Conifers are ideal for a busy gardener because they require little attention. Most need no pruning and will grow happily for many years. Many come in striking architectural shapes, upright and columnar, horizontal and spreading, which makes them good for grouping with other plants.
Spend a little time making the right choice of conifer in order to save overcrowding and having to dig up and replant a tree later. You may be tempted to buy an attractive small conifer but it could become enormous after a few years. Some are sold as dwarf varieties, but this may indicate only a slow growth rate and they may still grow very large. Labels should show their ultimate size.
Look for plants that have a good bright colour. The tree should be compact with healthy foliage. Avoid tall and lanky plants that are bare at the base. Dead foliage indicates the plant is pot bound, or that it has not had enough water. Most conifers will not regrow from old brown stems.
Traditional planting times for conifers are in late spring or early autumn, but you can plant at most times of the year as long as the plants are kept watered and the soil is not waterlogged. In cold areas avoid planting in mid winter because of likely frost or wind damage.
Taller trees may need a stout cane or stake to prevent rocking. On very windy sites protect the conifer by erecting windbreak netting around it for the first month or so. Because conifers lose water through their leaves all year round, keep their roots moist at all times until established. Pot grown plants are fairly easy to establish. When planting, mix some compost and fertiliser into the base of the hole and use soil to infill. Field grown plants for hedging need planting as soon as possible after purchase. They also need more care to help them to establish because their roots will have been damaged during lifting.