Growing Trees In Containers

Growing Trees In Containers

Planting trees in containers is becoming more popular, especially in landscapes with little or no outside space. You don’t need a large piece of property to grow a tree. If you have a porch, patio, or balcony, you can grow a tree in large container. Container-grown trees can be used to frame entryways or to provide interesting focal points. They are well suited to small spaces in the landscape such as patios and decks and can be used alongside other container-grown plantings as well.

Choosing a Container for Your Tree

Trees can be planted in regular, moveable containers as well as in large, permanent planters. Containers and planters for landscape trees are available in numerous styles, shapes, and colors. Containers should always complement their surroundings as well as the trees that are placed in them. The container should be large enough to accommodate the tree. Therefore, the mature size of the tree should be considered in order to choose a container with adequate space to accommodate both the growing tree and its roots. Containers should also be as wide as they are high in order to provide the best possible insulation to the roots.

The overall weight of a container is important too, and this should be taken into consideration as well. Not only is the weight of the container itself a factor, but take into account how much weight the soil, tree, and water will add to it, especially if the container will be used in areas such as balconies or rooftops, where structural weight capacity may be an issue.

  • Clay pots are heavier than plastic, but are more stable in windy conditions, especially with larger trees.
  • Terracotta pots provide weight for stability but should be frost resistant.
  • Lightweight plastic pots are ideal if plants require moving or if they are located on balconies.
  • Larger, heavier containers or planters can be used for trees that will remain as permanent fixtures year round.

Drainage is another important factor when choosing a container. Always check the bottoms of containers to ensure that there are ample drainage holes for excess water.

Using the Right Soil for Your Container Tree

Soil is very important to the health of trees. The soil should maintain sufficient aeration and drainage while retaining suitable amounts of moisture. Good container soil retains adequate levels of water without becoming waterlogged. Do not use soil directly from the garden or surrounding landscape. Regular soil may not drain well in containers and could be more prone to weeds, insects, and diseases. Instead, use soil-based compost. This is widely available at nurseries and garden supply centers, or you can make your own using premium potting soil and amending it with compost, sand, and perlite.

Caring for a container-grown tree is different from a tree growing in the landscape. They are more prone to drying out; therefore, container-grown trees need regular and thorough watering. Container-grown trees should be supplemented annually with slow-release fertilizer or use a liquid feed at regular intervals. Refresh the soil each spring by removing the loose, dry topsoil and replacing it with fresh, compost-enriched soil.

Tree roots in containers may also die during summer if the soil temperature becomes too hot, exceeding air temperatures. The heat from pavement can quickly cause the soil in containers to become excessively hot, burning the roots and drying out the soil. Windy conditions can also dry out container-grown trees. Therefore, containers should be placed in a sheltered location to protect the trees from extreme temperatures and wind.

Selecting a Tree to Grow in a Container

The greatest challenge in selecting trees for containers is in choosing those that are hardy enough to withstand extremes in temperature and can establish roots in a limited amount of soil. Temperature is one of the major determining factors. When trees are in the ground, the soil actually shields them from extremely cold temperatures. Tree roots are less cold hardy than the rest of the tree. As a result, the roots of trees that are planted in containers may die when temperatures drop below freezing. When the soil freezes, the roots cannot absorb water.

Choosing a suitable tree for a potted environment varies depending on its overall size, growing requirements, and location. Naturally, if the mature size of a tree falls on the small side, it is better suited for container growing. Smaller species and dwarf varieties are good candidates for containers. Trees that will remain situated in permanent locations should be chosen for their year-round appearance, size, and maintenance requirements.

Evergreens and nearly any other dwarf conifer can be grown in containers. Good choices include:

  • Boxwood
  • English yew
  • Dwarf camellias
  • Holly
  • Dwarf Alberta spruce

Deciduous trees like Japanese maple, star magnolia, river birch, crepe myrtle, and many types of fruit trees also do well in containers.

Maintaining the Size of Your Container Tree

Trees should also be compatible to their container as well as their surroundings. Since the size of a tree is usually proportional to the size of its root system, containers, in most cases, will restrict its ultimate size. However, if a tree does begin to outgrow its container, there are options.

You can prune the roots back and replant it into the same container or transplant it in another location. Root pruning is a similar technique to bonsai and will help to keep the tree small. Remove the tree from its container, tease out and trim the roots, and then repot.

Rather than having to resort to the intense task of root pruning, you should consider transplanting the tree to a larger container or if space permits, within the landscape. Tender evergreen or citrus trees should be moved indoors for overwintering. Protect the tree roots from winter cold by keeping the container in a protected area or use an insulating material specifically designed for containers during the coldest months.

