Think of traditional European or North American gardens and many people will think of conifers. These adaptable plants can provide a real contrast to many of the plants we commonly grow in Australia. They can provide us with a huge range of shapes, from tall, narrow trees, to conical shaped trees or shrubs, to prostrate, low growing types, to broad, domed shaped types and much more. They offer a huge range of colour variations, and a wide variety of foliage textures.

Whether you live in cool climates like Tasmania or Southern Victoria, or even warmer areas such as parts of Queensland, there are conifers that you can grow. For a long time conifers were considered unsuitable to Brisbane and more northern districts. Now, however, some types are being successfully grown in parts of Queensland - a trip to places like the Brisbane Botanical Gardens at Mt Coot-tha is a pleasant surprise to most conifer enthusiasts.

Traditionally conifers have been used for oils (skin care products), timber and even edible nuts. These days, however they are seen as offering many varied and exciting landscaping possibilities . Conifers can make excellent long living, screening plants, hedges or contrast plants. A huge range of dwarf, and low growing types are available, many of which make excellent groundcovers or tub plants. Their ease of care makes them a favourite amongst designers and home gardeners.

Conifers do not require excessive care in terms of maintenance and pest control. Most simply require the following:  do not over water, provide plenty of compost/mulch to maintain a cool root system, and trim lightly only, if at all, to maintain a neat appearance, unless you are using them for hedges, mazes, bonsai or topiary.

When grown in the cool parts of Australia, plants may be placed very close together. If planted in warmer districts, especially where humidity can be a problem, then plants should be spaced out to allow plenty of air movement between them, which helps in reducing plant diseases.

A small selection of recommended conifers include:

Aromatic foliage
Abies amabilis, A. balsamea
Cedrus spp.
Chamaecyparis thyoides 'Andelyensis'
Juniperus spp.

Conifers good for large containers
Araucaria spp.
Actinostrobus spp.
Athrotaxus spp.
Agathis spp.

Conifers for regularly trimmed hedges under 2m
Chamaecyparis pisifera 'Plumosa'
Picea abies
Taxus baccata
T. x  media
Conifers for hedges between 1m - 2m
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Ellwoodii', 'Fletcheri'
C. obtusa 'Crippsii', 'Tetragona Aurea'
C. thyoides 'Andelyensis', 'Ericoides'
Juniperus communis 'Hibernica'
J. squamata 'Meyeri'
J. virginiana 'Burkii'
Taxus baccata 'Fastigiata'
T. cuspidata 'Densa'
Thuja orientalis

Conifers for hedges between 2m - 4m
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Alumni'
C. pisifera 'Plumosa', 'Squarrosa'
Juniperus chinensis
Picea abies
Pinus mugo
Taxus baccata
T. X media 'Hicksii'
Thuja occidentalis
T. orientalis 'Shirls Supreme'

Conifers between 3m - 10m
Actinostrobus pyramidalis
Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Alumni', 'Monumentalis', 'Silver Queen',
 'Triomf van Boskoop'
C. pisifera 'Plumosa', 'Squarrosa'
Larix decidua
L. kaempferi
Picea abies
P. glauca
P. omorika
Pinus nigra
P. strobus
P. sylvestris
Pseudotsuga menziesii
Taxus baccata
T. cuspidata
Thuja occidentalis
T. plicata
Tsuga canadensis
T. heterophylla

Conifers as groundcovers
Juniperus communis 'Depressa', 'Hornbrookii', 'Repanda'
J. conferta 'Blue Pacific'
J. horizontalis 'Douglasii', 'Bar Harbor', 'Blue Forest', 'Plumosa'
J. procumbens 'Nana'
J. sabina 'Broadmore', 'Tamariscifolia'
J. virginiana 'Reptans'
Taxus baccata 'Repandens'
T. X media 'Wardii'

Bird attracting conifers
Juniperus spp.
Larix spp.
Picea spp.
Taxus spp.
Thuja spp.
Tsuga spp.
Learn More
Buy our Principal's Conifer book
Suggested Reading
The following ebooks have been written by the principal and staff of ACS Distance Education.
Click on a book for details