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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: 1,477

    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. 

  • TootlesTootles Posts: 1,469

    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.

  • 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 in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

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    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • 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: 16,661

    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.

  • ObelixxObelixx Posts: 29,103

    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.

    Vendée - 20kms from Atlantic coast.
    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
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