No yard? No problem. Help save the world by growing native plants in pots

Native plants are the new darlings of the landscaping world, which is shifting its focus from ornamentals to building habitat to help hummingbirds, butterflies, bees and other beneficial pollinators find the food they need to survive.

But — news flash!—you don’t need a yard or vast tracts of land to promote biodiversity. Pollinators are more than happy to dine on native plants growing in pots on balconies or patios.

An earlier version of this story failed to credit photographer Genny Arnold for the image of the wildflower mix on the balcony. An earlier version also used an image of a miniature Joshua tree (Sedum multiceps) instead of the kind of Joshua tree (Yucca brevifiolia) found in California deserts.

If every balcony in L.A. sprouted at least one native plant, “we could create green buildings supporting the entire food chain in a very small space,” said Evan Meyer, executive director of the Theodore Payne Foundation for Wild Flowers & Native Plants in Sun Valley.

Even a pot of California buckwheat, with its showy white flowers and abundant seed pods, can provide lots of food for beneficial insects and birds. “It does great in containers,” Meyer said. “It takes full sun.”

Urban development has destroyed much of the habitat and food sources for native animals that evolved to eat and live among particular native plants. But Meyer said studies have shown that once you introduce native plants into a city matrix, “all of a sudden the pollinators will come. We’re talking about charming insects — not mosquitos or cockroaches who don’t need help living in an urban environment — but butterflies and native bees who are not only amazing pollinators but beautiful in their own right. And they support the food chain by feeding birds and larger animals.”

The Theodore Payne Foundation is one of several nurseries devoted to growing native plants and rebuilding habitat in Southern California. Its nursery has even developed wildflower seeds meant to be sown and grown in balcony pots.

Growing even a few native plants in pots “is really a way for individuals to participate in restoring nature,” Meyer said. “Our mission is to create conditions where nonhuman life can thrive along with human life in our city. We know there’s a path to get there, and this is the path.”

Late fall and early winter are the best times to start growing native plants in Southern California because the cooler, wetter months give them time to get established before things get too hot.

Before you start, here are a few important tips:

Consider your space
Some native plants require full sun, others prefer full or partial shade. Figure out how much sun your balcony or patio receives, then take that information with you to the nursery. For instance, white sage is a total sun lover, but hummingbird sage, its sweetly fragrant cousin, prefers shade.

Choose the correct soil
You don’t want to plant in a richly amended organic soil. Native plants are used to dry, nutrient-poor soil that drains quickly, said Flora Ito, Theodore Payne’s nursery manager. A soil with rich organic material holds on to its moisture for a long time. That’s fine for some garden plants, but it promotes root rot in native plants. Theodore Payne makes its own soil mix for native plants, but any nursery should sell good potting soil for cactuses and succulents that crumbles easily and drains quickly.

Pot size matters
Many native plants send out deep roots, so a deep pot will be your goal. When plants are young, you want to start with a pot about double the depth and width of its original container. Otherwise you have too much soil that never dries, encouraging root rot, Ito said. You could move a plant in a 4-inch pot into a gallon-size pot, Ito said, but nothing much bigger until its roots are pushing against the sides of the pot. Transplanting in the fall or early winter is best, when the cool weather will make it easier for the plant to adjust to its new home.

Spare the fertilizer
Native plants in the ground don’t need any fertilizer besides what they get from decomposing leaves, etc. But because nutrients are leached out of pots with repeated watering, Ito recommends a light application of fertilizer, diluted to quarter strength, once or twice a year at the beginning of the growing season. Do not fertilize after transplanting or when plants are dormant.

Water with care
Most California native plants don’t need much water in the ground because they have evolved to live in dry conditions. But plants in pots dry out more rapidly, so they will need regular watering. Ito recommends using your fingers to probe the soil to check for moisture. It’s OK for the top inch or two to be dry, but the soil should be moist farther down. When you water, soak the soil until water drains from the bottom. Never let the plant sit in water, which can cause it to “drown.” Ito recommends adding pebbles, rocks, wood mulch or even corks to the top of the soil to help it retain moisture and add color and interest to the overall display.

Want to know more?
Visit nurseries (or their websites) that specialize in selling native plants. There are several in Southern California besides Theodore Payne, such as the California Botanic Garden in Claremont, Tree of Life in San Juan Capistrano and Artemisia Nursery in Los Angeles.

Here are Theodore Payne’s picks for 12 native plants that can be grown easily in containers. But Meyer and Ito also encourage experimentation. For instance, Ito said, white sage will grow in pots, but it can also get very large, so be prepared to keep it trimmed. When possible, we’ve paired young plants with older ones in these photos, so you can see how they grow.

