The Q&A Archives: Small Tree in Container

Question: I would like to put a small tree in a pot by my front door which will be left out all year round. What type of pot and soil do I use? I would like to pot a small arbrovite or some type of small Christmas type tree. Thank you!

Answer: What a great idea! First, select a pot that is proportionate in size with the plant, and fill it part-way with a top-quality potting mix--one that has a fairly coarse texture and drains well.

Place the plant in the pot and add more soil around the base of the plant, tamping the soil down as you go.

Give the plant a thorough soaking.

To maintain your potted evergreens, especially during the winter months, make sure to water on a regular basis, using cold water from an indoor faucet if necessary. Whatever you do, don't let your evergreens dry out for extended periods in the winter. Although their growth may slow to a snail's pace, evergreens don't go completely dormant in winter, and as a result, they need moisture.

If you live in an area where really hard freezes are the norm, then you might want to give the root ball additional protection--such as piling leaves or mulch around the container or wrapping it in several layers of bubble wrap so that the plant doesn't freeze.

Some evergreens to consider include 'Hicks' yew (Taxus x media'Hicksii), an upright, shade-tolerant shrub that is fairly easy to grow, providing it doesn't receive too much afternoon sun. It's hardy to Zone 4. 'Hicks' yew can actually get pretty tall--20 to 30 feet--but in a container it isn't likely to grow too quickly.

For a totally unique plant look, try 'Sky Pencil' (Ilex crenata). What's so interesting about this plant is that it will grow to about four feet tall, but remain only 8-10" wide. Another unusual upright plant is the juniper called 'Skyrocket' (Juniperus scopulorum). This sun lover is hardy to Zone 4, maintains beautiful silvery-blue foliage year-round, and grows to 15 feet tall and just two feet wide.

A final suggestion is 'Bosnian Pine', or Pinus leucodermis, which is hardy to Zone 4 and features dark green needles that are densely packed; in time there will be attractive purplish-bluish cones. It's a slow grower, so it can stay in a pot for a long time as well as handle full sun.

Best wishes with your new plants!

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