As mentioned in our previous blog post, yellow and golden conifers are some of the most popular varieties we offer. So in this edition, we are aiming to help you find the perfect spot in your garden to give them some necessary shade and prevent burning! Because of their “fair complexion,” they are much more susceptible to intense sunlight than most other varieties.
During the warmer months of summer, varieties with tender foliage such as Metasequoia glyptostroboides ‘Gold Rush’ have a tendency to scald on areas that receive full sun. As you can see in the photo to the right, the south side of this ‘Gold Rush’ specimen has suffered from moderate sunburn for many years, causing it to grow more slowly than the shaded, north side.
While ‘Gold Rush’ has a golden color during spring and summer, varieties like Picea abies ‘Perry’s Gold’ are primarily gold only in the spring. Because the color is so bright on the tender new growth, it is especially prone to scalding. That said, the bright spring new growth greens up by summer, so that even in a full-sun location, there is typically very little burn once the plant is established. By fall, the needles on the upper portions of the branches have defoliated as can be seen in the photo on the right. Although this burning is somewhat unsightly, it does not seem to affect the overall health or growth of the plant.
Another bright cultivar of Norway spruce with similar burn issues is ‘Vermont Gold’. This low-growing variety has a year-round yellow color that has a tendency to defoliate on the upper branch surfaces. As can be seen in the image below, the slightly shaded portions of the tree show little to no burn, so it does not require much shade to keep this variety looking its best.
Variegated plants (in this case pines with banded needles) are often affected by intense sun as well. For instance, Pinus parviflora ‘Ogon-janome’ tends to suffer from defoliation when exposed to too much direct light during the summer, especially when grown in a container. By summer’s end, the most exposed areas of foliage are rather burned with some of the upper needles falling from the tree as pictured to the left. However, it seems that ‘Ogon-janome’ can withstand full sun when planted out in more temperate climates, and 10+ year-old specimens can handle full sun in just about any climate.
To prevent this type of burning, it is important to observe the amount of sunlight a particular spot in your garden receives to ensure that the tree is given the ideal amount of exposure. Generally, 4-6 hours of sunlight is plenty for most brightly-colored varieties, and 2-4 hours of direct sun is preferable. However, these factors can vary based on your climate as well, so be sure to check with us if you have particular questions regarding specific plant siting. We are always happy to help your conifers find the right spot in your garden!
In addition to sunburn, strong winter winds can exacerbate needle burn. In years with extremely-low temperatures, foliage can burn more than normal. In general smaller sizes are more prone to sunburn and damage. As such, if you are purchasing a BP or #1 size of a golden variety, you might consider planting in a container and placing the container in deep shade, after a few years, you can plant it in the ground in less shade. If windburn has caused damage in the past you could apply an anti-desiccant, such as Wilt Proof™.
While we are making yellow plants out to sound incredibly finicky, they’re worth the extra effort in the garden. One particularly choice variety is Pinus contorta var. latifolia ‘Frisian Gold’ – this variety glows in both summer and winter – but as a young plant it truly looks sick.
Here’s a photo of a young plant which was grown in full sun, and here is a photo of a properly-grown specimen in one of our friends’ gardens. How can you argue with that color?! In our next post we will feature a list of a few varieties that do well in each of the distinct growing regions throughout the U.S.
-The Conifer Kingdom Team