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Guide to Size and Type of Trees

Trees are sold in a variety of sizes and forms, depending on their age, rate of growth and method of propagation. This guide will help you understand nursery price lists.

Tree Sizes

There is a size classification within the nursery trade for tree height excluding their roots as follows.

standardStandard
1.8m clear stem and a head of branches
  • 20-30cm
  • 30-40cm
  • 40-60cm
  • 60-90cm
  • 80-100cm
  • 100-125cm
  • 125-150cm
  • 150-175cm
  • 175-200cm
  • 200-250cm

Above this, trees are generally sold as Standards, with a clear stem of 1.8m and classified according to their stem circumference 1m above ground level, as follows.

  • 6-8cm STD
  • 8-10cm STD
  • 10-12cm STD
  • 12-14cm STD
  • 14-18-cm STD
  • and so on up to as much as 30cm girth and more.

Some trees are sold as Half Standards, with a clear stem of 1.2-1.5m.

Large trees that have branches to ground level are not classed as standards and are sold by height only.

These classifications can be for Field Grown FG or Pot Grown PG (sometimes called CG, Container Grown) plants.

Those trees grown as more than one single stem are usually noted as Multistems M/S.

Tree Types

Seedlings
Only vigorous growing species are usually big enough for planting outside a nursery situation as a one year old seedling e.g. Ash Fraxinus excelsior. They are sold by size e.g. 40-60cm
Transplants
These are plants that have started in a seed bed and then after one or two years have been undercut and left to grow on or transplanted and grown on. The age varies with rate of growth and is noted as follows.
featherFeather(Feathered Whip)
Main stem and side branches(feathers)
  • 1+1
  • 1u1
  • 1+2
  • 2+1
  • 2+2

They would also be sold by size and may be listed for example as 1+2 60-80cm.

Whip
These are plants produced from seed or cuttings, with a central stem and little or no side branching. May be a seedling, a transplant or a one year hardwood cutting. Normally sold by height e.g. 100-125cm.
Feather (Feathered Whip)
Older and bigger than a whip, with side branches(feathers). Sold by height e.g. 150-175cm.
Maiden
similar to a whip, generally just a single 1 year stem, the product of budding or grafting. Can be an ornamental or a fruit tree.
Feathered Maiden
A maiden grown on for another 1 or sometimes 2 years. So taller and with side branches(feathers).

Fruit Tree Types

bushBush Fruit Tree
Stem of 90-100cms and a head of branches

Fruit trees are sold in a range of types and sizes. This is dependent on the rootstock they are grown on and thereby their vigour; the situation in which they are to grow and the shape and form they will be pruned to form.

Maiden
A one year old stem. The basic building block for all fruit forms, dependant on the rootstock. Size varies according to fruit type and rootstock.
Feathered Maiden
A tree generally on a vigorous rootstock, being grown on with a tall stem to produce a standard.
Bush
A 2 or 3 year old tree on a less vigorous rootstock, that has been pruned to form a head of 3 or 4 main branches on a stem of about 90-100cm.
Half Standard
A tree on a semi-vigorous rootstock with a clear stem of 1.2-1.5m and a head of branches.
Standard
A tree on a vigorous rootstock with a clear stem of 1.8m and a head of branches.

Sizes of Trees and Shrubs at Maturity

Many people get confused about how big trees and shrubs will grow. Many books don’t help as they give a size, but in the small print you find that this is the expected size after 10 years. So people unwittingly plant trees that will often outgrow the chosen site within 15 to 20 years. This may be okay in some situations. After that time, the tree has given satisfaction but the owner may wish to remove it before it becomes a problem and replace it with something different.

To clarify matters, here is a guide that is generally adopted in the trade to describe the mature size of trees in catalogue descriptions of trees.

Small Tree
– Grows to between 12ft and 30ft (3.6m - 9m). Below this category you have the blurred area of large shrub/small tree.
Medium Tree
– Grows to between 30ft and 50ft (9m - 15m).
Large Tree
– Grows in excess of 50ft (15m). This may be a lot more than 50ft. The tallest trees in Britain are over 200ft (60m).
 
Small Shrub
– Grows to between 3ft and 6ft (1m - 1.8m).
Medium Shrub
– Grows to between 6ft and 10ft (1.8m - 3m). 
Large Shrub
– Grows to over 10ft (3m).