Trees in pots for the small garden

Life is a Garden! But we know that not all backyards can accommodate large trees. Lucky for all the small space and patio gardeners, this month we’re going back to basics with trees in pots! You can still enjoy a number of tree varieties, even some of the edible ones such as juicy citrus and fig trees. Some classics like the olive and holly tree are also perfect potted treasures that you can grow, regardless of how limited your space may be. Here’s some guidance to get you going. 


The perfect pot for the job 

Choosing your container is an important part of your tree-growing journey. Ultimately, you want a pot that’s large enough to fit the root ball of your tree. The size of your container will determine how big your tree will grow and gives you the advantage of being able to manipulate its size. Drainage is super important to factor in as well, so ensure your pot has many holes for excess water to flow out. Trees don’t tolerate water build-up and this will negatively affect their growth, harvest, and flowers. 

Top pot tip: Before planting your tree, secure the container above ground if possible, then and add a layer of stones or terracotta shards inside the pot for maximum drainage efficiency. Your GCA Garden Centre has an assortment of large containers to choose from as well as handy advice on how to choose the best pot for the job.  


Plant in pot
Good soil saves lives 

Now that you’ve been upgraded to potted tree-guardian, it’s your duty to maintain the nutrient integrity inside the container. Soil-based potting mix with an annual slow-release organic fertiliser will work wonders. Refresh the soil each spring by removing the top layer and replacing it with a new layer of enriched compost. Remember to mulch the top of your pot to retain moisture as containers dry out much quicker and need to be watered regularly and monitored closely for underwatering

Top soil tip: Beware of scorching summer days as hot pavements can cause the soil in containers to bake, burning the roots of your tree. Cooldown surfaces and containers during this time with collected rainwater. Also, be aware of extreme winds that can quickly dry out the soil. 


Starting off with citrus 

Citrus trees are fairly simple to grow when you know what they need. This family of fruit perform their best in warm temperatures with full sun throughout the day. Once you’ve got your pot and soil sorted as above, find the best place for your new tree that will leave some room for it to grow. There are many dwarfed citrus varieties that are well-suited to small spaces, so visit your GCA Garden Centre and see which one spikes your tastebuds. There are over 100 different kinds of citrus including lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, kumquats, satsumas, and tangerines. 

Feeding your new fruit tree is easy. Your nursery is stocked with special citrus fertiliser and professional advice on when and how much to feed it. Generally, you can apply small amounts of citrus fertiliser each month from August to May. These glossy-leaved, bright fruit-baring stunners take most of the year to form a harvest, which will be ready for picking by early winter. Citrus bring abundance to the garden with bottomless lemonade, fresh juices, ingredients for smoothies, that extra zing needed in dressings and sauces, and a bold splash of colour to the garden and patio. 

Top citrus tip: Keep an eye out for citrus psylla infestations! These sap-suckers cause swelling and little bumps/boils on leaves. These pests carry a major citrus disease called African Greening. Make sure to get a bottle of organic insecticide from your GCA Garden Centre as well as encouraging their natural predators such as ladybugs, bees, wasps and spiders.

Citrus in pots
Citrus psylla
More trees for small spaces 

Decorative dazzles: Tree of the year - spekboom, Johannesburg gold, dombeya, diascias cotinifolia, indigofera, leopard tree, holly, weeping fig, Cape Jasmin, bay leaf tree, wild olive, and frangipani. 

Edible blazers: Olive tree, conifer, and edible fig.

Johannesburg gold
Weeping fig
Bay leaf

Fruit trees are wonderfully rewarding, for your own family and also for Mother Nature’s children. Many birds, bees and butterflies will benefit from having more trees around and there’s always more than enough harvest to share. Enjoy your small tree journey and all the juicy citrus at your fingertips. Pop down to your nursery and spoil yourself or a loved one with a terrific tree in a pot!

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