about 500% better outdoors as much as they can stand.

Do you have at least a porch or balcony? You may end up tenting even a tender tree outdoors.

Please don't give up on your little tree, Just know what you are doing falls real near to bonsai.
Think like a tree
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wintering
Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:31 pm
Location: California Zone 9b

Re: Dwarf Oriental Spruce

I'm not sure what I've done to elicit a sigh of exasperation with my first post or why using the common name is inappropriate. The latin name is: Picea orientalis 'Atrovirens'. It's cold hardiness zones are 2-8.

Anyhow, I'm aware that what I mean to achieve is close to bonsai (as I stated in my OP) and that trees generally do well outside. As I've mentioned, I intend to migrate the tree outdoors for all but one month of the year.

I don't see why I'd 'give up' as I've just begun caring for the tree and it seems to be doing quite well so far. :|

I'd love some insight from someone who has successfully cared for a potted tree in these conditions. Surely I'm not the only person who has tried their hand at a live holiday tree that they migrate indoors for the season?

imafan26
Mod
Posts: 11118
Joined: Tue Jan 01, 2013 1:32 pm
Location: hawaii, zone 12a 587 ft elev.

Re: Dwarf Oriental Spruce

Hi Wintering

It would be helpful if you include your zone and location in your profile. People in this forum live in many zones and countries and it is helpful to understand what conditions you have in order to give you appropriate advice.

I have kept stone pines (pinus pinea) that are sold as miniature Christmas trees for years and used it as a living Christmas tree just pruning it to shape. This pine has a natural umbrella shape so it is fairly easy to shape it into an approximate conical shape. My last stone pine died last year. I have since switched to shaped rosemary for a Christmas tree and I can cook with it too. I actually have to keep my Christmas tree decorated outside the front window because I have not had a tree in the house since 1996 because my cat liked to climb it; knock it over, and then she would get sick licking off the resin from her claws. the plant is also happier outside than inside the house. I use battery operated lights and because ornaments bend the branches down, I have learned to use light unbreakable ornaments or just red ribbons and bells tied to the branches. My rosemary is too big now, but when it was smaller, I used it for a table decoration for Christmas.

I live in a house in zone 12a. I have a yard to keep it in where it can get full sun.

Common names are hard because depending on where you live things are called by a different common name so if you know the botanical name then it is easier for everyone to look it up and know what you are talking about. There are actually other plants that are called dwarf oriental spruce, Picea orientalis 'Nana' which is a small speading conifer and a different cultivar.

The one you mentioned really is not a dwarf. It is called Caucasion Spruce or Oriental Spruce that will grow over 100 ft tall. It is already 4 ft tall in a pot. It is sometimes sold as Christmas trees, but it is intended to be eventually planted in the ground. It is native to Turkey and as you say it should do fine in zone 2-8.

It is a little big to bonsai, but it can be kept as a potted plant but it will need a lot of sun and in an apartment it might be hard to get enough light. Most balconies do not get full sun all day or even sun on all sides. You would have to turn the plant probably every week to keep it from going one sided on you. It looks like it has a natural pyrimidal shape so you just have to keep it that way. Eventually you will have to pot up or trim the roots to keep it in the same pot. I don't particularly know how such a large tree will handle root pruning. Most of the trees that I root prune are much smaller and I have to reduce the canopy as well as the roots. It is usually o.k. to up pot if you don't do root trimming.

Someone else will have to help you specifically on the care of that particular tree. I live in a much warmer zone and I cannot grow the colder trees. There are Norfolk pines that do grow here but they look sickly compared to the ones grown in the Pacific Northwest. the tops of those cannot be chopped off without ruining the shape of the tree.

Most trees are outdoor plants, how hardy they are depends on your zone and where the tree originally comes from. Even if you bring the tree in the house, it may still need as much light as possible.
Happy gardening in Hawaii. Gardens are where people grow.

wintering
Newly Registered
Posts: 4
Joined: Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:31 pm
Location: California Zone 9b

Re: Dwarf Oriental Spruce

Imafan,

I really appreciate your thorough and thoughtful response. I'll definitely fix my profile to reflect the zone I'm in so further advice is easier to dispense and utilize full latin names to avoid confusion in future posts.

Adventurous cats can really make the whole indoor evergreen situation sticky... if not downright resinous. I have one that has recently developed a taste for plants, so he only gets supervised visits. As for breakable ornaments, luckily we tend not to heavily decorate our trees. Just a smattering of LED mini-lights and some light wooden carved animals that seem not to impact the tree weight-wise.

After having read your response, I think light will be the biggest problem. I have it on a rolling platform so it can be rotated already, but I'm sure it will be happier after the holidays when it retires to the outdoors in my mother's lovely full-sun garden.

I did purchase a pot larger than the root mass so that I wouldn't have to trim. Hopefully that will help it settle in a bit easier. I'm going to hold off a bit longer so I don't add further distress after having migrated it to a new location.

If it seems to struggle with being potted it will be planted in my mother's garden and I will simply have to go visit it for yule rather than having it come visit me. :wink:

Thanks for imparting your wisdom to a novice to gardening as well as to the forums. I appreciate it!

tomc
Super Green Thumb
Posts: 2665
Joined: Sun Apr 10, 2011 6:52 am
Location: SE-OH USA Zone 6-A

Re: Dwarf Oriental Spruce

Things I might want to look at in the nursery could be:

Rosemary (the herb), Alberta and Norway spruce. all have distinct pruning styles but can live easily on your porch in your zone. They and Norfolk Island Pine can be pinched (the bud tips) to table top size for at least a few years.

More often sold through bonsai dealers and somewhat pricier are red and black pines. Which will mostly stay at table-top christmas tree size for most of your life.

My old tom-cat is arthritic, neutered and is determined he is entitled to the swamp water in the christmas tree resivior. He has voluntarily given up eating pine buds, So I won't have to find another Alberta spruce again. (he hates spruce).

Plastic pony beads string together nicely for ornamentation on smaller Alberta's.
Think like a tree
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