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My fiancé and I are getting married next month, and during the ceremony we would like to plant a small tree. Our problem is finding a variety of tree that will work for where we live.

We live in a condo in the city, so anything we get would have to be potted. It would be nice to have the option to plant it in the ground once we get a house with some land, but it should still be slow-growing enough that it won't outgrow a pot in the next few years.

We would ideally like to keep it on our patio year-round. We have an alley-facing patio on the first floor, so we really only get indirect sunlight. I live in DC, which is zone 6-7 in terms of climate.

I have seen this question, but the answer focuses on plants and bushes rather than trees. We would really like a tree so that it's more different and special from all of the ivies and spider plants we already have. The one plant that seemed interesting from that post was the camellia, because our centerpieces will be of camellia branches. From what I've read though, it looks like potted camellias can be needy, and we'd rather not have an easy-to-kill plant as a symbol of our marriage...

So, to summarize:

  • Low-light required
  • Needs to live in pot for at least a few years
  • Can live outdoors in zone 6-7
  • Tree preferred over other plants
  • Not easy to kill

I know this is a lot of requirements that may not be easy to meet, so please let me know where I need to make concessions! My fiancé is the plant person in the house, not me. The first two points are mandatory, the third is strongly desired, and the last two are desired but more flexible.

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Camellia isn't actually a tree, its a large shrub, and may become too large to remain in a pot for as long as you'd like.

Probably the best options are Yew (Taxus baccata) or Box (Buxus sempervirens), and likely a topiaried or cloud pruned version would be the most impressive. Both these plants tolerate low light levels well, and are hardy in your area - Yew is slow growing and usually only needs trimming once a year, whereas Box may need trimming 3 or 4 times a year to maintain a topiary form. They can be expensive to buy, because they will have been trained for years into a certain shape before they are put up for sale; the more mature they are, the more expensive. Some examples of Yew spirals here, with some information https://www.paramountplants.co.uk/plant/yewspiral/yew-spiral-topiary.html.

One caveat with Box though - there are many diseases and insects that affect these plants, especially if they are kept close pruned all the time, so Yew might be the better option to try to ensure it survives more easily. You must ensure you keep up with watering as and when necessary, and that the pot or container it's planted in has drainage holes.

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