I have had a couple of questions over the past few weeks on giving some tips for trees on terraces.

So pour yourself a glass of wine or two and here goes !

Trees waiting to head into their new homes on terraces in Manhattan

You need to start by asking yourself what you are looking to achieve and to also consider some of the conditions of the environment that your new BFF will be moving into.

Some points to consider –

  • are you looking for privacy year round – this will eliminate all deciduous trees such as Maple and Birch
  • Do you have a limit to the height that you are allowed on your terrace – fast growing trees may not be an option – such as Birch
  • do you want your tree to be flowering – a Dogwood or a Cherry are trees that we tend to use quite a lot as they look great and they flower
  • Do you prefer up right or weeping – a weeping Cherry or a weeping Birch are both beautiful
  • How much space do you have – a weeping tree will take up a lot more space than anything upright.
A row of Birches look spectacular in Summer or Winter – but they are going to lose their leaves in Winter in New York City

Next what sort of planters are you allowed on your terrace – many buildings in New York City will have height limits on trees ( don’t want to be blocking your neighbors view ! )

Planters will most likely have to be light weight – so that humongous concrete trough you bought in Paris last year may need some rethinking !

We use a light weight Fiberglass planter, some very very good quality engineered recycled plastic planters ( that look amazing and you are helping the environment ) or we custom build them – always with weight in mind.

You do tend to play a balancing game with Planters as you want something that does not weigh too much, looks great, lasts longer than 10 years and does not blow over when the wind hits the canopy of the tree.

Fiberglass planters – light weight, come in any color, reasonably prices and look good – the red tress are Maples.
Custom made metal planters – they look fantastic – they age fairly well – they are not reasonably priced – or even close to it!
Wooden planters – look great, can look nice as they age, you can stain them or paint them – they tend to last the shortest amount of time – if you do go with wood make sure you seal the inside of the planter – or they will disintegrate quickly .
Engineered plastic – or recycled plastic – looks good, your using up old drink bottles and they last a long time – they can tend to fade over time.
Stone or terracotta – look AMAZING and age beautifully but can chip and will often, out of the blue, just fall apart ( i kind of feel their pain right about now ! ).

When planting a tree on a rooftop in a container you are putting it into an environment that is not natural for it. Trees normally grow in the ground where, when winter hits it, freezes only on the top of the ground, all of a sudden it is in a container and it freezes on all of its sides as well as the top. Some trees do not do well with this exposure and will show signs of stress very quickly.

The same in summer it can be 5-10 degrees warmer on a rooftop terrace as it bakes all day in the sun.

Just be aware that trees that are zoned to grow in your area may not do as well as you think due to this fluctuation in temperature.

This Ginko looks amazing on this Rooftop terrace that Plant Specialists garden maintenance team planted.

Once your tree is planted with a lightweight soil appropriate for the variety of tree that you are planting it will need

  • Water – every day – this will need to be adjusted with temperature adjustments with season changes.
  • Fertilizer in all months with the exception of late fall and winter
  • Pruning
  • LOVE – lots of it


Root Pruning – the trick to having a lovely lush tree is root pruning. This involves drilling a whole in one corner of the planter once a year – removing the roots and soil that you take from this hole ( you can use an auger and drill to do this ) then packing it with amended soil( soil that is rich in nutrients ). This allows the tree to send out new root growth, which results in bigger greener leaves in the canopy.

The following year you do the same but in an opposite corner.

Hope this all helps with your trees on terraces questions !

Pine trees are slow growers – look amazing and a green year round