4 Steps Using Container Trees to Spruce Up Your Summer Real Estate Listing


4 Steps to Spruce Up Your Summer Real Estate Listing with Patio Trees
Brought to you by one of the top South Shore real estate agents Alice Pierce

There are some quick and easy ways to put a shine on your outdoor living areas that won’t take a lot of time or money. When your home is for sale in Hingham or other surrounding South Shore towns, people looking to buy a house will immediately notice the relaxing, inviting outdoor space and picture themselves there.

Patio trees have become more popular as a way to add texture, color, and most importantly, shade to any outdoor entertaining area.

Using Potted Patio Trees and Plants for Shade

During the hot summer days, if you have a house showing when the sun is at its peak, it’s a good idea to offer shade to the look and feel of your patio or deck. Shade looks inviting as a respite from the heat and gives one the idea that they could sit and relax there chatting with friends or reading a summer book.

Plants and trees are useful in so many ways and add that relaxing green accent to a deck or patio. Aside from being an outdoor focal point, potted trees provide natural shade during the summer months and add to your landscaping.

One can always bring out the houseplants during summer months, but patio trees are fast becoming an integral part of any outdoor living design process.

1) How to Choose Your Patio Trees

It is a good idea to purchase your patio trees at the same time getting the same size, and the same same variety for a more powerful and symmetrical result.

Functionality is one of the first considerations when looking for patio trees. There are types of trees that are best for building “walls” for privacy, or those that have a desired shape adding to the architectural design of your home. Some trees amenable to being potted into containers also offer exquisite flowers, fruit, and a variety of bark colors.

While there are multiple tree species that can be potted right into a plant pot, not all trees will offer you the shade you want. Any small sapling tree (usually no taller than 10 feet at its maturity) provides shade and even interesting texture if you opt for some of the ornamental varieties.

Obviously consideration of size is key when choosing your patio trees. You want to know how large the tree gets at full maturity. If the tree will exceed 10 feet it is best to leave it for in-ground planting. There are many trees that a garden center or nursery choose for container growing because they are naturally a bit smaller.

Keep in mind that any tree that grows 20 or more inches per year should not be planted in a container. And remember that your patio tree will weigh less than the container you pot it in. The weight of the container and soil can be deceiving, especially when you account for the specific needs for the roots. If you will be wintering your patio trees inside keep in mind the moving process and the logistics of this. If you are thinking about potted trees or plants for your deck, be sure that the structural requirements can handle the weight.

Choosing a deciduous tree species will give you a hardier tree that will lose its leaves in the fall. This way, with some preparation (see below) your tree can handle the winter outside because the wind can blow through them without pulling the whole plant and pot over.

Living in Massachusetts, we have many tree choices available in our particular growing and hardiness zone. But not all make for an ideal patio tree. For instance, the well-loved Birch tree is a poor choice for your patio plan. They attract aphids, no-seeums and drip constantly.

On the the other hand, Amelanchier, also called ‘alnifolia’ or ‘arborea’, or Serviceberry are multi-stemmed varieties that provide an elegant canopy of shade. More than one of these, preferably in an odd number, will give your outdoor living space a nice effect. They are fairly disease and pest-resistant, and flower lightly in the spring against delicate, oval, dark green foliage. They do have berries, but these rarely end up on the ground. In the autumn, the leaves turn to gorgeous purples and oranges.

Some other tree type recommendations are the Cercis canadensis or ’Forest Pansy’, which has purplish leaves, the upright Japanese Maple, or something called a ‘Ruby Lace’ or ‘Shademaster’, which is fairly harder but for lighter shade.

2) How to Choose Containers for Potted Trees

Now that you have picked your patio trees, you must plan for the containers. The container needs to be large and heavy enough to withstand the wind since the leaves on the tree will give a stiff breeze enough resistance to go over.

Your tree will most likely come in a one to five gallon container. When you re-pot the tree in your patio container, make sure the root system can spread out a bit. The size of your container should be large enough not only to house the roots of your tree, but will also leave room to transfer the plant from it easily if the root ball begins to outgrow the pot. The general rule is to get a pot that will be about 6 inches to 1 foot wider than your root ball at the start. This way your tree won’t be swamped in soil, but will have enough room to grow.

