Think your garden is too small for a tree? Think again. These varieties are ideally suited to planting in containers
Picking the right container
Look for containers that are big enough to comfortably accommodate the root ball of your tree, taking into account its mature size. Make sure the pot has plenty of drainage holes. Heavy terracotta pots are ideal for larger trees, especially in windy areas, as they don’t blow over easily. Plastic pots are lighter and easier to move should you want to place your tree in another spot.
Look for trees that can establish a root system in a small amount of soil with roots that are able to withstand temperature extremes, as the limited soil in containers doesn’t provide much insulation. Small trees or dwarf varieties of large trees are best. Both deciduous and evergreen trees are suitable. While growing trees in containers will restrict their size, avoid large, fast-growing species like white stinkwood (Celtis africana) and Cape ash (Ekebergia capensis).
Great trees for pots
Maple (Acer palmatum)
Best for patios and balconies as a focal point.
The delicate foliage of this deciduous tree makes it a lovely choice. The leaves are a fresh green shade in spring, turning the most alluring shades of red and orange in autumn. Grow it in light shade sheltered from the hot sun and strong winds. It thrives in compost-enriched soil that is kept moist.
Indian laurel (Ficus microcarpa var. Nitida)
Best for clipping into topiary for formal gardens.
Ideal for pots, this evergreen variety is suited to areas that receive full sun or semi-shade and prefers rich, moist, well-draining soil. It is semi-hardy so keep it protected from frost and cold winds.
Brush cherry (Syzygium paniculatum)
Best for screening or as a windbreak.
This attractive evergreen bears glossy foliage and small scented white blooms which are followed by pretty dark purple berries. Grow it in full sun to semi-shade in rich, moist, well-draining soil. Prune it to shape, if necessary and keep it protected from frost.
Lemon (Citrus limon)
Best for the kitchen garden
Its golden yellow fruits, fragrant flowers and attractive evergreen foliage make this tree more than just a practical crop. Grow it in full sun in rich, well-draining soil. Lemon trees will tolerate light frost.
Magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora ‘little gem’)
Best for small or narrow spaces.
Magnolia ‘Little Gem’ is a narrow-growing, compact variety. Its large, leathery leaves keep it looking great all year round, while in summer its big, creamy-white, scented blooms create an arresting sight. Position it in a sunny or semi-shaded spot in fertile, well-draining soil.