Tips on growing container trees and shrubs

Planting trees in containers is a great way to enjoy plants in small places.

Credit: Brand X Pictures/Home and Garden/Alison Miksch

Want to try growing trees and shrubs in containers? Try these container plant ideas and tips for success

“Excellent candidates include Japanese maples (e.g., Acer palmatum and A. japonicum) and slow-growing conifers, like Hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa). Many larger-growing flower shrubs, such as the evergreen Japanese andromeda shrub (Pieris japonica) and the deciduous red-vein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus), are ideal choices because of their shade tolerance, moderate growth rates and tree-like branching pattern.”

– Douglas Justice, associate director and curator of collections, UBC Botanical Garden & Centre for Plant Research and GardenWise Magazine contributor

Containers restrict top growth as they fill with roots. On the other hand, a large soil volume buffers the effects of heat and frost and makes a top-heavy tree more stable.

All Japanese maples thrive in containers, and their spectacular fall foliage makes growing them well worth the effort. It is important, however, that the trees be grown in large containers and that they never be allowed to dry out. Move them to a protected area in winter, and then bring them out in early spring.

Rhododendrons and azaleas adapt well to containers, although the larger varieties eventually need to be transplanted into the garden. They prefer acidic, free-draining soil for optimal growth.

When planting a tree in a container, be sure to position your pot before you fill it with soil and it becomes too heavy to move.

Dwarf varieties and genetic miniatures of fruit trees (especially apples) are suited to container cultivation. Both types produce full-sized fruit. Fruit trees require large containers to accommodate their roots. Certain varieties will need winter protection. Consult with your nursery.