Alan Titchmarsh with a maiden-sized tree

Alan’s guide to tree sizes

If you're looking to buy a tree, check out this handy guide to the sizes out there, to help you choose the right one.

Looking to buy a tree for your garden? From the smallest ‘whips’ to larger, semi-mature trees, each has its pros and cons, so it pays to do a little research before you buy, using our tree size guide.

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Professional gardeners agree that small trees are not only much cheaper to buy, but establish their roots quickly and catch up in size with larger specimens in as little as three to five years.

Large trees cost more as a result of the years taken to grow and train them. 

Discover the different sizes of tree to buy, along with their benefits and drawbacks, in Alan Titchmarsh’s guide to tree sizes.

Large trees cost more as a result of the years taken to grow and train them. 

Whips

Trade term meaning single stems without sideshoots, 60-80cm tall. 

  • Pro: cheapest way to buy trees for the garden
  • Pro: quickest/easiest plants to establish
  • Pro: no staking required
  • Pro: produces a secure, supportive root system
  • Con: needs correct training and pruning, takes several years to form a branching ‘head’

These plants are usually around a year old and cost £1.50-£5.

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Maidens

Slender trunk with several sideshoots at the top, 80-120cm tall.

  • Pro: a good choice if you want to train the trees yourself
  • Pro: less time and skill needed
  • Con: still needs time to turn into a garden-ready tree

These plants are approximately two years old and will cost £10-£15.

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Standards

Garden-ready, well-shaped tree with trunk and branching ‘head’, usually 1.8m tall.

  • Pro: the most cost-effective way to buy a tree
  • Pro: will flower or fruit in first or second year after planting
  • Con: requires staking

Standards are usually three to five years old and cost £20-£40.

bay-laurus-nobilis-lollipop-standards-2

Semi-mature

The largest size in our guide to tree sizes. Available in natural forms – single or multi-stemmed – or as trained shapes, such as espaliers, pleached and lollipop standards.

semi-mature-acer-palmatum-2
  • Pro: instant results
  • Pro: great for giving the garden a sense of maturity and scale
  • Con: may need special lifting equipment to plant
  • Con: needs prolonged care to help roots establish
  • Con: may ‘sit’ for a few years without putting on much new top growth
  • Con: high cost due to many years of growth/training

Semi-mature trees are around six to 10 years old and will cost from upwards of £50.

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Looking to buy shrubs or perennials? Take a look at Alan’s shrub size guide and perennial size guide, to see what you can expect for the price you pay.

Help newly planted trees establish

To get newly planted trees off to a flying start, give them a good soak before planting, and add a generous helping of compost to the planting hole. Once planted, mulch the roots and water the tree well in its first year – more frequently in hot weather and on dry soils. 

Red watering can