Definitive Guide To Growing Trees In Pots & 20+ Best Potted Trees!

“Not every garden has space for a big tree, but you can grow them in containers, and you can do it for lots of reasons.” says Millie Ross, a professional garden designer, ” They look fantastic” she adds.

Growing plants in containers is an easy way to add color, texture and size to your outdoor garden. Trees offer a sense of calm, beauty and wilderness to every landscape. They can be used as part of the background or focal point of any garden design, either large or small.

Growing trees in pots is not as simple as it sounds. There are many factors to consider before deciding on the tree that’s right for you.

To begin with, not all planters were created equal.

What Are The Best Containers For Trees?

Containers come in different materials: concrete, plastic, resin, or clay pots are all excellent choices. Each type brings to the table different benefits. Choosing the right container is going to be just as important as choosing the right soil for your potted tree.

©Lasting Greenery / Jay Scotts

The best containers for trees are the ones that are strong and durable enough to be outside in the elements for years and still look great. Clay pots are heavy while lightweight plastic pots are not able to withstand windy conditions.

Our planters, however, tick all the boxes. They are made of heavy-duty fiberglass resin that’s weatherproof, fade-resistant, and doesn’t rust or leech chemicals into your landscape because they are made of fiberglass!

Learn more about the best planter materials!

The Benefits Of Planting Trees In Pots

There are many different reasons why you may want to do container planting instead of ground planting.

Firstly, with tree potting, trees are given a safe space to grow and thrive. Using a planter means less mess and more control. You can also take your trees inside during the winter to shelter them from frost, or during the summer to protect them from hot weather.

Used commercially,  restaurants, hotels, and retailers can create more usable outdoor spaces by dividing areas with tree planters, and add color, order, and texture to the landscape.

Plus, you can rearrange them to freshen your landscape or to meet new challenges at anytime you want! Can’t do that with trees stuck in the ground…

round fiberglass planters
©Gregory’s Greenhouse / Jay Scotts

For a business setting, having a well-designed landscape offer a huge financial advantage. Research carried out by The University of Washington’s Urban Forestry/Urban Greening indicated that – customers claim that central business districts with high-quality tree canopies would increase their spending on goods and services by 9% to 12%.

Can You Grow Large Trees In Containers?

Large trees in fiberglass pots
©Jay Scotts

Yes, not just small trees, you can grow larger trees in containers too!

A potted tree must be watered and fertilized more frequently than those planted directly in the ground, but they will thrive for many years if given proper care.

Make sure to use containers that have plenty of space for your tree’s root system, as a container that is too small can cause potential problems.

A general rule to follow is to use containers that are at least twice the diameter of the root ball, and you should also ensure that your container has drainage holes.

Don’t know which planter size suits your tree best? Have a look at the Best Shape And Size Of Pots For Plants | Size Chart And Guide

Case Study: Private Apartments At 301 Ocean

Check out how large planters and greenery have helped to create a more visually appealing and valuable property in one of our projects.

Rectangular planters
©REWS Media LLC / Jay Scotts

The balcony area is often the first place that homeowners and guests use when they want to relax, and the client wanted to make this area comfortable, beautiful, and private for their residents. They needed planters and greenery that would make the apartment balcony more inviting and attractive whilst also being able to tolerate weather all-round.

Using large planters designed for trees and other large plants, we were able to supply the very solutions that made this housing development succeed as an oasis of wonderful plants and continuing beauty!

See the project in full!

Best Trees For Containers

There are hundreds of species that grow well in containers. Here is a list of the 8 best trees to grow for a large container!

1. Dwarf Alberta Spruce (Picea glauca ‘Conica’)

Dwarf Alberta Spruce
©Adrienne Legault / The Spruce

A dwarf evergreen tree is known for its dense flurry foliage and conical growing shape. It grows to a height of 4-13 feet tall with a width of 3 feet. It is slow-growing and is commonly used as a Christmas tree in winter. This dwarf tree grows fine in a pot and prefers cold winters and mild summers.

2. Loblolly Pine (Pinus taeda)

Loblolly Pine

This is known for being one of the fastest growers of pine trees, which makes it perfect if your goal is to create a hedge or shade. It has bluish-green needles and grows at an average rate of 1 foot per year. The height of the loblolly pine is 25-30 feet and its width is 10-15 feet.

