Breaking Misconceptions: Planting Small Container Trees and Shrubs
Trees and shrubs are the foundation and focal point of your garden. They stand out among smaller, less impressive plants. They provide structure and architecture, shade for other plants, divide the garden into defined spaces, and create privacy. Whether a solitary specimen or a grouping, woody plants have a large impact in the garden and landscape.
One request we see is for “larger” specimens of trees and shrubs. Most believe that by starting larger, they have a considerable advantage as far as the time it will take for the plant to grow to a mature size.
Why Start Small?
In fact, overall, this theory is a popular misconception. Larger trees tend to take longer to establish their roots on transplant, so may not put on a great deal of new growth above ground for a few seasons. Smaller trees establish their roots more quickly and start putting on new growth in a season. These smaller trees can ‘catch up’ in size quickly.
When shopping for trees and shrubs, of course it is nice to imagine taking home a large plant that will create an instant presence. Aside from the immediate gratification, there really are not many other advantages of purchasing a larger specimen versus a smaller one.
Nine Reasons to Start Small
Often, a plant that is just a few years younger costs a fraction of the price of an older, larger specimen; this is considerable when planting a quantity of plants.
2. Less Transplant Shock
Transplant shock can occur when plants are disturbed and replanted in new places. Larger plants usually have more trouble overcoming transplant shock than their smaller, more adaptable counterparts because they have more material to support.
3. Less Watering
Smaller trees do not require as much water when first planted as their larger counterparts. This is part of the reason why transplant shock rarely affects them as seriously as larger plants.
4. Growth Rate
It is not uncommon for people to buy large specimens and see them change very little over the next 2 or 3 seasons. Smaller, younger plants tend to adapt quicker and grow faster. While this is certainly not the case every time, it is a common trend. The larger plants need time to establish a lot of roots to support their larger above-ground portions. Sometimes you may even see smaller trees interplanted with larger trees of the same species outgrow their larger ones because they establish faster.
5. Less Chance Plant is Root Bound
Smaller trees and shrubs, due to their age, naturally have less roots than their older counterparts. Because of this, they tend not to be as rootbound in their pots as older plants.
6. Easier to plant
Smaller specimens are easier to work with. Their roots pull apart more easily when transplanting. Bigger plants have bigger roots which may need to be trimmed or cut to loosen them up. This can cause damage if done too aggressively. The hole you need to dig for a small tree is obviously much smaller and easier to dig, too!
7. Easier to move around
Small car, small tree! Enough said, right?
It is SO rewarding, and quite fun to watch a small tree grow into a big tree. The feeling of accomplishment, for example, to watch your little 1-foot tall birch tree grow into a beautiful, majestic 20 to 30-foot tree is indescribable!
9. Get kids involved
Your children, grand-children, nieces and nephews, and other kids special in your life would love to plant a little tree and watch it grow along with them. It’s a very special way to help a child appreciate the natural world and introduce them to the fascinating world of plants.
We have many small trees in stock now!
Below is a list of the smaller container trees and shrubs in stock now (October 2020). There is still plenty of time this fall to plant them to your landscape.
#1 pot is between .75 and 1 gallon in volume
#2 pot is about 1.5 gallons in volume
#3 pot is 3 gallons in volume.
A tubling is 3”x3”x10” tall
Oak (Quercus species) –local acorns; not ID’d; 8 to 12 inches tall average; tublings
Sweet Birch (Betula lenta) –1-3 feet tall average; #1 and #3
Scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea) – 12 to 18 inches tall average; #1
Pin oak (Quercus palustris) – 2 to 3 feet tall average; #3
White oak (Quercus alba) – 12 to 18 inches tall average; #3
Swamp white oak (Quercus bicolor)– 1 to 2 feet tall average; #1
American beech (Fagus grandiflora)– 3 to 4 feet tall average; #3
Yellowwood (Cladrastis kentukea) – 2 to 3 feet tall average; #2
Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) – 1 foot tall average; #2
Osage orange (Maclura pomifera) – 1 to 2 feet tall average; #3
Black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) – 2 to 3 feet tall average; #2
White spruce (Picea glauca) – 1 foot tall average; #1
Red spruce (Picea rubens) – 2 to 3 feet tall average; #2
Sourwood (Oxydendrum arboreum) – 1 to 2 feet tall average; #1
Tulip poplar (Liriodendron tulipifera) – 1 to 2 feet tall average; #2
Red pine (Pinus resinosa) – 2 to 3 feet tall average; #2
Pitch pine (Pinus rigida) – 2 to 4 feet tall average; #1 , #3
Scrub pine (Pinus virginiana) – 2 to 4 feet tall average; #3
American plum (Prunus americana) – 2 to 3 feet tall average; #1
American crabapple (Malus coronaria) – 2 to 3 feet tall average; #2