Does size really matter with container grown trees?

2011 | Dr. Michael Arnold, Texas A&M University
Much debate continues over the relative merits of planting larger versus smaller size container nursery stock. Proponents of planting larger stock cite the greater aesthetic value of larger trees, the greater biomass present to withstand environmental anomalies, and less potential for accidental or malicious mechanical damage. Alternately, proponents of transplanting smaller container nursery stock cite reduced transplant shock, a phase of growth more closely aligned with the exponential growth rate of young seedlings, less chance for circling root development due to reduced up-canning stages and time in the containers, ease of handling and staking, and reduced stock costs. Existing research is scant and suspect as it was typically done with trees produced at different nurseries or with seedling materials which would confound genetics and production factors with transplant size. The work proposed herein would attempt to standardize the genetic component by using clonal materials and to minimize the variation in nursery production factors by producing all of the tree sizes in a common nursery using similar materials. Clonal container-grown trees of varying sizes will be produced and then their initial and longer term establishment rates in landscape settings compared to determine a predictive curve for establishment times for a range of sizes of container grown plants. Estimates of initial establishment times will be useful for city foresters, landscape installers, and the consuming public. Longer term comparisons of growth will help to document the relative advantages of smaller versus larger stock from an aesthetic and cost standpoint.


For more information on this project, contact the researcher via TREE Fund at



Year: 2011

Funding Duration: 3-5 years

Grant Program: Hyland Johns

Grant Title: Does Size Really Matter with Container-Grown Trees?

Researcher: Dr. Mike Arnold

Key words: stock size comparisons; container-grown trees; survival; growth rates

Peer Reviewed Publications from Grant

General Audience/Trade Publications


For more information on this project, contact the researcher via TREE Fund at