3. Eastern Redbud (Cercis canadensis ‘Forest Pansy’)

Eastern Redbud

This beautiful tree has purple foliage in spring and shows off brilliant pink blooms in early summer, followed by heart-shaped seed pods in fall. Native to North America, the Eastern redbud is frost resistant and grows well in zones around 6b.

4. Dwarf Mugo Pine (Pinus mugo ‘Mughus’)

Dwarf Mugo Pine
©Evgeniya Vlasova / The Spruce

This is a slow-growing evergreen conifer with short green needles and covered with white dots, which give it an interesting appearance. It grows to a height of 5 feet and a width of 10 feet. This dwarf variety is slow-growing and takes about 10 years to reach a mature size.

5. Blue Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Glauca’)

©marypieper3 /

This evergreen conifer is well-known for its short dark green needles and silvery-blue color that makes it a gorgeous addition to any landscape. It grows up to 30 feet high with a width of 15 feet and is perfect for USDA zones 1 to 7.

6. Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis indica)

Indian Hawthorn
©nathani5766 /

Native to China, this evergreen shrub has green foliage throughout the year and pink flowers in late spring. It is tolerant of full sun, and partial shade and can survive drought conditions. It grows 5-7 feet high with an equal spread and is absolutely stunning when used for decor and landscaping. The Indian Hawthorn prefers USDA regions of 8 to 11.

7. Dwarf Japanese Maple (Acer palmatum)

Dwarf Japanese Maple

Depending on the cultivar, a dwarf Japanese maple can mature at about 6-8 feet. In general, the dwarf variety is one of the most spectacular trees with leaves of jaw-dropping red and profuse branching. They are great for adding the wow factor to your container garden.

8. Orange Tree (Citrus sinensis)

Orange tree

For something more exotic, why not give citrus trees a try? There are many fruit trees you can grow outside, but nothing is juicier than an orange tree. As long as basic care requirements are met, such as water and light, they are relatively easy to care for. Though they aren’t frost resistant, you can always bring them inside during the winter.

Best Small Trees For Pots

There are many trees that are small enough to grow in small gardens or even indoors. Most dwarf varieties of common outdoor trees are well suited to grow indoors. Other popular small trees to grow include:

  • Fiddle Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
  • Yucca (Yucca elephantipes)
  • Rubber Plant (Ficus elastica)
  • Calamondin Orange Tree (Citrus mitis)
  • Jade Plant (Crassula argentea)
  • Parlor Palm (Chamaedorea elegans)
  • Dumb Cane (Dieffenbachia)
  • Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamin)

Palm trees are a fan favorite, and a personal favorite too. Check out why in our full guide on indoor and outdoor palm tree landscaping.

palm trees in our fiberglass planters with various sizes
Palm trees look stunning in our fiberglass planters! ©The Gates / Jay Scotts

Best Trees To Grow For Privacy

The best-containerized trees for privacy are those that grow tall and have dense bushy foliage. They block the view of your home from neighbors and passersby, giving you a serene outdoor oasis to relax in. The most common are:

  • Leyland Cypress Tree.
  • Emerald Green Arborvitae.
  • Flowering Dogwood Tree.
  • Thuja Green Giant.

Related article: 5 Tips For Creating Privacy With Commercial Planters

Emerald Green Arborvitae
Emerald Green Arborvitae. ©This Old House

Maintenance Tips For Growing Trees In Containers & FAQs

How tall can trees grow in pots?

There are many different types of container-grown trees, and just because you grow trees in pots doesn’t mean your tree won’t get very tall. In fact, a well-cared-for tree can grow naturally to reach its full height potential.

Though growing trees in a container can limit their growth. As the roots grow they will run out of space and become root-bound or ‘pot bound’. This will stunt the tree’s growth to a certain extent.

Root pruning
Root pruning. ©v_zaitsev / Getty Images

Another technique is root pruning. This is usually done to limit the mature size of your tree and produce smaller trees. For root pruning, gently pull the plant out of the soil and use a sharp knife to trim the roots and replace them in the existing pot.

If you are after a tall tree, large pots are said to encourage up to 40% more growth! So, it’s important to choose a container that is able to accommodate both the growing tree and its tree roots.

Don’t know which planter size suits your tree best? Have a look at the Best Shape And Size Of Pots For Plants | Size Chart And Guide

What are some rules I need to follow when watering my potted trees?

The amount of water that your container-grown trees need will depend on many different factors, such as whether or not it’s in direct sunlight, wind conditions and temperature. As a general rule, though, you should water your plants thoroughly when the soil is completely dry.

