Growing Trees In Containers

Growing Trees In Containers

We all like to have some unique features both inside and outside of our home. For something relatively easy both to grow and to maintain outside of the house I would suggest container grown trees. Almost any tree can be grown in a container. It’s a matter of placing the right size plant in the right size container.

Potted trees can easily be relocated as needed. They make great privacy screens as well as shade for a sunny deck or patio. When in bloom they can be placed in an area where they show well and when blooms start to drop, they can be moved to a less visible area. Always keeping in mind light and water requirements.

For most of us I think a 15-to-20-inch pot both wide and deep would work well. You want a tree that matures at a modest size. I like to use a tree that would mature in the yard at 12 to 15 feet. Certainly, no more than 20 feet. I will offer some suggestions at the end of this article for easy to grow trees that would work well for beginners.

First select your plant and pot. Make sure the pot has ample drainage. Place some medium stones or broken pieces of an old clay pot in the bottom to aid in drainage. Use a lightweight soil mix recommended for trees. Place the tree in the pot making sure the tree is centered in the pot. Do not put the tree any deeper in the soil than the tree was growing in the field. In other words, cover the roots but do not place soil around the trunk of the tree.

If the soil mix you are using does not contain fertilizer, then a couple of handfuls of Osmocote would help give the tree a good start. Water the tree soaking thoroughly once it is potted.

A container tree should live for many years. A Japanese Maple may well live for 100 to 150 years or longer properly maintained. Many trees will outlive the person who planted the tree. That maple may also be worth thousands of dollars if it has been well taken care of as it matures.

Maintenance of container trees is not that complicated. A tree in a 20-inch pot will need to be thoroughly watered every week to 10 days throughout the summer. Little or no watering should be necessary through the winter. A couple of cups of Osmocote applied early spring and another application toward the end of summer would be beneficial. Prune to control growth and to your liking.

Most growers recommend root pruning of containers every two to three years. Root pruning slows down the growth of the container tree and likely will add to the life of the tree. In containers the roots will start to circle and choke off circulation causing the tree to slowly die. I admit to being lax in root pruning my container material at home. It is, however, a good idea.

Trees to grow in containers:



            Dwarf crape myrtle

            Dwarf Alberta Spruce

            Eastern Redbud


            Japanese Maple

            Kousa Dogwood

These are just a few. There are many others that will work well. Try one or two and then go from there. Come by Gary’s Garden Center and ask Nelson or Gary III for recommendations.