Almost any small tree grows potted if provided the right amount of light, fertiliser and soil. Which tree is best for you depends upon what you are looking for and where you want to put it. Look at the location's temperature and lighting and then find a tree that grows well in that environment. While almost any slow-growing, small tree does fine when potted, a few have qualities that make them superior.
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Norfolk Island Pine
The Norfolk Island pine (Aaucaria heterophylla) is a great, easy-to-care-for evergreen. It requires a moderate amount of light with some supplemental light in the winter to avoid needle drop. It does best in cooler, humid homes when planted in an acidic soil. Repot it every 2 to 3 years. Within 15 years, the tree reaches about 8 feet tall.
The weeping fig (Ficus benjamina) is a tough tree that survives neglect. It requires a moderate amount of light and withstands direct sunlight in the winter, but a south- or west-facing window is best. Do not keep the soil continually moist but allow it to dry out. When watering, thoroughly soak the entire soil ball and allow the excess water to drain. This helps remove excess fertiliser salts in the soil and prevents them from damaging the roots.
The trick to growing Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) in pot is selecting the right cultivar and proper pruning. For Japanese maples, root pruning is important and should be done every year until the tree reaches its optimum size. Then prune it every 2 to 4 years. Root pruning involves removing any dead roots along with 1/8 to 1/4 of the mass on the sides of the root ball. A few of the cultivars that grow well in containers are Crimson Queen, Shaina, Fireglow, Garnet, Red Dragon and Winter Flame. They are hardy in U.S. Department of Agriculture Plant Hardiness Zones 5 through 9.
The star magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) provides fragrant, white flowers in the spring. Although it grows up to 2 feet tall, cultivars like Waterlily, Royal Star and Rosea remain much shorter. It prefers a moist, organic soil and is hardy in USDA zones 4 through 9. For the best flowers, provide it with lots of sunlight.
According to Colorado Master Gardener Sheri Hunter, citrus trees are ideal for warm, sunny rooms. These trees provide dark, shiny leaves and fragrant blossoms as well as fruit. They need at least five hours of sunlight and should be planted in fertile, fast-draining soil. Grow lemon, calamondin, dwarf grapefruit, key lime, kumquat, lime, limequat and dwarf orange trees in containers.
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- University of Nebraska-Lincoln Extension: Weeping Fig, Ficus benjamina
- Pacific Coast Maples: Growing Japanese Maple Trees in Containers
- North Dakota State University; Interior Plantscaping with Large Houseplants; Ronald Smith; March 1997
- Colorado State University Cooperative Extension; Citrus Trees: an Ideal Indoor Plant Selection; Sheri Hunter
- California Rare Fruit Growers; Growing Fruit Crops in Containers; Julian W. Sauls, et al
- National Gardening Association; Fruit Trees in Containers; William Ross