Trees in containers can liven up a patio, so long as you know the basics
Inside Westminster Abbey, eight 20-foot-tall live trees lined the center aisle during the wedding of Kate Middleton and Prince William. The trees transformed the space, doing what even the most elaborate floral arrangement could not — providing a natural, living sense of permanence and an air of drama. The move was unexpected, unpretentious and bold.

A potted tree on your patio or deck can have the same effect.

While not every tree is well-suited for a container, there are a surprising number of options, ranging from crape myrtles to hollies. It's important to learn which trees work well in containers and how to care for them, so I turned to some local experts for advice.

John Perdue, nursery department associate with Valley View Farms in Cockeysville, generally recommends cold-hardy trees that would grow equally well in the landscape.

"Trees that grow slowly work particularly well in containers because they can stay in a container for a long time," he says.

One benefit of planting cold-hardy varieties on containers is that they can always be transplanted to the landscape if you tire of the potted look or run out of room on your deck.

Tropical trees are a favorite of nursery associate Robin Swartz of Sun Nurseries in Woodbine. Many of her recommendations include varieties that need to be kept indoors during Maryland's cold winters.

"For a sunny patio or deck, flowering trees and shrubs are nice — something with an extended bloom period so you can enjoy flowers all summer long," says Swartz.

In addition to a selection of cold hardy and tropical trees, there are also some woody shrubs that can be trained to grow on a standard (single trunk) and thrive in containers.

Here are some more tips for growing trees in containers:

Selecting the right tree

This is probably the most important step. Below is a list of varieties the experts recommend:

Crape myrtles There are some beautiful dwarf crape myrtles that bloom later in the season and stay flowering for up to three months. Varieties that would work well include Pocomoke, Chickasaw and Victor, which has red flowers.

Dwarf Alberta spruces These grow slowly and can tolerate dry soil. The even, conical growth habit of the dwarf Alberta spruce lends to formal situations like flanking an entryway.

Ficus These can get large enough to provide a fair amount of shade, but need to be brought back inside before nighttime temperatures fall below 40 degrees.

Flowering shrubs Tree-form hydrangeas and Knock Out roses can be trained on a standard and make nice flowering options for containers.

Fuchsia A mature fuchsia trained on a standard can achieve the effect of a small tree and provides vibrant blooms for a shaded patio or deck.

Hibiscus Tropical hibiscus have large, showy trumpet-shaped flowers ranging from white to pink, red, orange, purple or yellow.

Japanese maples There are many varieties of Japanese maples. They grow slowly, and feature interesting leaf shapes and growth habits.