Conifer Growth Habits (a.k.a. Shape)

Conifer does not necessarily mean conical. These trees range in size and shape from giants of the forest to plants that are as flat as a pancake (i.e.,Juniperus horizontalis ‘Pancake’.) Their different growth habits give landscape designers many elements to work with.

Here is the key to some examples of conifer growth habits found in the Conifer Database.

ShapeDescription
Oval Conifer IllustrationBroad Upright or Oval
Columnar Conifer IllustrationColumnar: a gradually tapering column.
Pyramidal Conifer IllustrationConical: sometimes called pyramidal, although a true pyramid has a square base which can only be achieved with strict pruning.
Bun Shaped Conifer IllustrationCushion or Bun Shaped
Globose: globe-like or rounded in general outline.
Arching Conifer IllustrationMounding: with varying degrees of arching, weeping branches.
Fastigate Conifer IllustrationNarrow Upright: much taller than broad; includes plants referred to as fastigiate, columnar, narrowly pyramidal or narrowly conical.
Fastigate Conifer IllustrationProstrate: ground-hugging, carpeting plants without an inclination to grow upward.
Low Spreading Conifer IllustrationSpreading: wider than tall.
Symmetrical: regular, neat branching and foliage.
Irregular: uniquely erratic growth pattern.
Culturally Altered: pruned or trained into formal or imaginative shapes, such as high grafts or standards.