Hummingbird sage (Salvia spathacea) is fragrant and low growing, with spikes of deep magenta flowers that bloom from March to May. The plant prefers shade or partial shade.

St. Catherine’s lace (Eriogonum giganteum) is a rare, endangered buckwheat with gray-green leaves and clusters of large, creamy pink blooms that turn to rust as they age. It grows quickly in full sun.

Giant chalk Dudleya, a.k.a. Britton’s Dudleya (Dudleya brittonii ) is a large, showy succulent with chalky blue leaves tipped in pink and large clusters of yellow flowers. Prefers part shade keep out of direct afternoon sun.

California buckwheat (Eriogonum fasciculatum) is a sun-loving shrub with clusters of white and pink flowers that are highly attractive to butterflies and native bees.

‘Emerald Carpet’ manzanita (Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’) is a low-growing shrub with glossy green leaves, red stems and white flowers that bloom in January and February. It prefers sun in coastal areas but part shade in inland locations with intense afternoon sun.

Chaparral yucca (Hesperoyucca whipplei) is a round succulent with spiky, silver-green leaves and a tall, cream-colored bloom that looks like a feather duster. It grows in full sun.

Wildflower balcony mix is designed by the Theodore Payne Foundation to be grown in pots 12 to 14 inches wide and at least 6 inches deep. A packet includes at least five flowers — red maids, foothill poppy, bird’s-eye gilia, goldfields and baby blue eyes. Grow in sun or part shade.

Shaw’s agave (Agave shawii) is a dramatic succulent with textured, deep-green, serrated leaves edged with sharp magenta “teeth.” It blooms with red and yellow flowers on a tall stalk and likes full sun.

Catalina currant (Ribes viburnifolium) is a bright green shrub with red stems, a citrus fragrance and reddish flowers that attract butterflies. It prefers part shade.

Joshua tree (Yucca brevifolia) is a slow-growing succulent with spiky leaves ending in sharp, dark points. The plant prefers full sun and grows to a tree in the wild, but its size is stunted in containers. It produces creamy conical blooms.

Island snapdragon (Gambelia speciosa) is an easy-to-grow perennial with vine-like branches, bright green foliage and deep-throated red flowers that attract hummingbirds and other pollinators. Can grow in full sun to part shade.

Oregon grape (Berberis aquifolium) has deep green, holly-shaped leaves that turn purple and red in the winter, as well as clusters of yellow flowers and purple berries that look like grapes. The plant grows in sun and full and partial shade.

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Jeanette Marantos began writing for the Los Angeles Times’ Homicide Report in 2015 and the Saturday garden section in 2016, a yin and yang that kept her perspective in balance. In early 2020 she moved full time into Features, with a focus on all things flora. She is a SoCal native who spent more than 20 years in Central Washington as a daily reporter, columnist, freelancer and mom before returning to the land of eucalyptus and sage. Her present goal is to transform her yard into an oasis of native plants, fruit trees and veggies.

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Growing dwarf fruit trees in containers may be the solution to a problem that many people have – lack of space. Fruit trees can be a little tricky to grow we provide some tips to help you succeed with five popular dwarf fruit trees.

Many people would like to have a fruit tree growing on their property. The idea of reaching out for fresh fruit is alluring, but they don’t have space.

You might have better luck with dwarf fruit trees, which are small trees that can grow in planters, but still, have normal-sized fruit.

In this post, we will be providing general tips for growing dwarf fruit trees. We will also be presenting some specific tips on growing each of the five most popular dwarf for fruit trees that can be grown in containers.

Growing dwarf fruit trees in containers may be the solution to a problem that many people have – lack of space. Fruit trees can be a little tricky to grow we provide some tips to help you succeed with five popular dwarf fruit trees.

Many people would like to have a fruit tree growing on their property. The idea of reaching out for fresh fruit is alluring, but they don’t have space.

You might have better luck with dwarf fruit trees, which are small trees that can grow in planters, but still, have normal-sized fruit.

In this post, we will be providing general tips for growing dwarf fruit trees. We will also be presenting some specific tips on growing each of the five most popular dwarf for fruit trees that can be grown in containers.

  1. Dwarf apple tree
  2. Dwarf cherry tree
  3. Dwarf orange tree
  4. Dwarf pear tree
  5. Dwarf Plum Tree

Which Dwarf Fruit Tree Is Best For You?

  • Make sure to check the tree is self-fertile, or you will need more than one tree.
  • Decide on where it will be grown and if growth conditions in your area patch the needs of the plant.

