How to Grow a Patio Tree

Last Updated on June 26, 2022

So you only have a balcony or patio.  You would love to be able to look out your window and see leaves blowing in the wind but think you don’t have the space.  Well, did you know that you can grow a tree in a large container?  Here’s how:


You need to find a container that will be large enough to hold the tree.  Be sure it is as tall as it is wide to help prevent toppling on windy days.  Also, consider the weight of the filled container.  Plastic is much lighter and will be easier to move if you live in a cold climate, but the heaviness of clay pots makes them better for windy conditions and are less likely to fall over.


When selecting a tree, be sure to pay close attention to the size of the mature tree.  Look for a tree that is small when mature because these trees are more adaptable to container growing. Trees usually grow as big as their root system allows and when a tree is in a container, their root system will be restricted.  This is true, especially with large trees that are not bred to be miniatures or dwarf varieties.

A few of the better selections would be:

Mugo pine (Pinus mugo)
Korean fir (Abies koreana)
Cryptomeria (Cryptomeria japonica)
Skyrocket juniper (Juniperis scopulorum ‘Skyrocket’)
Boxwood (Buxus spp.), English yew (Taxus baccata)
Strawberry madrone (Arbutus unedo)
Dwarf camellias
just about any dwarf conifer can grow in containers.
Deciduous trees: 
Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)
Star magnolia (Magnolia stellata)
Cutleaf vine maple (Acer circinatum ‘Monroe’)
Dwarf weeping birch (Betula pendula ‘Trost’s Dwarf’)
Lacebark elm (Ulmus parvifolia ‘Frosty’, ‘Seiju’ or ‘Yatsabusa’ and crepe myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica).

If you are fortunate to have a very sunny spot new a window, that can get about 12 to 14 hours of sun a day, you may want to consider growing a citrus tree.  They can be grown with less light, and are very beautiful, but the potential of fruiting is greatly dependent on how many hours of sun it receives. Some very good container-grown citrus trees are Meyer lemon, Bearss lime, and Mandarin orange.


Never use soil from your garden.  This soil could contain pests and diseases that you will be forced to battle and that could potentially harm your tree.  Use a soil-based compost that has good organic matter content as well as something for drainages like perlite or pumice.


To care for your tree, you must remember that you need to water it regularly.

Be sure to protect the roots from the winter cold.  Remember that the roots are now above ground and the winter temperatures are exactly what your tree roots are experiencing. When they are grown in the ground they have insulation from the cold wind.  If your tree is not hardy to your zone, or if you live in a climate with extremely cold winter temperatures, you will need to bring your trees indoors over winter. If you live in a warmer climate, moving your tree to a protected site, or wrapping the pot with insulating material will protect it.

When the tree has outgrown its pot, you can either plant it outdoors, transplant it to a larger container, or prune the roots (this is how bonsai trees can be grown in very small containers).  When pruning the roots, carefully remove the tree from its container and cut back 1/3 of the roots of the tree.  Try to leave the remainder of the roots uninjured to cause less stress on your tree.

With the proper care, you will be able to enjoy your container-grown tree for many years.

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