Out of thousands of tree species, there is a surprising number that can be suited to growing in smaller spaces. This fact is especially helpful when you’re looking at ideas for the best patio trees to place around your patio area or balcony. Whether they be for privacy, shade, or simple ornamentation.
Both evergreen and deciduous patio trees offer resilient green or seasonal leaf color, fragrant flowers, and juicy fruit.
One of the greatest advantages of growing trees in pots is that you can pick species that aren’t necessarily recommended for your hardiness zone. Because you can potentially move them indoors, in winter.
- Rootstock for Potted Patio Trees
- Potted Trees for Patios or Bare Root
- Shapes of Small Trees for Patios
- Patio Trees For Shade or Privacy
- Self-Pollinator Vs Self Sterile
Choosing Outdoor Trees For Patios
To ensure growing success, there are a few aspects to consider. Some trees are faster growers than others, so they’ll need to be repotted more often. Other factors to ponder are:
- Hardiness Zone – If you aren’t able to move them indoors, in winter, this is an important factor.
- Maturity Size – This will determine the frequency of repotting and how it will fit on your patio.
- Sunlight Requirements – Some species (like fruit trees) need more sun than others.
- Maintenance Requirements – Some species (like evergreens) may require more pruning to prevent disease.
Rootstock for Potted Patio Trees
Maturity size is a critical factor when selecting trees to grow in pots, making dwarf varieties a natural choice. In the past, slower-growing rootstock was used in the grafting process, to prevent trees from rapidly outgrowing the pots.
A new approach, using more vigorous rootstock, relies on the pot itself to limit root system and tree size. This experimentation has resulted in a broader pool of tree options that are more resilient and drought-tolerant.
Potted Trees for Patios or Bare Root
For faster establishment and longer-living trees, bare-root specimens have proven ideal. Propagated in fertile soil, and rich in organic matter, these healthy, new trees are ready for sale within two years.
Potted trees are often root-bound by the time they reach the nursery floor, leading to a shorter life span. But, with proper care, these roots can be retrained to grow outward for optimal water and nutrient absorption.
Shapes of Small Trees for Patios
The natural growing habits of small trees will differ between species. Some grow in a columnar or conical fashion and some with a wide, parasol-shaped canopy on a thin trunk. While others are flexible enough to be pruned into the shape of your choice.
Weighing the benefits of inherently larger trees vs ones you can prune down to size will help determine if they’ll be a good fit for your space.
Patio Trees For Shade or Privacy
Creating privacy barriers with vibrant evergreens or deciduous trees that offer fragrant flowers or fruit can be a beautiful and economical endeavor. Both, when planted en masse, can provide cover with varying height options, around patios, decks, and terraces.
Large ornamentals with densely-growing canopies can also offer much-needed shade around open seating areas, making them much more comfortable and enjoyable.
Self-Pollinator Vs Self Sterile
When it comes to potted fruit trees, specifically, a self-pollinator vs self-sterile designation on the label will determine how many you need to grow together to gain fruit.
Self-pollinating trees can reproduce using their own pollen, with the help of bees, butterflies, and birds. Apricots, nectarines, sour cherries, and peaches are all self-pollinating. Self-sterile varieties, such as apples, plums, and pears, need to be paired with a different variety of the same species for cross-pollination.
Small Outdoor Patio Trees Care
Quality care for potted trees starts with the right pot. Pots can be both functional and decorative. But, size is critical. New saplings need a pot approximately 1½ times the size of their rootball.
As the root ball grows in size, so too must the pot. Understanding the growth rate of your tree will help determine how often you need to report it.
To ensure the health and optimal performance of your patio trees, other factors like light, temperature, soil quality, nutrient levels, and pruning will all need to be addressed.
Light And Temperature
All potted trees need sufficient sunlight and warmth in order to thrive. These factors are especially vital to flowering and fruiting trees. Light and heat are what trigger bud production, increase color vibrancy in flowers, and improve fruit quality.
However, there are a few flowering trees that do well in shade and winter temperatures. So, it’s best to know each tree’s light and climate requirements when considering them for your patio.
Patio Trees That Grow in Shade
If your patio is shaded by larger trees, flowering specimens like Dogwoods and Eastern Redbuds will still flower, and surround your space with stunning color, in dappled sunlight.
Certain evergreen cultivars will also thrive in partial shade, with densely-growing foliage that offers privacy when positioned close together.
Full Sun Patios
Other evergreen species, like Juniper and Cypress, offer year-round interest when positioned in full sun.
