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Trees in Containers

You may have a small garden or a lifestyle that involves moving home regularly. Perhaps you have a paved courtyard area that you would like to ‘soften’ with a tree planting.  These are opportunities for growing trees in containers.  Many plants can be grown in containers provided that they are supplied with essential nutrients and sufficient water, so why not trees?  A group of trees in containers of different height, artfully placed are a delight. In frost prone areas, trees that would otherwise be damaged or die may do well if taken inside to see out those crucial cold months.

Trees in Containers

A group of trees in containers of different height are a delight.

Orangeries were a feature of some large country mansions in the 17th and 18th centuries, before glass manufacture on a large scale was developed and conservatories were built to house plant collections.  An orangery would have floor to ceiling glazed doors to let in as much light as possible.  Citrus trees, oranges in particular, because their fruit was exotic and costly, were grown in containers so that they could be moved inside the orangery when cold weather threatened.

Large boxes made from hardwood, concrete containers and half barrels are ideal.  The size of the container limits tree size and your ability to move it. You can be creative here and use some unlikely containers to add interest.  Large trees require a lot of water and nutrients and it is better to move them to a permanent site when they become too large to be repotted. You need to root prune them from time to time to limit growth. Slow growing trees are a better option and it is better not to overfeed and to limit growth.
Deep containers are best, to allow good root development, especially if the tree is to be replanted in someone’s garden.  A shallow rooted tree is susceptible to wind toppling.  A potting mix with a large percentage of organic matter is preferred, to hold as much water as possible.  Regular watering is essential as trees will give off large quantities and water stress invites disease.

Take care not to overestimate your strength and underestimate the weight when moving containers.  Enlist some help or borrow a sack truck.  Back injuries take a long time to heal, if ever.