In April I dug up ten maple seedlings off the maple tree in the front yard and put them in pots in perlite and pumice. I left a couple in the front yard. The ones in the pots kept as much of the dirt as possible. Here is the difference. The ruler in the picture is 5 1/2 inches, 14 cm, so the tree in the pot is 11 or 12 inches and the tree in the ground is about 6 inches, about half as tall.
The difference between the two growing is reliable watering, fertilizer, and sunshine. The one in the ground is on the north side of the house and gets no sun and either way too much rain or none. In the pot gets sun all day long.
The pot came inside about two minutes for the picture. The sun was too bright for me to see the screen.
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The following user(s) said Thank You: Clicio, FrankC
To draw a real conclusion I would have to find four sets of seedlings, three each, pot two of each set, put one in the sun, leave one in the shade beside the one in the ground, and look for consistent differences.
That is way too much work.
Actually, there were several still in the ground, and they were sort of consistently the same size, as were the ones in pots. Some pots are noticeably smaller and those trees were a little smaller.
Conclude what you like, I'll leave the trees in the sun.
Actually, there was a surprise here that in the pot grew about twice as fast as in the ground.
That tells me that fertilizer, quality of soil, and watering are more important. I should have noted that in the ground had the usual Alabama thin layer of real soil on top of clay. So, half an inch/1 cm of soil vs 3 to 5 inches/7-12 cm of perlite and lava rock. In the pot had a better soil situation, not usually the case.
But I am happy your potted seedlings is doing good.
These are a special effort. The parent tree in the front yard was planted about 1987 and produces absolutely gorgeous fall leaves. People actually drive out of their way to stop and look at it. The little trees will probably not be any outstanding bonsai specimens but they will be outstanding presents for the boys who grew up with it. Maybe the memories of raking the leaves may not be tops on their list, but it will be part of home.
My plan is get some small but decent pots to put them and then hand them out. There is the obvious issue of caring for them. I am a little surprised at how well they are doing. I am also going to make a multiple planting for us to take just in case we ever sell the house and move. Since it was a present from the oldest son there is a lot of sentimental value here.