The Best Trees for a Roof Garden

Written by tanya khan
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You don't have to give up gardening just because you live in an apartment and lack outdoor garden space. Many urban apartment dwellers show off their green fingers and get their daily dose of fresh air from their personal roof gardens. Depending on personal taste, include decorative planters and containers with fruit, ornamental or flowering trees that do not take too much space but offer plenty of beauty, colour and varied texture.

Citrus Trees

Grow decorative and functional citrus trees on the rooftop that provide an endless supply of fresh fruit through the season that you can cook, bake or purée into jams or jellies. Evergreen citrus trees are adaptable to plenty of sunlight rooftops receive. The hardy Yuzu citrus (Citrus junos) that tolerates temperatures up to -12.2 degrees C and Meyer lemon (Citrus x meyeri) are suitable for rooftop containers. Provide wild lime (Citrus hystrix) or key lime (Citrus aurantifolia) a sheltered spot on the rooftop as they cannot tolerate frost.

Fruit Trees

Include dwarf varieties of bananas, figs, apples and quince that provide seasonal fruit and varied colour on the rooftop without growing too large in size. Grow the Nagami kumquat (Fortunella margartita) and use its rind for jams and fruit for tarts. Figs do well in containers but, unlike other dwarf varieties, these grow quite large.

Flowering Trees

Include trees that produce brightly coloured and sometimes fragrant blooms in the growing season without growing too large or heavy. Grow a redbud (Cercis Canadensis) variety to decorate the rooftop in early spring with attractive, heart-shaped, 1-inch long flowers. The deciduous Silver Cloud'variety grows up to 12 feet, produces white and pink variegated foliage and fuchsia blooms in late winter or early spring. The serviceberry tree that resembles a bush in size blooms early in the season and produces white flowers and succulent berries. Saskatoon serviceberry (A. alnifolia) and Downy serviceberry (A. arborea) do well in containers on rooftop gardens.

Ornamental Trees

Grow Japanese maples (Acer palmatum) that produce tiny deep-red foliage in the spring and summer or willows with their weeping branches that resemble an inverted umbrella. Willow varieties suitable for rooftops include willow hybrid that also provides privacy, contorted willow, weeping and black willow. Simply divide and repot the willow tree if it outgrows the container. The witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana) is another shrublike tree that matures at 20 feet and produces yellow to orange blooms in fall. Dogwoods do well in containers because they feature attractive blooms, architectural branches and tiny foliage. These trees attract butterflies, birds and bees to the rooftop and adjust well to pruning, which is why controlling their height on rooftops is easy.

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