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Trees for containers: Architectural Plants for Sunny Sites

The flexibility, mobility and convenience that a pot-grown tree provides is highly desirable. Architectural plants such as palms are ideal for pots, being slow growing and partial to well-drained soils in a sunny site. These three trees are distinguished by their aesthetic similarities to palm trees, and are particularly suited to patios, courtyards, swimming pool surrounds and coastal gardens.

“Cabbage Tree” – Cordyline Australis

Native to New Zealand, the Cordyline could once be found with an ultimate height of twenty meters, though it is now heavily cultivated in the United States and England, and often potted to achieve smaller sizes. When touched the bark is found to be spongy, with long, narrow dark green leaves. In spring and early summer it can be seen to produce extensive, dense flowering spikes with a sweet, pleasant perfume.

The Cordyline Australis now mainly enjoys success as an ornamental tree, after widespread decline in New Zealand. It’s fairly easy to plant and grow, and gardeners looking to introduce an excitingly exotic tree requiring little maintenance or pruning would choose well to invest in this genus.

Windmill Palm - Trachycarpus Fortunei

A generally hardy plant, this beginner tree is an excellent investment, having received the Royal Horticultural Society Award of Merit. It can survive in most soils and pH types, as well as being drought tolerant. Sometimes considered the hardiest palm, it will survive cold winters when planted in well-drained soil, and is well suited to containers. After a particularly rough winter the fronds may appear ragged, though new ones will soon follow. Remember that on young plants may need their stem lagging with a breathable material such as horticultural fleece.

Unlike the C. Australis, there tends to be a smaller number of branches on the Windmill Palm. In a potted plant the trunk can be expected to hit around two meters within ten years, with a number of sword-like leaves fanning out horizontally from the leaf stem The view is impressive, and is likely the potted plant that most resembles a palm tree available to enthusiasts.

Mediterranean Fan Palm – Chamaerops Humilis

This small shrub-like dwarf palm has a full and bushy appearance, with multiple stems carrying large fan shaped leaves split into linear segments. The plant is appropriate for architectural use, with a slow pace of growth making it ideal for keeping in a container.

The Fan Palm is considered to be moderately hardy, and may be well suited for use as a conservatory plant in colder areas. It can survive brief periods below freezing, though wouldn’t be suited to frost pockets or cold environments.

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