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Dwarf Alberta Spruce in Atrium

Q: I want to know about the care, feeding and watering of 2 dwarf alberta spruces in large pots located in an atrium where people go in and out at the door.

It is located in the entry of a building between 2 doors: one goes into the building and the other goes outside. This area is neither air conditioned nor heated. I am located in South Jersey. People go in and out of these doors all day long.

Thus, the trees will get cool air coming from the air conditioned building in the summer as the inside door is opened then warm air from the ouside as the second door is opened.

In the winter, the opposite occurs. These trees are beautiful and I want to give them every chance of staying that way.

Jean

A: If your spruces will be in an atrium, I would liken that to being indoors more than being outdoors. As such, I would be concerned for the spruces.

Alberta spruces cannot be successfully kept as an indoor plant in the true sense of an "indoor plant". They require a period of dormancy, and if they're in an atrium I'm not sure they'll "understand" what is going on.

If there is a way to move them outdoors for the winter I would advise doing this. If you leave them in the containers, be sure the containers are protected well enough so as not to allow the soil within to freeze totally, otherwise you may lose the spruces to a frozen-root death.

As for watering, instead of watering weekly on a timed schedule, check the soil moisture first. I do this by pushing a long-shanked screwdriver into the ground in several places.

If it comes back with moist soil stuck to it, we're good to go for a few days. If it comes back bone-dry, it's time to apply 1-2" of water over the root zone.

In an air-conditioned environment, you may find that you need to water more than usual due to the de-humidification. This may dry the soil (and the plant) out quicker than if it were outside!

As for fertilizing, it depends on the type of fertilizer you use. Quick-release fertilizers need to be applied more often than slow-release, so just follow the instructions on the label as to how, how much and how often you should apply the fertilizer.



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Tom Mugridge




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