How to Grow Conifers

Growing conifers in the home garden
Growing conifers as a business
Using conifers in designed landscapes
Caring for conifers
Eight lessons provide you with a systematic understanding of the way conifers are classified, show you how to identify the differences between types and develop your understanding of cultural requirements common to the whole group and differences in cultural techniques needed for specific types of conifers. Sections of this course look in detail at trees (e.g. Pines, Cedrus, Spruce), small shrubs, medium shrubs, native conifers and rarer varieties.

Learn How to Grow Conifer Trees and Shrubs

  • Learn to identify, propagate, grow and landscape with conifers
  • Start a nursery or landscaping business; get a job, explore other opportunities
  • Follow a passion or build a career (or both)

Course Structure

This course has nine lessons as outlined below:

  1. Introduction
    Review the system of plant identification, general characteristics of the conifer plant group, information contacts you can use (ie: nurseries, seed, clubs, etc).
  2. Culture
    Planting, staking, mulching, watering, pest & disease, feeding, pruning, protection from wind, salt air, propagation, etc.
  3. Trees
    Conifers that reach tree proportions, their characteristics and requirements, how to grow conifers by seed propagation and grafting techniques.
  4. Common Medium Size Shrubs
    Many conifers fall into this height category. Some of the popular conifers are Chamaecyparis, Juniperus and Thuja. How to prune conifers.
  5. Small Shrubs
    How to choose small and prostrate conifers and their care. How to care for seedlings up to planting out stage.
  6. Australian Native Conifers
    Araucaria, Callitris, Podocarpus are three good conifers for use. The importance of environmental zones in Australia and how it can effect plant growth.
  7. Rarer Conifers
    Hemlocks, Podocarpus, Larches and leaf characteristcs of Cephalataxus.
  8. Using Conifers
    As timber, oils, edible seed, christmas trees, etc.
  9. Landscaping with Conifers


Upon completing this course you should be able to do the following:

  • Distinguish between different types of conifers in cultivation, including twenty-five different genera and fifty different varieties.
  • Specify the general cultural requirements of different conifer genera.
  • Determine specific cultural requirements for some commonly cultivated conifer species.
  • Specify specific cultural requirements for some lesser grown conifers, including Australian native and uncommon species.
  • Determine different commercial applications for conifers in horticulture.
  • Prepare a planting design using conifers.

What Is Covered

As you proceed through this course you will do the following:

  • Describe the binomial system used for naming plants, using examples of two conifers.
  • Distinguish, using labelled illustrations, between different conifer families, including: Pinaceae, Taxodiaceae, Cupressaceae, Podocarpaceae, Araucariaceae and Taxaceae.
  • Use a botanical key to identify two different conifer genera.
  • Compile a resource information guide for conifers, including scope of operation and contact information (ie: address, phone, fax), for 30 different contacts, including:
    • nurseries
    • clubs/societies
    • product suppliers
    • other organisations
  • Prepare a collection of fifty conifers, not collected elsewhere, each including:
    • a photo, drawing or pressed specimen
    • plant names (scientific and common)
    • cultural details
    • uses/applications.
  • Propagate five different conifers, using at least three different techniques.
  • Determine the preferred soil requirements, for typical conifers, in your locality.
  • Prepare a potting media suitable for container growing an advanced conifer, in a tub.
  • Explain the planting requirements which are common to most conifers in your locality.
  • Explain irrigation techniques appropriate for conifer culture, in your locality.
  • Explain the nutrition requirements of two different conifer species, from different families.
  • Explain five health problems common to conifers, including identifying features, significance to the plant, and control.
  • Describe how to prune two different conifer species, in your locality.
  • Determine two routine cultural procedures, to be undertaken in each month of the year, with conifers in your locality.
  • Describe ten conifer species, growing in a specified locality, including:
    • plant description
    • preferred habitat
    • propagation
    • growing requirements
    • uses
  • Compare the cultural requirements of ten commonly grown conifer species.
  • Explain why it is often difficult to grow other plants beneath the canopy of conifers.
  • Determine procedures for successfully establishing two specified conifer species on a specific site which you survey.
  • Determine any native conifers endemic to your locality or nearby localities.
  • Describe the different features of six specific native conifer species, including:
    • plant description
    • natural habitat
    • propagation
    • growing requirements
    • uses
  • Describe different features of five specified uncommonly grown conifer cultivars, including:
    • height
    • foliage colour
    • foliage shape
    • preferred site
    • hardiness
  • Determine two different "non standard" propagation techniques, that may be successful in propagating "rare" and uncommonly cultivated conifer species.
  • Formulate a schedule of cultural tasks to be undertaken over a twelve month period, to establish new plantings of a conifer species not commonly grown in your locality.
  • Determine ten conifer varieties, including at least five different species, suitable for pot culture.
  • Determine five conifer varieties suitable for hedging.
  • Compare cultural techniques required for growing two specified conifers in containers with growing them in the ground.
  • Describe the culture of conifers in different situations, including:
    • as topiary
    • as bonsai
    • as a hedge
    • as a rockery planting
    • as screening
  • Determine conifer species which have commercial value as a plantation crop, including:
    • timber
    • essential oils
    • foliage/filler for florists
  • Evaluate the use of conifers, in a garden with both conifers and flowering plants, using a supplied checklist of design criteria.
  • Evaluate the use of conifers, in a garden which is either all, or predominantly conifers, using a supplied checklist of design criteria.
  • Design a conifer garden bed of thirty square meters, which incorporates at least ten different conifer varieties, and satisfies both aesthetic and cultural requirements of a specified site, that you survey.


