Growing Trees in Pots

I am looking for small trees that I can place in pots around my swimming pool to give the impression of a cooler, more hospitable climate. I was thinking 8-foot trees would be ideal, but I need to know what you recommend and what size pot would be required for this. In the summer, in addition to extreme heat, I have to contend with strong winds and so the potted trees need to be stable enough not to tip into the pool. I had considered citrus and/or pineapple guava. My back yard is more “Asian/Zen” inspired but a bit eclectic, too. Finally, these trees would not be on a watering system and hand-watering would be limited to about once or twice a week, so I need water-wise trees.
On another matter, my wisteria have been decimated by squirrels and leafhoppers. The squirrels chew the trunks and the leafhoppers excrete the juices sucked from the stems so it feels like a rainstorm sitting beneath them on the back patio. What do you recommend for getting rid of squirrels and leafhoppers?
– Bryce Fujii, Canoga Park
To neutralize the force of the wind, you should use the biggest containers you can find. I would recommend either gigantic terra cotta pots, 3 feet in diameter, or square tubs, 3 feet to a side. Good-quality containers are available at Pottery Etc., 7441 Canoga Avenue, Canoga Park; (818) 704-0741.
A significant advantage of large pots is the long interval you can allow between waterings. A container that is 3 feet wide and 2 to 3 feet deep should not require more than a single weekly watering, even in hot weather.
Large pots or tubs should be planted with trees that have been growing in 15-gallon or larger containers. If you put a small tree in a large container, and soak the soil, the plant will sit in excess water and develop root rot.
In oversize containers, you might consider planting a single 15-gallon- size tree with smaller trees or perennials, of 5- or 1-gallon size, around it.
Probably the best trees for growing around pools are multitrunked palms such as Senegal date palm (Phoenix reclinata) and Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis). Two slow-growing palms with blue fronds, the jelly palm (Brahea capitata), with edible fruit, and blue Hesper palm (Brahea armata), also warrant consideration as container specimens. The windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortuneii), of manageable size, is also wind-tolerant.
Weeping trees suggest a cooler, or at least wetter, climate, and there are at least two you could choose for container growing. The mayten tree (Maytenus boaria) has the look of a miniature weeping willow, and the Australian willow (Geijera parvifolia) is known for its minimal water need.
Citrus is wind-sensitive, but pineapple guava may work out well for you. A member of the myrtle family, the pineapple guava has attractive wood and lends itself to sculptural pruning. It also has edible flowers and leaves that are green on one side and gray on the other.
Two of the most popular container trees, frequently seen around pools, are purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera hybrids) and mid-size to semi- dwarf magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora hybrids).
As for your leafhopper-embattled wisteria, you might try an organic insecticide called Pyrethrum that is derived from painted daisy flowers. Be ware that organic pesticides may be just as toxic as inorganic ones, if not more so.
Use Havahart traps ( to snare the squirrels or exclude them by covering the lower 6 feet of your trunks with sheet metal and not allowing branches of nearby trees to grow within 6 feet of your wisteria. If your wisteria trunks are less than 6 feet tall, you will have to trap the squirrels, drive them into the hills, let them go, and hope they tell their friends that you are a nice guy and leave your plants in peace!

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