Container materials vary in terms of properties. Synthetics are nonporous therefore they will hold in moisture, and unglazed pots will dry out faster. Plastic containers typically provide the easiest maintenance and are durable through any season. If you look around, you can find containers made from clay and fiberglass that is durable in all weather. Sand-cast concrete pots are thought to be ideal for patio trees.

No matter what type of container that you choose, make sure it has drain holes to protect the tree from root rot. If the container you like does not have holes, ask the garden center to drill some in for you. Do not put gravel or sand in the bottom of your patio tree container as this causes poor drainage, and be sure to get some pot feet or a stand so that the water can drain out. Some people use a base with attached wheels so they can move the trees around according to when and where the shade is most needed.

There are also self-watering containers available that provide a water reservoir where the trees roots have access. This is one way to prevent from overwatering since water is held in a side compartment and in turn helps keep the nutrients for the tree in the soil rather than getting washed out with every watering.

And if you like the look of mulch that is fine as long as you are cautious. Make sure the mulch doesn’t touch the bark of the tree and that only the roots are under the soil. Planting a tree too deeply where the bark of the stem is covered with soil or mulch will kill it.

3) How to Care for Patio Trees

Keep in mind that you need to pamper a potted tree more than a tree that you plant in your yard. The tree requires good soil, drainage and feeding, along with frequent watering, depending on the weather.

Fertilizer needs to be added regularly to all potted plants and trees when they are kept outdoors because regular waterings tends to drain the soil. Most definitely add fertilizer when you first pot the tree, in the spring and again in the fall season. If your tree is of the flowering variety, then be sure to add more fertilizer after flowering.

Water deeply and allow time to dry out. You should see water coming out of the planter when it’s being watered.

The size of your tree is proportional to the size of its root system, therefore planting in a container will restrict its size. When a tree does begin to outgrow its container, there are a couple of options. Maybe you can transfer the tree into the ground, or a larger container.

You can also prune to help maintain the tree size and its shape. Be mindful not to prune the leader stem, but feel free to remove any crossing branches or those that are growing towards the center of the tree trunk. If there is more than one leader stem, then prune those back as well.

4) How to Care for Patio Trees in the Winter

The most important part of protecting your investment of time and money is to prepare ahead of time for the colder months. Depending on the patio tree variety and how much space you have inside of your home, you might want to bring your trees in for the winter months, and sometimes before.

Once the temperatures are consistently below 50 degrees, bring your trees inside. While an in-ground tree can weather an overnight freeze, a patio tree cannot because of the restricted space. One freeze will most certainly kill your patio trees.

Before the patio trees are moved inside, put them in a shaded area for a couple of weeks. This is less stressful for the trees, and even houseplants that have been outside all summer. It also allows you the time to treat for any fungus or pest issues before they are inside of your home.

Make sure you choose an indoor area with plenty of light and where the temperature stays consistent. Your location should have bright sunlight that comes through your windows or skylights. You might have to mist the patio trees frequently to account for our indoor humidity levels being so dry in the winter months. This goes for watering too. Getting a watering stick will help you monitor the need for watering.

If you chose a native tree species, you can actually leave it outside. Put it somewhere protected from north winds and wrap the pots in burlap and then add Christmas tree lights if you like.

The bottom line is that container trees can be a lot of work, but they can also offer you some amazing flexibility in terms of your patio, deck or outdoor living space design and function.


Summer in Hingham MA is an ideal time to start looking for homes and learning about all of Hingham’s neighborhoods, all with distinctive characteristics. Connect with one of the best real estate agents in Hingham, Alice Pierce.  She is the ideal person to show you around Hingham and all of the South Shore towns. Not only is she a Hingham resident, but she has lived here all of her life and raised her family here, so give her a call at 781-724-7622, anytime. Alice Pierce can also be reach by emailing her, or through her Coldwell Banker real estate website.


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