Conifers include worldwide about 550 species spread over approximately 50 genera. The genus Ginkgo, is often included with the conifers, though, Ginkgo is a one off genus in a group of it's own. The conifers are in fact the closest living relatives to the Ginkgo which is a survivor of prehistoric times.

Conifers are all woody plants, mainly shrubs and trees, almost all evergreen, though a few are deciduous (including Taxodium distichum, Metasequoia and Larix spp.).  Conifer Families include:


Evergreen trees & shrubs, from Southern Hemisphere, broad or needle-like foliage. Two genera in this family: Agathis, Araucaria


Evergreen trees or shrubs with narrow, erect, evergreen leaves, similar to Taxus. One genus in this family: Cephalotaxus


Usually heavily branching plants, trees or shrubs, upright or spreading, leaves in whorls or 3 (occasionally 4). Genera in this family include: Actinostrobus, Callitris, Calocedrus (Incense Cedar), Chamaecyparis, Cupressus, Diselma, Fitzroya, Fokienia, Juniperus, Libocedrus, Microbiota, Neocallitropsis, Papuacedrus, Sabina, Tetraclinis, Thuja, Thujopsis, Widdringtonia


Shrubs, twiggy growth with sparse foliage. One genus in this family: Ephedra


Mainly trees, occasionally shrubs, usually with needle like foliage, from Northern hemisphere. Genera in this family include: Abies, Cathaya, Cedrus, Keteleeria, Larix, Picea, Pinus, Pseudotsuga, Pseudolarix, Tsuga


Evergreen trees & shrubs; flattened, scale or needle-like foliage. Genera in this family include: Acmopyle, Dacrydium, Microcachrys, Microstrobos, Phyllocladus, Podocarpus


Genera in this family include: Amentotaxus, Austrotaxus, Pseudotaxus, Taxus, Torreya


Tall trees, evergreen or deciduous, foliage usually arranged spirally around stems.  Genera in this family include: Athrotaxis, Cryptomeria, Cunninghamia, Glyptostrobus, Metasequoia, Sciadopitys, Taiwania, Sequoia, Sequoiadendron, Taxodium


Low growing plants with a short woody stem, long leathery strap-like leaves.  One genus in this family: Welwitschia


If you have a passion for conifers and are looking for a way of developing that passion and expanding your knowledge; this course could be a wonderful opportunity.


Recommended Book

Growing Conifers -written by our principal, John Mason

See our bookshop for details