But, trees notorious for being sun-lovers are tropical fruiters like citrus, avocado, fig, guava, and persimmon. In warm climates, these will still be quite happy in the limited light of the winter sun.
Another great advantage of growing patio trees in pots is that you can control soil quality. In coastal regions, ground soil can be too salty and sandy. Elsewhere, clay soil can be too heavily compacted to support proper drainage.
By eliminating those obstacles, pots allow you to change the soil’s structure, water retention, drainage features, and pH levels to accommodate what you’d like to grow.
Potted plants will inevitably need more water than ground-planted ones. Pots, regardless of size, don’t retain as much water and the ratio of sufficient moisture to drainage is a fine balance.
Water requirements also vary between tree species. Some prefer consistently moist soil, while others need to dry out a bit.
New trees require more to encourage healthy root establishment. Older trees will need less, with some being happy with rainfall alone.
Filling your pots with quality soil (preferably with fertilizer included) will start your new trees off on the right footing.
But, eventually, they will absorb all available nutrients in that soil. Then, there’s the inevitable leaching of soil and nutrients that occurs with proper water drainage.
Fertilizers formulated for specific tree types (evergreens, acid-lovers, fruiting, etc.) are available in convenient liquid and slow-release forms.
Pruning doesn’t necessarily slow growth or eliminate the need for repotting. These are dictated by the size of your tree’s root ball.
The benefit of pruning is that your trees stay relatively free of pests and disease by improving air circulation and eliminating cross-branching. Pruning also encourages new growth in which flowers and fruit buds.
Pruning is generally done in late winter or early spring, while trees are still dormant.
Best Patio Trees For Pots And Containers
When deciding on a favorite patio tree, it’s important to remember that some cultivars will, eventually, outgrow pots altogether. So, it’s best to choose specimens that remain relatively small. Dwarf trees fit this need perfectly.
The following options thrive in different hardiness zones and reach varying maturity sizes. Yet, the best characteristics they have in common are being low-maintenance, having unique interests (fragrant flowers, interesting foliage color, texture, etc), and can remain in pots for the duration of their lives. Some also produce delicious healthy fruit.
Feelin’ Sunny Deodar Cedar Patio Tree
For something vibrant and eye-catching, the pendulous branches of this unusual dwarf weeper are covered with attractive gold needles that display hints of bluish-green-variegation. Which offer a brilliant chartreuse glow throughout winter, in zones 7-9.
The Feelin’ Sunny Cedar naturally grows as a shrub, with the capacity to reach 4’ tall by 8’ wide, at maturity. Luckily, this can be trimmed to grow happily in pots as a single-trunked tree.
For a cohesive landscape aesthetic, shrub versions of this deodar cedar can be planted in strategic places to expand its sunny glow throughout.
This petite weeper prefers full sun and moderately fertile soil with a 5.1-7.8 pH.
Korean Lilac Tree
This deciduous Korean lilac delivers panicles of lavender-hued flowers, once in May and again in June. Emitting a heavenly scent around your patio and through your garden, beyond, for 2-3 weeks per bloom time.
Leaves develop, through the seasons, from newly-sprouted burgundy to dark summer green and finally to autumn gold.
Growing 6-8” per year, this quaint lilac can mature to 7ft by 4ft when planted in the ground. In pots, it can be maintained to remain a smaller size, if desired.
Hardy in zones 3-7 and adaptable to most soil types, bountiful blooms result in full to partial sun and relatively moist soil with a pH of 5.5-7.5.
Meyer Lemon Tree
Citrus trees are a familiar sight in warm climates and vary in size. Dwarf lemons, for example, create the Mediterranean mystique, in zones 8-11.
Fruit is born from aromatic, white blossoms that send their spring scent wafting on the breeze. In pots, dwarf lemons will only grow 4-6ft tall. For a 6-10ft tree, plant your dwarf in the ground.
In zones 3-7, cultivars like the juicy Meyer lemon, produce bushels of fragrant fruit on a patio. Then, continue to thrive, through the winter, in a warm, indoor space.
These sunny lemons aren’t as tart as traditional ones. A cross between sour lemons and sweet oranges, they’re the perfect combination of sweet and tangy.
Arbequina Olive Tree
The Arbequina Olive sprouts young, upward-reaching branches that drape in a weeping manner as they grow longer. Silver-green leaves retain their glistening color right through winter, in warm climates.
Self-pollinating, this olive cultivar can produce a bumper crop of small, fleshy fruit, from creamy white blossoms, in just 2 years.
This is one of a few trees that can potentially grow to 20ft tall, yet will remain small when limited by a pot, in zones 8-11. Olive trees also grow happily indoors, which is a plus for those who live in colder climates.
