Trees for Pots

My Garden Life
April 7, 2021
Table of Contents
Just because you don’t have acres of woodland on your property or a large, sweeping lawn, doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy trees in your landscape. In fact, trees planted in attractive containers can be lovely additions to the small garden, deck, patio, or other tight space in which an enormous shade tree won’t do. And even those with plenty of space may enjoy the convenience and flexibility of potted trees.
It’s not only the potted tree’s small size that’s an advantage. Trees grown in containers can:
  • Bring landscaping to spaces too often devoid of green – paved patios, front door stoops, sidewalks, against buildings.
  • Allow you to add favorite houseplants into your outdoor spaces during the summer months.
  • Turn any outdoor space into a fruit (especially citrus) orchard.

12 Trees to Grow in Containers

Dwarf Deciduous Trees that Lose Their Leaves

Star Magnolia tree in bloom, Magnolia stellata Japanese maple tree Flowering dogwood tree, Cornus species
Star Magnolia Japanese Maple Flowering Dogwood

Evergreen Trees for Year-round Cheerful Color

Dwarf blue spruce in pot Dwarf blue spruce, Pinus mugo Dwarf Hioki cypress, Chamaecyparis obtusa coralliformis
Dwarf Blue Spruce Dwarf Mugo Pine Dwarf Hinoki Cypress

Potted Citrus Trees

Patio lemon tree with fruits kumquat tree with fruit Kieffer lime tree with fruits
Patio Lemon Kumquat Kaffir Lime

Tropical Trees

Most of us who don’t live in a tropical climate grow plants from those regions as houseplants. But no matter where you live, you can take your favorite indoor tree outside when the weather is mild.
Sugar fig tree with fruits Coconut palm tree in pot Yucca tree in pot
Sugar Fig Tree Coconut Palm Yucca

Small Trees Grow Best in Pots

Tips for growing: Pick a dwarf or slow-growing variety. Almost any tree can start its life in a pot, but don’t expect a fast-growing shade tree like a red maple to be happy there for long. Trees grown in containers have limited room for their roots to spread. Pick a slow-growing or dwarf variety to avoid damaging the tree, having to repot frequently, or being forced to give up on the project and return the tree to the forest or lawn.

How to Choose Potted Trees that Survive Winter

Pay attention to your growing zone: If your potted tree is going to stay outside all year, make sure you know your USDA hardiness zone and pick a plant hardy to two zones cooler than yours. That’s because the roots of your tree are more sensitive to cold than the above-ground trunk and branches. Trees grown in the ground have their roots protected during cold months by the insulating quality of the soil, which tends to stay considerably warmer than the air above.

Container Sizes for Trees

Choose the right pot: There are many considerations when you choose a plant pot. Keep in mind, a five-gallon pot is the smallest needed to grow most trees. And this is a case in which bigger is most definitely better. The soil in larger pots with thick walls dries out less quickly and is less prone to freezing. Also, if you plan on taking your tree indoors for the colder months, make sure it is in a pot you can easily move.
Watch for overcrowding:
If your tree begins to look sickly or shows other signs that it’s outgrowing its pot, consider repotting it to a bigger container or prune the roots to slow growth.
When planning your container garden this year – or looking for an interesting piece of greenery for an empty space on your deck, patio, or front walk – don’t overlook versatile, beautiful potted trees.

Patio scene with a table and chairs, potted ornamental plants and small ornamental trees


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