Drought tolerant (or just needing very little watering) tree for a planter #744481 - Ask Extension


Drought tolerant (or just needing very little watering) tree for a planter #744481

Asked April 15, 2021, 12:59 PM EDT

I have a rowhome in Baltimore with space in front for a planter. In addition to other things I would like to have a tree for aesthetic reasons and to have some summer shade. This side of the house faces directly west. I did some research and came up with a few options. Do you agree with them? Would you have other recommendations? I would like it to not get too big when fully grown, ideally 15, maybe 20 feet. Blackhaw Viburnum https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide/treedetail.cfm?itemID=933 Purpleleaf Sand Cherry https://www.arborday.org/trees/treeguide/TreeDetail.cfm?ItemID=816 Serviceberry https://www.arborday.org/Trees/TreeGuide/treedetail.cfm?itemID=919 Thanks in advance!, Josh Hartl

Baltimore City County Maryland

Expert Response

You've done a good job and make some good suggestions.  I would lean towards the Viburnum or the Serviceberry as they are both native trees for the Chesapeake Bay watershed region. Other common small native trees are various types of dogwood and redbud. The Extension Service strongly recommends plants native to this area as they are adapted to local soils and climate conditions and, therefore, often require less care.  In addition, native trees benefit the local ecology. Following is a link from the Md. Department of Natural Resources of recommended trees, most if not all of which are native.


You also should consider if the planting area is mostly sunny or mostly shady, wet or dry soil.

Lastly, following is a link from the Extension Service on how to plant a tree which may also be helpful.



Deborah Bacharach Replied April 15, 2021, 8:50 PM EDT
Thanks Debbie! Yes, will definitely choose a native one. Is any one better suited to living in a planter?? This is full sun after noon, very exposed, against my porch, with a wide sidewalk and street in front of it, so lots of radiant heat as well. 


On Thursday, April 15, 2021, 08:50:05 PM EDT, Ask Extension <askextension@eduworks.com> wrote:

josh hartl Replied April 16, 2021, 11:07 AM EDT

I don't want to be too discouraging, but a container grown tree is not likely to grow 15-20 feet and provide shade.  That is why I didn't think you were talking about planting the tree in a planter.  Dwarf varieties of trees and slow growing trees may do well in a planter if they are kept moist and fertilized, but I'm not aware of a native tree that is well suited to growing in a planter.  Dwarf Alberta Spruce, Japanese Maples, and Dwarf Crepe Myrtles may do well in a 5-gallon container, but will most likely not get larger that 6-8 feet.


Deborah Bacharach Replied April 18, 2021, 7:08 PM EDT
Thanks for the additional info Debbie, it’s helpful.
Might there be a tall shrub or grass, or a vine that would work in a planter? Still
Wanting low watering needs). In a previous house of mine I had a Concord grape vine (i think that was it) which grew like crazy. A little wild looking, and not in a planter, but it truly took off.


On Apr 18, 2021, at 7:09 PM, Ask Extension <askextension@eduworks.com> wrote:

Josh Hartl Replied April 24, 2021, 7:00 AM EDT

Many grasses will take a hot, sunny and dry environment which you describe.

Switchgrass (Panicum Virgatum) will grow 4-6 feet tall.


Deborah Bacharach Replied April 26, 2021, 9:37 AM EDT

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