Arbequina olive trees prefer full, unfiltered sunlight and are able to produce in a variety of well-draining soil types.
Hass Avocado Tree
Hass avocados are classic, warm-climate trees, presenting glossy green, leathery leaves that grow in fan-like sprays along each branch.
When grown in pots, in zones 9-11, the Hass will reach 7ft, at maturity, allowing for easy harvest and the opportunity to grow as a privacy screen, by positioning several potted, patio trees in a row.
Clusters of self-pollinating flowers begin to develop over winter and are set to produce fruit by spring.
In colder climates, these can be brought indoors and positioned where they will receive morning shade and bright, afternoon sun.
With sufficient sunlight, and loamy, well-draining soil, your Hass Avocado will begin to produce fruit in 1-2 years, after planting.
Pink Knock Out Rose Tree
Named for its dazzling appearance, the Knock Out rose tree has been adapted to develop a thick, round canopy atop a slim trunk. Bright pink, scented, double blooms, and delicate, dark green foliage, fill the canopy from late spring to early fall.
In zones 5-9, these fast-growing bloomers will stay a compact 4-5’ tall and 3-4’ wide, in patio pots and containers. Thriving in full sun/partial shade and well-draining soil with a 5.5 – 6.5 pH.
Low maintenance, fairly drought tolerant, and disease resistant (compared to other rose cultivars), the Pink Knock Out Rose will add ease of care and beauty to your patio, deck, or front porch.
Fignomenal Fig Tree
Dwarf figs are a popular choice, as patio trees, for both appearance and fruit. Their wide, lobed leaves, with light green veining, grow in clusters from the tips of short, sturdy branches.
Succulent figs (actually flower and seed pods rather than fruit) are born directly from branches and begin to bud in spring. Then, mature and ripen from August to October.
Attractive, multi-trunked varieties, like the Fignomental Fig, don’t usually grow beyond 2 ½ft tall, sitting quite happily in shallow terracotta pots around your patio or on your front porch, in zones 8-11.
These perform well in outdoor, patio pots, in zones 4-7 too, and can easily be brought indoors, in winter.
Red Abyssinian Banana Tree
For privacy in a tropical garden, this multi-hued banana is an ideal patio tree. Tall leaves emerge directly from the base, displaying a kaleidoscope of burgundy and green coloration, as they mature.
The Abyssinian does not produce edible fruit. Yet, can grow to 20ft tall by 8ft wide, at maturity. Its trunk can reach 3ft in diameter.
In zones 10 and 11, this Banana variety is grown as a potted, herbaceous perennial. In colder climates, it can also be grown outdoors, then brought in, for winter.
The Abyssinian Banana shows vibrant color and fast growth when planted in full sun and well-draining soil with a 5.5-6.5 pH.
Bottle Palm Tree
The sturdy base of this palm has a large, distended form that resembles a bottle. From this similarity, a myth was borne suggesting that this is where the tree stores its water. When in fact, water is stored in the roots and fronds.
From the top of this bottle, fronds up to 12’ in length with 2’ individual leaflets, sprout with a soft orange tint. Transitioning to bright green as they mature.
This cute and compact palm will create a relaxing, tropical feel around your patio, with very little maintenance, in zones 10-11.
Maturing to a pot-appropriate size of 6’ tall, these prefer well-draining, sandy soil with a 6.0–8.0 pH.
Key Lime Tree
This “little” Key Lime cultivar can take you on a trip to the Florida Keys by simply stepping onto your back patio. Grown as an evergreen in zones 8b-11, this tart citrus matures to a stout 2ft.
This dwarf fruit tree matures to just 6ft tall and wide, in containers, a single trunk sprouts short branches of varying lengths. In spring, uniquely fragrant clusters of 1-inch, white and yellow blooms appear, amid deep, green foliage, and continue from May to September.
In roughly 1-3 years after planting, full-size limes will develop from blooms and be ready for summer harvest. Yields will be higher when planted in full sun and well-draining soil with a 6.0-7.0 pH.
FAQ Patio Trees for Outdoor Growing
Best Patio Trees For Pots And Containers Final Thoughts
Patio trees are the perfect solution for privacy, shade, or simple ornamentation. Both evergreen and deciduous patio trees offer resilient green or seasonal leaf color, fragrant flowers, and juicy fruit.
For year-long enjoyment outdoors, pick one best suited to your hardiness zone. But, a great perk of growing trees in pots is that you can pick species that aren’t necessarily for your hardiness zone. Just move them indoors, in winter.