Is Bigger Always Better When Buying a New Garden Tree?

Thinking about buying a new tree for your garden? Hopefully, you’ve already narrowed down your options when it comes to choosing a species (hint: pick those that are best suited to the growing conditions that you can offer). The next step is deciding on a size. You may initially turn your back on those smaller specimens available, but is bigger always better when it comes to garden trees?


An Instant Transformation

There’s no denying that purchasing a semi-mature or mature garden tree specimen will add instant drama to your garden. Think about that empty space that you’re about to fill with a tree, and then imagine the difference between sticking a sapling in the ground or planting a large, multi-headed specimen.

Chances are that the sapling will look quite twig-like for several more years. On the other hand, a majestic mature tree adds an instant focal point, giving you a tree that you can enjoy now, rather than after ten years.


Planning for the Future

If you’re able to practice some patience, then going for a smaller tree specimen now will likely pay off in the long run (and not just because smaller trees are cheaper!). Studies show that after about ten years, small trees outgrow larger specimens. Not only are they able to beat them in size, but they also tend to be much healthier.

Why? It all comes down to the roots. When larger trees are dug up and packaged, a large portion of their root system is lost, broken, or simply cut away. This then means that those remaining roots take a lot longer to establish – after all, not only do they need to settle into the ground, but they also need to continue supporting the tree that’s growing above them. Going through this root loss process is also quite traumatic for a tree. It means that they’re more susceptible to transplant shock, which, again, inhibits growth for quite a while.

On the other hand, a smaller tree usually comes with its root system complete. More roots mean that the tree is able to absorb more water and nutrients, giving you a healthier and stronger tree in the end.


Container-Grown Trees

The exception to this is with trees grown in pots. Unlike those that are in the ground and need to be dug up, pot-grown trees usually have all of their roots intact. This means that, whether you decide to continue growing that tree in a pot or plant it in the ground, it will likely do well.

The only downside to buying a mature pot-grown tree is its size and weight. They can be heavy and cumbersome to move around, often requiring more than one person to plant it.


Making Your Decision

As you can see, there’s a lot to consider when deciding whether to go big or small with a new garden tree. While smaller trees may eventually catch up with, and outgrow, a larger specimen, they do take several years to fill out their planting space, and many people understandably don’t want to wait this long to enjoy their new tree. To ensure the best chances of success when purchasing a larger tree, choose a reputable nursery that can give you planting advice for the species you’ve chosen. Many nurseries, including ours, will often also offer a survival guarantee for certain trees, showing their confidence in the fact that they’re selling a quality and healthy specimen.


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