In order to choose the type of dwarf fruit tree that you want and will succeed in growing for you, there are certain considerations you need to look at.

A primary consideration is to look at the type of fruit tree that you want and make sure it will grow in a container. There are fruit trees that have to be trained by pruning. Do you want more of a bush or a tree?

Something you should be aware of before we get much further on is that all dwarf fruit trees need care and attention. You may need to acquire some specialized knowledge of your particular fruit tree in order to be successful.

If you are beginner you’ll need to do some studying.

Select a Good Pot and Soil

  • Start with a 24-inch pot to avoid repotting later.
  • Soil needs to be fertile, with lots of vermiculite or perlite for fast drainage.

When you are going to grow a dwarf fruit tree, it can be planted in a container. This allows you to move it around as needed to get it the most sunlight, while also keeping it in convenient places away from pests and pets, such as the patio.

It is important that you start with the right container, using a pot that is 6-9 inches if the tree is a sapling. Older trees need a larger container of about 10-14 inches. The pot must be prepared to hold a tree with adequate drainage holes drilled in. If you get it from a nursery specifically for dwarf fruit trees, it might already have the holes drilled into it.

The next choice you need to make is choosing the soil. You want a lightweight soil as it helps it to drain better. You should choose soil that contains some organic and absorbent material, such as redwood shavings and peat moss. You can also get slow-release fertilizer and soils at a nursery for fruit trees.

The slow-release fertilizer is best because it won’t burn the roots of the young fruit trees.

Know When to Water The Tree

The roots of the fruit tree need to get plenty of nutrients and moisture with regular watering. However, if you add too much water, it can drown the tree and make it hard to grow.

It is a good idea to create a solid watering schedule that lets you keep the roots at no more than 50 percent dryness. Young saplings need more watering, which is usually a gallon of water about once a week.

When it gets older or isn’t currently growing season, you can decrease how often you water the tree. Also, make sure it gets adequate sunlight each day.

If it is going to be on a patio or sunroom, put it on the south or southwest side so that it gets enough sunlight.

Prune the Fruit Trees Regularly

While these small fruit trees don’t need as much pruning as full-size trees, you still need to remove dead and diseased branches.

Start by looking for any branches or limbs that are dark and ashy, severely damaged, or have lots of insects in them these are diseased and need to be removed.

Also, remove branches growing toward the center of the tree, as this prevents overgrowth that might prevent fruit from growing. Also, remove any suckers you find on the tree.

1. Dwarf Apple Tree

Dwarf apple trees generally produce normal-sized fruit. They are standard apple trees that have been grafted onto dwarf rootstock.

While not as large as normal apple trees. Some can get to be 9 to 12 feet tall and require quite a bit of vertical space. There are smaller varieties available.
Most apple trees are not self-fertilized and will need to be planted in pairs.

One popular variety is the honey crisp’, which is my favorite apple out of all those available. Others to consider are Fuji, Gala, and Pink Lady.

They will grow well in USDA zones 3 – 9

2. Dwarf Cherry Tree

By Sakurai Via Wkikpedia Commons

Almost all dwarf cherries are self-fertile. Therefore, a single plant can yield lots of cherries. For our purposes of growing cherries in containers, it is important to note that not all varieties will thrive in a container. Make sure you do your homework and select a variety that can be grown in a container.

Most commonly the cherries are grown on dwarf rootstock as a plant or bush. They can also be fanned out against the wall or trellis.

Cherry trees not only produce a lot of fruit but also produce beautiful blossoms.

As with all these fruit trees make sure your local r. Rowing conditions match the tree that you want to plant.

Cherry trees are a bit particular about their climate and will only grow in USDA zones 4 – 6. If you live in zone 5 they will thrive.

3. Dwarf Orange Tree

By Fahad Faisal via Wikimedia Commons

Dwarf orange trees like most dwarf citrus trees for to be grown in a wider shower pot. Their root systems do not go deep. They will grow with well indoors if you have an extremely sunny spot, sunroom, or solarium.

A good recommendation for beginners is the Calamondin orange tree (X Citrofortunella microcarpa). Not only does it provide fruit wonderful fragrant blossoms also.

The fruit of this tree is too tart to eat raw, but it can be made into wonderful jellies and garnishes.

The potted Calamondin tree mentioned above will grow in USDA zones 4- 11, blood orange trees and navel orange trees can grow in these zones also in containers.

4. Dwarf Pear Tree

Dwarf pear trees produce normal-sized pair fruit because essentially they are regular pear trees grafted onto dwarf rootstock. They are not self-fertilizing so you need at least a pair.

