Advice about growing a tree in a flower pot year round

lakemayor(5)May 16, 2014

I don't know if I'm in the right place to ask this question, but if not, please steer me in the right direction.

I live in Southern Lower Michigan, zone 5. I would like to grow two trees in pots on my deck year round. Can anyone suggestion something that is very attractive and can survive our brutal winters? I would be able to move these pots in the garage for the winter but it will still be below freezing at times in there.

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Embothrium(USDA 8 Sunset 5 WA)

How big are the pots and what general appearance of the plant are you looking for?

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 1:48PM
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The pots are approximately 14" diameter by 15" tall. Maybe 1/2 cu. yard to fill with soil. I'm only guessing at that. As far as appearance I really don't have anything in mind.

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 2:55PM
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alexander3_gw(6 Pennsylvania)

You may get more input at the Container forum.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 7:22PM
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The typical recommendation for year round container plantings is to select plants that are at least 2 zones hardier than where you live. For zone 5 that would be a tree/plant hardy to zone 3. You might be able to skate by slightly higher if providing winter protection but containerized plants are very vulnerable to the roots freezing.....which can happen even in an unheated garage.

Otherwise, do check out the Container Gardening forum. And search the archives there for a long running thread "growing trees in containers".

btw that's more like 1.5 cubic feet to fill. That's about 1/20 of a cubic yard, give or take :-))

    Bookmark   May 16, 2014 at 8:00PM
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Thanks everyone for your help. I will hop on over to the Container Gardening forum. I appreciate your time to respond to me.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 7:54AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

A fourteen inch container is awfully small. My porch and patio pots, filled with annuals, are larger than that.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 8:05AM
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samhain10(5a - MI)

Not necessarily, rhizo_1. If you prune the roots and some of the top, you can keep small trees and some larger ones as well, in small pots. As with bonsai.
I'd recommend some Japanese maple that gets good fall color - just 'cause that's what I'd like. :)
BTW - I've had a ginkgo in a pot for several years now. I promised it I'd find a spot for it outside this year. (I promised last year, but didn't get around to it - this year absolutely!)

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 8:17AM
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The "two zone hardier" rule may have some validity as a very rough guideline, but it really is one of those enduring horticultural myths that never seem to die. The original poster is in Z5. According to "the rule" he ought to be able to easily grow Alberta spruce (Z2 hardiness and 3 zones hardier) in pots. Fifty percent root death for Alberta spruce occurs at -10. Several days of Z5 temperatures in the -15 to -20 range will kill it for sure in a small pot. Other plants are even more subject to root death. Magnolia stellata, for example, is generally considered hardy to Z5 or Z4. Fifty percent root death, though, occurs at +23 degrees. The thermal mass of in ground planting regulates temperature in a way a pot simply can"t. Zone listings are low air temperatures as measured over time. Root hardiness, except for the obvious causal connection, is a seperate issue.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 8:55AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

the pot is seriously too small ... think more along the lines of half whiskey barrel size ... depending of course.. on your un named tree ..

you could barely grow a hosta in teh pot you are talking about ...

and root pruning.. yes.. there is the bonsai option ...

next... you will not succeed with SOIL in a pot ... you need to use media... and trees have very specific drainage needs ... if you want to know what a tree likes in a pot.. look at a bagged cactus mix.. water in the top .. and nearly straight out the bottom ... roots will rot.. with too much held moisture ...

and lastly.. in MI, pots in winter can be very tricky ... and temps are not the issue on a zone appropriate plant ... its hardening off.. achieving dormancy.. and keeping it dormant all winter long.. failure usually involves a plant that goes in and out of dormancy all winter long ....


    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 10:12AM
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I bought two cheapo Alberta Spruces last fall to use in my pots for the winter fully expecting them to die. They did not.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2014 at 4:38PM
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Thank you for your advice. After I measured my pots they are much larger than I reported the first time. Could someone give a suggestion on a tree that, if it would live in a pot, it would be this tree. Also, I appreciate the soil consideration. I'm really wanting to keep it simple. The container gardening forum is a little too much detail for me.

ginkgonut, what kind of soil did you use?

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 6:29AM
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rhizo_1 (North AL) zone 7

Woody plants do great in a potting mix that is almost all pine bark fines. I had a container tree and shrub nursery at one time and bought tractor trailer loads of a medium composed of somewhere around 80% bark with peat, perlite, dolomitic lime, coarse sand comprising the other 20%.

Today, I use a bark based medium for all of my outdoor and indoor containers. Mine is made by Fafard; one of our local privately owned garden centers special orders it for me. I use it right out of the bag.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2014 at 7:11AM
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My pots are 16" high and 16" in diameter. Is that too small. Can you bring the pots in an unheated garage for the winter or do they need to be kept outside? Alberta spruce was what I was thinking about but I love Japanese maples would they live in my zone in a pot?

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 6:25PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

Japanese maples MIGHT be OK if they're garaged in winter - but the challenge would be keeping them cold enough to stay dormant all winter, but not cold enough to damage the roots.

You'd need bigger containers, though, unless you want to try your hand at bonsai, something I personally find pretty cool, but have never had the patience or skill for.

    Bookmark   May 31, 2014 at 11:00PM
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