Water line down the tree in the pot
Water line down the tree in the pot. ©winyoo08 / Getty Images
soil for planting tree
©neslihangunaydin / Unsplash

What is the right soil for my container tree?

The care for a container-grew tree is different from a tree planted on the land. They are more susceptible to drying out and need regular and thorough watering.

Regular soils may not drain well in containers and are prone to weeds, insects, and diseases. Instead use a soil mix of compost, sand, and perlite. Refresh soil each spring by removing the loose, dry topsoil and replacing it with fresh compost-enriched soil.

Related article: Best Potting Soil for Indoor Plants: Reaching New Levels of Plant Performance

How should I fertilize my potted plants?

Fertilizer is important for the growth of plants as tree roots absorb the missing nutrients from the existing soil. The easiest way to go about fertilizing containerized plants is by preparing a nutrient solution and pouring it over the soil mix.

Once you’ve selected a fertilizer (make sure you use an organic one!), you’ll need to apply it about once every two weeks for container-grown plants.

Warning: Young trees are quite vulnerable when it comes to fertilizing and chemicals, so make sure you do it at their peak growing cycle – usually in spring.

Fertilizing potted rhododendron with granulated fertilizer. ©ronstik / Getty Images

What is the best type of fertilizer for trees in containers?

Container-grown trees should be supplied with an annually added slowly released fertilizer.

It’s important to choose a fertilizer that’s high in phosphorus, which stimulates root development. There are many different types of container-grown tree fertilizers available at your local garden center, but there are also organic alternatives available that are much safer for your plants, yourself, and your family.

Where do I put my outdoor potted trees?

The best place to plant container-grown trees is in a sunny location that gets around 6 hours of sun a day. Also, consider if you want your tree as a privacy barrier or for shade, or simply just for decoration.

Looking for more landscape design? Check this article out: A Climate-Friendly Approach To Green Landscaping And Landscape Design

sunny place to put potted trees

What weather should I watch out for?

The heat from the pavement can rapidly cause the soil in containers on the road to get excessively warm, burning the roots and drying the soil. Windy conditions can also dry containers even in a protected area.

In colder areas, consider buying a tree that is frost-resistant, or bring your tree inside during harsh winters. Make sure your pot has good drainage holes. If there is excess water in the pot, it can freeze and cause damage to the tree’s root system.

How do you prepare fiberglass and plastic containers for planting trees?

1. The first thing you need to do is clean out the plastic pots and remove any stickers or labels. If there are any cracks, it’s time for a new planter since those will only get bigger as your tree grows.

2. Fill the bottom of the container with enough potting soil that it is three inches below where your tree will sit.

3. Remove your tree from its current container, gently shaking off the loose soil. Make a hole in the center of the potting mix that’s about 2 inches deep. Place your tree into this hole and fill in around it with more dirt until the roots are completely covered.

4. Water deeply to help settle all of the soil. You don’t want loose dirt because the roots may grow up and out of the soil, then you’ll have to re-pot it.

5. Add a thin layer of mulch around the top of the planter to help retain water and prevent weeds from growing in your container garden.

Learn more about Modern Fiberglass Planters: Why Experts Need Them For Design Projects

round planters outside
©Topiarius / Jay Scotts
Jay Scotts fiberglass containers in different sizes @ Jay Scotts

How big should my planter be for a tree?

For trees, you’ll need a planter box that’s at least twice the width and depth of the root ball.

As the trees grow taller, so does their tree root ball. In order to accommodate some growth, calculate that you’ll need to move them to a larger container every 2-3 years in a pot that’s 4 inches larger.

If you are planting multiple trees in the same container, then they should have at least 4 feet of space between them.

How long can a tree live in a container?

Trees can live in a container for as long as they are healthy and happy. If you follow the proper steps to ensure your tree’s health, it could stay in the same pot for 20 years or more.

Container-grown trees aren’t meant to be grown forever, though some types of trees may outlive their planters. This is why it’s a good idea to plan to re-pot your tree every few years. Making this switch will allow your container trees to grow taller and stronger, so you’ll get more out of them before it’s time to say goodbye.

©Icon Midtown / Jay Scotts

With these handy tips, buying guide, and planter cheatsheet, you’ll be ready to grow your very own miniature forest within no time. If here to learn about commercial landscaping, take a look at our large container guide to landscaping.

Or, if you are ready to get stuck into container gardening with trees, it’s time to check out our product range.

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