They should be planted in extra large pots with a minimum diameter of 24 inches.

They are hardy trees and can tolerate very cold conditions. They favor acidic soil and should be well watered.

Some common varieties to check out are the ‘Seckel’, D’Anjou and Bosc.

They will grow well in USDA zones 4 – 9.

5. Dwarf Plum Tree

By サフィル via Wikimedia Commons

The photo above is of a dwarfed plum tree in the Japanese Bonsai style. Many fruit trees can be trained to grow this way. We thought we would show you something a little different.

Plum trees may be the easiest to grow of the five dwarf trees we have selected. While some pruning is needed it is minimal. They will grow in a container as small as 12 inches. They require good sunlight and fast draining soil.

Most varieties are self-fertile but you should definitely check to make sure the one you are considering is in that group.

The tree generally starts producing fruit when it is mature and about three years old. The Plum tree is so accommodating that it will so produce much fruit in they need to be thinned out while growing.

They will grow well in USDA zones 5 – 8.


I hope you enjoyed”Tips On Growing 5 Popular Dwarf Fruit Trees In Containers For Beginners”.

This was meant to be an introductory post into a few of the most popular dwarf fruit trees that could be grown in containers.

There are several more that are commonly available, but they require a fairly high degree of experience in order to successfully grow them.
I myself have failed a couple of times growing lemons in containers (of course I was in my black thumb phase at the time), and was too lazy to do any research about how to do it properly.

Hoping that you have happy adventures in your gardening endeavors.

Thanks For Visiting.

Photo Credits – Attribution.

1. Creative Commons license.

2. By Sakurai Midoriy Cherry fruit (Own work) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

3. By Fahad Faisal (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons license.

4. By Alice Redona [Public domain], via Flicker Creative Commons license.

5. By By サフィル (Own work) via Wikimedia Commons Creative Commons license.

3 essential tips for growing juniper trees in containers

Junipers make up a large genus of coniferous trees. These dense shrubs are evergreen plans and a popular choice among container gardeners due to being low-maintenance.

Junipers are native to some regions of Japan, as well as the Russian island of Sakhalin. From there they have spread all over the world, especially in dry climate areas. Nevertheless, they can also thrive in cold climates and can tolerate a wide variety of soils.

So if you yourself are looking to add fast-growing evergreens to your expanding container garden, consider “adopting” a juniper.

These plants have attractive green or blue-green needles and produce blue berries in winter that will certainly keep your winter garden varied. Junipers are creeping types that grown no more than a few feet tall, but tend to spread like a carpet. And of course there are juniper trees, which can easily be installed in your container garden.

Conifers like junipers are extremely suited for container gardening because, as we mentioned above, they don’t need that much attention. And unlike other trees, they can thrive in containers despite the root-growing restrictions.

If you’re sold on junipers already, here are three easy steps to ensure you juniper thrives in your container garden in no time.

Choose the right container

Choosing the container is the very first step, and a very important one. You need a large container that will allow the plants to grow their roots and expand. A large container will also prevent superior air ventilation. And as we told you in a previous article. It’s important for the container to have drainage holes. This way you ensure your junipers’ roots don’t start to rot. The golden rule would be to pick a container that’s twice the width and depth of a root ball.

Junipers are usually quite easy to look-after. You’ll need to place the plants in a well-lighted area. Since they are draught-tolerant plants, junipers don’t like to have their soil wet. So make sure you don’t overwater them.

The soil mix

Like we already said, they can grow in a variety of soils. However, they have a preference for slightly acidic soil.

If you haven’t purchased a fully grown three, but you would like to grow it yourself, you’ll need to plant your juniper using a mix of rich soilless mix. You might also want to fill the bottom 1/3 of the pot with gravel or pebbles. It’s up to you. Next, dig a hole twice the size of the rootball and place your plant. But not before you loosen and spread the outer roots a bit. Then set it in the hole and fill it cu soil. Water it for 2-3 a week for a few weeks.

For adult plants, you might want to add grit or pumice to the soilless mix in order to boost drainage for your juniper trees. Another good idea is to use a slow release fertilizer in your soilless mix. This will ensure your plants have plenty of nutrients.

Other Considerations

Whatever type of container you use, make sure it has good drainage and is an adequate size for the type of tree you’re planting. Use good quality compost when planting the trees in containers. Position the containers in a way that the tree gets maximum sunlight. Optimum watering is important – the soil should become dry between watering, but not bone dry.

It’s a good idea to re-pot every alternate year and also prune the roots periodically.

Fruit trees in containers can be pruned and trained in much the same way as you would prune fruit trees that grow in the ground.