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How to grow container trees


Container trees make wonderful additions to decks, patios, and
front entry plazas

If you want to include large-scale greenery in a small space, container trees make a perfect choice. They do not grow as large as their in-ground counterparts and they can add extra zest in the confines of a patio lot or an apartment balcony.

Container trees require specialized attention. Because containers cannot replicate the depth and mineral resources that rooted trees receive, potted trees should have a frequent and regular schedule of fertilization, watering, and sun exposure.

Just about any type of tree will adapt to a large container. Some are better suited, however. Evergreens such as spruce, fir, and pine will establish in pots and you can keep them outside all year long; just protect them from extreme temperatures. Bring them inside for the holidays, add ornaments, and you'll have an instant Christmas tree that is reusable from year to year.

Japanese maple, plum, magnolia trees, and crape myrtle are also wonderful container candidates.

If you have a bright indoor space that receives light for several hours each day, you can also grow container trees indoors year-round. They can be moved around to create decorative division between open spaces and even though they are large, they can add depth and spaciousness to a room.

Always check with your local garden center for special requirements when purchasing a container tree. Be sure to ask about dwarf varieties that may be in stock. These will be your best choices, especially for beginners.

Any container will do, but keep in mind that you may need to make an annual upgrade in planter size. As an alternative, you can "prune" the tree's roots - which will control the size of the tree - and replace it in the pot.

Choose stable and heavy planters; the taller the tree, the more top-heavy it will become.

You should not use regular soil or fill dirt; instead, purchase a porous mix of compost, soil, and perlite. Use a slow-release fertilizer and follow the manufacturer's recommendations. Make sure that drainage is adequate.

If you expect a deep freeze and cannot bring your plants indoors, insulate the pots with an old bedspread or with burlap. On the opposite end of the spectrum, extreme sun can also damage some trees; in this case, you may have no alternative but to move them to a different location.

Author's note: Our favorite container tree has been living in a pot for about two years (his name is Bruce the Spruce). He was planted, then dug up at our former home, potted, and has now traveled across one state and is living happily in a large plastic planter in our front entry. We first put him on a deck with full sun. A few branch tips began turning brown on the western exposure side. A quick move to a shadier area and he is thriving.


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