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Magnolia stellata

Best trees to grow in pots

We list the best trees to grow in pots.

Plenty of trees can be grown in pots and containers, providing you with all the benefits of a tree but with the convenience and ease of growing in a pot.


The ideal types of tree to grow in pots are slow-growing or dwarf varieties. Search for varieties described as ‘dwarfing’ – a ‘vigorous’ tree will grow too quickly to do well in a pot, while an ‘extremely dwarfing’ tree will be too weak to cope with growing in a pot.

You could also look for a lollipop tree, with a single stem and a rounded crown. Or opt for a multi-stem tree, which has several trunks growing from near the base, which reduces the overall height the tree will grow to. Fruit trees are often sold attached to a rootstock that controls how big they eventually grow and are often sold as dwarf fruit trees.

How to care for a tree in a pot

Tree containers should be large to ensure a good root run and adequate moisture and nutrient levels. Remember that patio trees have less access to water than trees growing in the ground, so you will need to water it more often than you would normally. Every spring, scrape off as much of the top layer of compost as you can and replace with fresh, loam-based compost, to give the tree a boost of nutrients. Feed fortnightly in summer, following the instructions on the bottle or packet. After four or five years, you’ll need to repot your tree into a slightly larger pot. Alternatively, you can root-prune the tree and replant it into the same pot with fresh compost.

Where to buy tree pots online:

We’ve also found a selection of eco-friendly plant pots. Need to buy compost? Find all the information you need to choose the best peat free composts in our buyer’s guide, as well as tips on how to refresh compost in pots.

Best trees to plant in pots


Apple (Malus domestica)

Malus domestica ‘Arthur Turner’

Spring blossom, followed by fruit in the autumn. Look for an apple growing on an M26 or M27 (dwarfing) rootstock. Many fruit trees grown on small rootstocks can be grown in tree planters – read our guide to growing dwarf fruit trees.


Flowering dogwood (Cornus florida f. rubra)

Pink-flowering dogwood, Cornus florida f. rubra. Photo: Getty Images.

Slow-growing with long-lasting, pink bracts in spring and purple autumn leaves. The conical shape of this flowering dogwood adds architectural interest.


Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens)

Potted Cupressus sempervirens.

Although Italian cypress (Cupressus sempervirens) grows very tall, it can be clipped to keep it in check. Create a formal look with a matching pair.


Japanese maple (Acer palmatum)

Potted Japanese maple, Acer palmatum ‘Dissectum Atropurpureum’

Japanese maples are slow-growing and come in a huge variety of colours. They are among the best trees for small gardens. Keep them in a sheltered position, out of strong winds and hot midday sun. There are some lovely varieties to choose from, with Acer palmatum ‘Orange Dream’ being a particular favourite.


Snowy mespilus (Amelanchier lamarckii)

Snowy mespilus blossom, Amelanchier lamarckii.

This delicate, small tree boasts spring blossom and vibrant autumn colour. Snowy mespilus is often grown multi-stemmed.


Olive (Olea europaea)

Young olive trees in pots on a terrace. Photo: Getty Images.

Olive trees are ideal for sheltered urban plots and should be moved into a greenhouse or porch when the weather gets very cold.


Persian silk tree (Albizia julibrissin)

Flowers of Persian silk tree, Albizia julibrissin. Photo: Getty Images.

The Persian silk tree has finely divided, mimosa-like leaves and flowers that resemble pink shaving-brushes, which give this hardy, shrubby tree an exotic look. Copes well with full sun and heat.


Starry magnolia (Magnolia stellata)

Star magnolia, Magnolia stellata.

Most magnolias grow too large for pot, but the star magnolia is a compact, multi-stemmed type, with star-like flowers.


Citrus trees

Lemon trees growing in pots. Getty Images

Citrus trees, including oranges and lemons (pictured) do very well in pots, particularly terracotta pots as they are porus and don’t hold on to moisture (ideal for these Mediterranean species).

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Bay tree

Bay tree in a pot

Bay trees are well-suited to growing in pots. They’re easy to prune into topiary shapes, so can be used to make formal ‘lollipop’ shapes to position on either side of your front door.