A Guide to Container Sizes- Tree Sizes for Instant Impact

Box trees are a great way to create an instant effect for landscape projects. While their long term benefit is gradually lost over time (typically trees growing from small containers catch up in the long run) the impact in the first 3-5 years is dramatic, giving an immediate presence and maturity to a newly installed landscape.

Here is a breakdown of common tree sizes:

5 Gallon: Most trees are installed in larger sizes, some small trees (including multi-stem trees) and specimen trees like Japanese Maple are often found in this size. Height is typically 2-5′.

15 Gallon: One of the most common tree sizes installed, this size balances the desire for a tree that may be 6-12′ in height, depending on species, with budget considerations (box trees because they have spent anywhere from 1-5 additional years in the nursery are much more expensive). Callipers (diameter of the tree
trunk) on 15 gallons are typically .5″ to 1.0″ depending on variety.

15 Gallon Arbutus marina (Strawberry Tree) surrounded by 1 Gallon shrubs

24″ Box: Smallest common box size (the box size represents a 2′ x 2′ x 2′ box), the 24″ box is more mature than 15 gallons with heights of 8-15′ and callipers of 1″-2.5″ depending on species.

24″ Chinese Pistache with flowering fruit trees in the background

36″ Box: This tends to be more mature than the smaller sizes. Heights vary 10-20′.
36″ Box Arbutus marina, Strawberry Tree, compare to the 15 gallon or 48″ box size below

48″ Box: Typically fairly mature trees with 3-7 years of growth at the nursery. Heights vary 10-30′, costs for these trees can be up to several thousand dollars.

48 Arbutus.JPG
48″ Box Arbutus marina, these trees make a significant visual impact

A beautiful 48″ box green Japanese Maple

48″ Box Chinese Elms

Large Boxes 60″ and up: These are for almost full grown specimens of smaller trees, and very well established specimens of larger trees. Of course trees can be used that are larger than standard container sizes. Full size mature trees (full grown Oaks and others) are moved with giant hydraulic spades, cranes, and trucks by specialty tree moving companies.
One of the largest wholesale tree and shrub nurseries we use frequently for tree orders is Boething Treeland Farms, with nurseries in Northern and Southern California (Box tree photos from their Portola Valley Nursery).
For More:
Senna Tree– Specimen Tree Movers
Valley Crest Tree Company: Valley Crest’s tree nursery division with specialty moving services.
Plantsearch.com guide to wholesale nurseries for California