trees for containers

This list represents a selection of trees and shrubs (easily pruned into tree form) especially suited for use in container plantings. All have rather slow growth habits and well-behaved roots. For most trees, we recommend as large a container as possible: 3+ feet wide by 2+ feet deep if feasible, and never smaller than 18 inches wide x 18 inches deep. If you must go smaller, consider dwarf plants (see our “Evergreen Plants for Containers” handout), keeping the tree in your container only 2 to 3 years before transplanting it into the ground, or maintaining it as bonsai.

Please keep in mind that in any container — no matter how large — a tree’s root system will be much smaller than what it would attain in the ground. And soil in a container tends to dry out and freeze quicker than normal. So consistent watering is a must. Some trees may need protection during a major freeze. If your tree is on a deck or balcony, consider weight and wind factors. Frequent pruning can help maintain a tree’s size and health. And some trees may benefit from occasional root pruning. For more detailed information about individual plants, please refer to individual cultivar signs, or consult one of our nursery professionals.

small deciduous trees

VINE MAPLE Acer circinatum
AMUR (TARTARIAN) MAPLE Acer ginnala
PAPERBARK MAPLE Acer griseum
JAPANESE MAPLE Acer palmatum Cultivars
 (under 12 feet)
SERVICEBERRY Amelanchier x grandiflora
 Cultivars
AVONDALE CHINESE Cercis chinensis
 REDBUD ‘Avondale’
FRINGE TREE Chionanthus species
PAGODA DOGWOOD Cornus alternifolia
CRAPE MYRTLE Lagerstroemia indica
 Cultivars
STAR MAGNOLIA Magnolia stellata
OYAMA MAGNOLIA Magnolia seiboldii
WEEPING FLOWERING Prunus subhirtella
 CHERRY ‘Pendula’
STAGHORN SUMAC Rhus typhina
STEWARTIA Stewartia species

small broadleaf evergreen trees

LITTLE GEM MAGNOLIA Magnolia grandiflora ‘Lile Gem’

small evergreen conifer trees

HINOKI CYPRESS Chamaecyparis obtusa
 'Gracilis', C. o. 'Compacta'
PLUME CRYPTOMERIA Cryptomeria japonica
 ‘Elegans’
SWANE’S GOLDEN Cupressus sempervirens ‘
 ITALIAN CYPRESS ‘Swane’s Golden’
TINY TOWER Cupressus sempervirens
ITALIAN CYPRESS ‘Tiny Tower’
HOLLYWOOD JUNIPER Juniperus chinensis ‘Kaizuka’
DWARF ALBERTA Picea glauca ‘Conica’
 SPRUCE
BRISTLECONE PINE Pinus aristata
MUGO PINE Pinus mugo mugo
YEW PINE Podocarpus macrophyllus
UMBRELLA PINE Sciadopitys verticillata
YEW Taxus species

deciduous shrubs easily pruned as trees

CAROLINA SPICEBUSH Calycanthus floridus
GLORYBOWER Clerodendrum trichotomum
CONTORTED FILBERT Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’
SMOKETREE Cotinus coggygria Cultivars