Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

How to Grow Tree Seedlings in Containers

Growing tree seedlings in containers allows gardeners to grow trees to sell at a later date or to grow trees for planting in the landscape. Dwarf fruit trees are often grown to maturity in containers when there is limited space, such as on a patio or porch. If you grow tree seedlings in containers, provide the seedlings with the right potting mix as well as the right conditions for the tree seedlings to thrive.

Growing Tree Seedlings in Containers

Fill potting containers one-fifth full with small gravel, such as pea gravel. The gravel provides drainage in the planting container as well as stability because trees planted in containers can get top heavy and easily blow over in the wind. The planting containers should be big enough to accommodate the roots of the tree seedlings and then have several inches left for the tree's roots to grow. The larger the container, the longer it will be before the roots get too crowded and the trees will need to be potted again.

Make a potting mix of 2 parts organic potting soil, 1 part perlite and 1 part peat moss. Organic potting soil contains microorganisms that create a healthy potting mix. The peat moss helps the potting mix hold water and the perlite lightens the soil to provide extra drainage. Add potting mix to the containers, leaving enough room for the seedlings and allowing 1 inch at the top to add mulch.

Add tree seedlings to containers. Plant the seedlings at the same level they were previously planted in their original nursery pot or in the wild. Carefully spread out the roots so the roots don't encircle each other in the pot as they grow. Gently press soil around new seedlings so they are stable and stand upright on their own. Do not pack the soil around the seedling's roots. Packing the soil around the roots makes it difficult for water to soak into the potting mix.

Add a 1-inch thick layer of mulch over the top of the planting mix to conserve moisture and keep soil from washing out of the containers in a hard rain or when watering. Water containers well after planting the seedlings to settle the potting mixture around the roots of the seedlings.

Fertilize with a water-soluble fertilizer every two weeks or a granular timed-release fertilizer used as directed for container plants. In warm weather, water every few days because tree seedlings in containers need more water than seedlings planted in the ground. Keep potting soil evenly moist, but don't allow seedlings to sit in soaking wet soil for more than 36 hours or the seedling's roots will stop taking in water and begin to rot.

Garden Guides