Patio trees are a great way to add some green if you lack garden space or your garden soil is poor. Many dwarf varieties of popular trees make excellent container trees. Although they require more care than trees grown in the ground, patio trees that are well cared for can be enjoyed for many years to come.
The expected size of a mature tree should be kept in mind when deciding the size of the container. Dwarf trees and slow growing varieties of trees are typically favored patio trees. Conifers, especially the evergreen type, and junipers and pines grow well in containers.
Remember to loosen the roots of a tree before planting it. You may even need to cut an inch off vertically, to encourage the tree to grow fresh roots into the new soil.
TIP: Our expert gardening advisor, Susan Patterson adds, "Japanese maple, star magnolia and Ann magnolia are excellent container trees."
You need to select an appropriate container. Container trees thrive when they have adequate space to grow. Containers come in a myriad of styles and materials, such as clay, plastic, terracotta and ceramic. Clay containers are heavier than plastic but are more suitable for larger trees since they can withstand winds and ignore cracks caused by growing roots. Of course, the container must compliment the size and shape of the tree.
Make sure your containers have adequate drainage holes at the bottom to prevent the roots from drowning. If not, you may need to make holes or enlarge existing ones.
Careful soil selection is essential for the growth and survival of your container trees. Soil from the garden is heavy and does not drain properly. Instead, use loose well-drained soil or container potting mix with added compost and pumice to make it porous and to permit some aeration.
Remember to water your container frequently, since the roots of the trees can only search for water within the confines of the container. Stick your finger into the top 2 inches of soil; if it feels dry, it is time to water.
TIP: Susan suggests, "Water container trees daily in very hot weather."
Frequent watering may leach important nutrients out of the soil, which makes fertilization at least twice a month necessary for healthy growth of container trees. Use either a slow-release organic fertilizer or a water-soluble liquid type.
Pruning is important to help maintain the shape of the container tree. The ideal time to prune is once the tree has finished blooming or in fall. You do not have to prune entire sections--simply snipping off rogue stems helps refine the shape and encourages fresh growth.
Examine your trees often for bugs and pests and apply insecticide and insect repellent to help ward them off.