Tree for a planter in the shade


I need a tree that can grow in a planter in my backyard. It would get a lot of shade since I have a maple nearby. It needs to be Leafy and wide at the top, so that it can cover the background at around 2-2.5 meters tall. Is there such a tree? If so, how big would the planter need to be? It would be placed in the northeast corner of my backyard. Thank you.


Thank you for contacting Toronto Master Gardeners.  You have several choices of shrubs or small trees that would be appropriate for a planter in the shade:  These include:

  • Acer palmatum or Japanese maple such as the species ‘Blood good’
  • Hydrangeas such as Hydrangea quercifolia or Hydrangea paniculata ‘Grandiflora’
  • Cornus or Dogwood such as Cornus alba ‘Elegantissima’
  • Rhus typhina ‘Baitiger’ or Tiger Eyes Sumac

When growing shrubs or small trees in containers there are several things to consider.  The planter needs to be large enough for the root ball and the growth of the roots.  When these shrubs are full grown they will need the container to be 20 inches wide and 16 to 18 inches deep.  Depending on the size of plant you buy you might start off with a smaller container and size up as the roots grow.  The material of the planter is also important.  Frost free terra cotta, heavy plastic, resin or wood would be appropriate. Also ensure that the container has plenty of drainage holes.  Most trees will thrive in a loam-based compost and will need a top up of compost annually. The plants dry out quickly and will therefore need frequent watering. The tree or shrub may need some protection in the winter. Wrapping the container with bubble wrap or burlap will provide this protection.

For more information on caring for shrubs and trees in containers, please see the following website: