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I'm going to buy a potted Christmas tree we can keep in a pot, and would like to buy a Nordmann fir (Picea nordmanniana) for its colourful male cones. I have read this species is fast growing and isn't typically pruned, but as we would like to keep it 5 foot high does anybody have words of wisdom for pruning a fir? Is it not a good idea or will it work fine?

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Our other idea is to buy a Blue spruce (Abies pungens), as most people found the blue foliage very attractive. Might this be a better plan long term as the tree is a slow growing hardwood so won't require as much pruning, the roots won't spiral round the pot as fast. That said, perhaps frequent pruning of the Picea N. would lead to a dense foliage with a strong pyramidal form? What are your thoughts?

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  • Where do you live? The conifers you mention require a chill period of sub zero or close temperatures for an extended period. – kevinsky Nov 28 '16 at 1:29
  • Seems to be some confusion regarding names - the first image you're showing is actually Abies koreana; the second image you refer to as Abies pungens, but the image shows Picea pungens hoopsii? Plus, Nordman fir is Picea nordmanniana... – Bamboo Nov 28 '16 at 1:35
  • Edinburgh, Scotland. Pretty cold over winter, average temperature in the winter is 7°C – Nic Nov 28 '16 at 1:35
  • @Bamboo Thanks, after googling a while it looks like picea nordmanniana cones are underneath the leaves. It shows how unreliable Google images can be for idents. The second picture is indeed a specific cultivar - it was only for illustrative purposes. Its funny you pointed out my typo with nordmanniana - we often misname plants on my diploma based on our limited understanding of how the Latin/Greek should sound.... – Nic Nov 28 '16 at 1:43
  • Sorry, made an error! Ishould be asleep really, I'm in the UK - nordman fir is Abies nordmanniana, not Picea, wasn't picking holes in your spelling,my apologies... and you're right about Google images, more and more mistakes creeping into those – Bamboo Nov 28 '16 at 1:47
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Attempting to prune a large conifer down to a small size is unlikely to end well - if it survives at all, you will end up with something that looks like "a big tree that has been attacked by a chainsaw" not "a small tree".

But you can certainly grow a dwarf conifer in a pot or container, provided you accept that most dwarf conifers don't look like exactly like "small Christmas trees".

For example Abies procera is a similar blue color to the A. pungens picture in another answer, but will take 20 years to reach about 3 feet tall and 4 or 5 feet diameter. The Scots Pine variety Pinus sylvestris 'Beuvronensis' might take 50 years to reach the same size.

Googling for "dwarf conifer", or visiting a supplier's website, will find plenty of other possibilities.

  • Was only planning on shaping a metre tall tree into a 125 cm pyramid – Nic Dec 1 '16 at 14:33
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First, its important to say that trying to keep most conifer varieties small by regular pruning isn't a good idea, unless its one of those that doesn't mind being cut, like Yew. Second, whichever one you choose, you're likely to be able to keep it in a pot for not longer than five years at most, unless you put it in a pot that's so large you won't be able to move it around easily anyway.

Your first image shows the Korean fir, Abies koreana, with its lovely colourful cones in place - they turn brown as they mature, so they don't stay blue, and the tree doesn't usually produce the cones before its around five years old.

Picea varieties really do not appreciate being cut, apart from removal of dead branches, they don't respond well to pruning, tending to look disfigured as they recover, if they recover. All in all, whatever tree you choose, its probably best to accept that you won't have it (in a pot) for more than five years at most.

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