Can you grow a tree in a pot?

I'd love to have a tree in my back garden but it's quite small and covered in a patio, decking and chips. For a while I've been thinking about a silver birch but today I saw a eucalyptus tree and loved the look of it. Can these trees be grown in pots or would it end it disaster. The alternative is to take out a couple of slabs and plant the tree in the hole but my concern is, would it get enough of a watering being surrounded by patio and would the fact that the surrounding ground is patio on a sand / cement base inhibit growth? As I'm sure it's obvious I don't have a clue about gardening so any help would be gratefully received!


  • Forester2Forester2 Posts: 1,478

    Both those trees can get very very big and would need to be well away from your house.  I would not think either of them would be suitable for keeping in a pot. Some other folks will be along soon to give you ideas for trees in containers. 

  • Yep you can grow trees in pots. At my local garden centre they have wonderful specimens (and whopping great price tags to boot). I know that there are special dwarf varieties available but worth giving anything a go. My dad planted a horse chestnut spur that he plucked from the road side, in a pot about 12 years ago and it is absolutely stunning now. Just need to make sure you feed and water it properly as the nutrients the tree would normally get from the ground will have to be be supplied by you. 

  • I think you can grow trees in pots, and as Tootles says you have to care for them in a number of ways. Watering will wash out the compost gradually and the tree will become root bound just like any pot plant. Therefore you will need to  repot as it grows larger and larger. You will in all probability find it eventually starts to deteriorate and then the choice is yours as to whether to keep it or start again.

    One problem is they do blow over in wind. Go for a square pot and use john Innes compost, not MPC. This will help.

    If you want to grow eucalyptus, which in the wild is a forest tree, you have the option of cutting it back regularly and then you will get much more attractive foliage than the tree would have. But it is a bush when treated this way, and I wouldn't grow one as a tree in a pot.

    In gardening I find that part of the fun is trying new things and not necessarily following accepted conventions. The tree has 2 chances. Go for it and good luck to you both.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,843

    A eucalyptus can be kept small by coppicing if it's started young, and can then be successfully grown in a large container.  Coppicing is also the way that you keep the young growth which produces the more attractive rounder leaves.

    Lots of information here

    Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes. 
  • Snap, Dove....image

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 42,843

    Woody image

    Gardening is cheaper than therapy, and you get tomatoes. 
  • in the short term yes, you can go two routes.

    repot every couple of years into something bigger (in 20 years have something the size of a bathtub) or go the bonsai route and prune roots and shoot every year. Eucalypts do well with coppicing, so chop it to the ground every few years and it should be ok in a large pot

  • fidgetbonesfidgetbones Posts: 11,111

    I have a lemon eucalyptus, grown from seed in a pot. It will be coppiced each year, as it is tender and will go in the greenhouse for the winter. The leaves smell gorgeous. There is a difference in smell between lemon eucalyptus, lemon verbena, and the individual smells of lemon tree leaves , flowers and the zest of fruit, but they are all wonderful.

    For the cost of a packet of seeds from Thompson and Morgan, go for it.

    It's not a mess, it's a nature reserve.
  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 10,194

    I suspect that what is wanted is a tree in shape and form so the short answer is no, neither of these trees is suitable for growing in pots as they get far too big and coppicing would make it just a big shrub.   Eucalyptus are far too vigorous and birch can bleed to death if pruned at the wrong time or too heavily.

    Since your garden is small, you definitey don't want tree roots in the soil where they will expand to seek nutrients and moisture and eventually disrupt either foundations or drain and swer pipes or all of the above.    Search instead for a small tree which can be container grown, something like an apple or pear on dwarf rooting stock will fit the bill and give you fruit too if there's a pollinator nearby.   The RHS suggests these trees - 

    You will be entirley responsible for all its needs in terms of good soil, nutrients and watering so use the biggest container you can find (minimum 60cms deep and wide) and use top quality John Innes no 3 compost in which to anchor its roots.   Give a top dressing of pelleted chicken manure or blood, fish and bone every spring and regumar feeds of liquid tomato food through the growing season.

    The Vendée, France
  • I've got a silver birch in a pot.  I bought a number of different packets of birch seeds from Chiltern seeds a few years ago but only the common one grew.  Its in its third year and still looks pretty in a 12 inch pot with blue lobelia growing around it.  I think next year will be its last year before I start again.  Its about 2 ft tall just now.

  • Abby2Abby2 Posts: 101

    I have a beautiful Acer in a pot which I bought as a spindly twig (almost!) for £2.99 from Morrison's. It's done brilliantly in a pot and now a good 3 feet tall. I see them the same size for £40+ in the garden centre. Just needed a bit of nurturing during the first year.

    All depends on if you want instant effect! 


  • I think it depends a lot on the type of tree!

    I'm having success at present with a Japanese maple (Garnet), and with an olive tree which seems to be very happy after a couple of years on my balcony. I'm also having a go at a standard bay, which looks good so far!



  • Mel MMel M Posts: 347

    There was a gardening feature on TV a while ago about a rooftop garden (in London, I think) and there were mature trees growing in just a foot of soil. The presenter was stunned. They were, though, tended by professional gardeners.

    We have all probably seen 5 - 6 foot olive trees growing in 6 inch pots in garden centres and the like. Cruel I call it! 

  • My potted eucalyptus (inherited from anther gardener) lasted about 5 years, but was too big even in a large pot on a sunny patio and was dying to get out.

     however, my acer palmatum is very happy in its pot in semi shade, sheltered and I have put two olive tees in post on my sunny patio and they love it. They like poor soil (in Greece they often grow in the sand), are very slow growing and don't mind some drought either. Need to be fee draining though and will appreciate a mulch and feed in spring.

    Sort of depends on what aspect your garden is and how sheltered it is too.

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