Trees in planters – Growth, structure and ecosystem services of Platanus x hispanica and Tilia cordata and their reaction to soil drought

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Urban environments are often characterized by extensive paved surfaces, exacerbating the urban heat island effect. At the same time, limited root space due to underground infrastructure poses a challenge for planting new trees in these areas. Trees in planters have emerged as popular design elements, offering innovative and sustainable greening solutions, particularly in urban environments with limited rooting space. However, growing conditions in planters may strongly impact tree growth and the provision of environmental ecosystem services (ES). In this 3-year study, we analyzed tree growth and ecosystem services (cooling by shading, CO2-fixation) of London plane (Platanus x hispanica MÜNCHH.) and small-leaved lime (Tilia cordata MILL.) in four planting treatments: in-ground (G), planters in the ground (PG), non-insulated plastic planters (P), and insulated planters (PI). We also recorded soil temperature throughout the experiment and implemented soil drought conditions by reducing soil irrigation for half of the trees after one year. Our findings revealed higher thermal fluctuations in soil temperature within non-insulated plastic planters (P), reaching a maximum of 45 °C, surpassing the critical temperature threshold for plant growth (>38 °C). In contrast, insulated planters (PI) effectively mitigated soil temperatures, staying below 33.8 °C. When planted in the ground (G), P. x hispanica exhibited a significantly higher stem diameter increment (52–66%) compared to other planting treatments, aligning with the provision of ecosystem services. However, T. cordata trees showed a more moderate response to planting treatments in terms of growth and ecosystem service provision. Furthermore, the implementation of soil drought conditions resulted in a reduction of up to 34% in stem diameter increment for P. x hispanica and up to 25% for T. cordata. Our results underscore the necessity of tree species-specific knowledge about growth responses to different planting treatments for effective urban planning perspectives, as the provision of ecosystem services may be influenced differently.

Original languageEnglish
Article number128024
JournalUrban Forestry and Urban Greening
StatePublished - Aug 2023


  • Container
  • Planter
  • Platanus x hispanica
  • Pot
  • Soil temperature
  • Tilia cordata
  • Tree growth


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