The Q&A Archives: Dwarf Alberta Spruce or?

Question: In June of 2005 we had a 5ft. dwarf alberta spruce tree plante on either side of the front entrance to our home. Very early this spring they became infested with mites. Although we did everything our local nursery told us to do to rid the trees of the mites, the mites won! My question to you is, should we plant 2 more of the same trees, I do love the look, or go with something else. It was suggested we should look at dwarf hinoki cypress trees. What do you think? Or is there another tree you might think would serve us well. We want a about 5ft or 6ft and very slow growing. Our house is a ranch style.

Answer: The best plant for the location really depends on the lighting conditions or exposure and soil conditions, as well as its mature size and of course its look.

The dwarf Alberta spruce really prefers a cooler summer climate and is stressed by heat reflecting off a building -- which is also a location especially conducive the the mites.

The Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparus obtusa) will do best in soil that is humusy and evenly moist yet well drained, and does well on the eastern side of a building. In my experience a southern or western exposure will be too hot for it and a northern exposure is too shady. If you opt for this plant, select a cultivar that matures to the size you need.

For a western or southern exposure, you would probably be better off with a more heat tolerant plant such as juniper (requires a well drained soil) or yews. There are some columnar formed juniper cultivars, and upright yews can be clipped to a conical shape as desired. (Yews would also grow on the east or north side, as would boxwoods.)

Your local professionally trained nursery staff should be able to show you a variety of these plants and discuss whether or not they are suited to the location you have in mind. Your local county extension may also have suggestions based on a more detailed understanding of the planting location and your overall design goals.

Good luck with your planting!

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