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Good idea to plant a tree in the atrium?

8 replies [Last post]
Joined: May 19 2003

I'm having my atrium redesigned a bit (flagstone replacing concrete, more planting area, etc.) and one idea is to plant a queen palm which will eventually grow somewhat through the atrium roof opening. It will not be a large tree but will max out at 10 to 15 feet I'm told. I'm now having second thoughts because I realize this will be a path for squirrels, cats and perhaps other critters to get into the atrium, something I wouldn't much appreciate.

Anyone have any thoughts or experience in this area?


Chuck (Mossbrook)

Chuck (West San Jose)

Joined: Sep 9 2004

When we moved into our house there was a large orange tree growing in the atrium which may have been original to the home. The orange scent was welcoming, however, the branches pushed against the center atrium beam. Small animals also used it as a way to access the atrium. Needless to say, we took it down so we would have more room and we wanted the open space in the atrium. If you select the right tree it could be very appealing.

Joined: Mar 22 2003

I have seen some atriums with lovely bananna trees or other tropical varieties that look quite nice. Also Japanese maples, but that would cause a mess when the leaves drop in the fall. Bamboo also looks lovely, but I would not use real bamboo (too invasive) but Heavenly Bamboo, which looks like bamboo but is not -and therefore you don't have the horrible damage that their agressive horizontal root patterns cause.

For any tree, I would be concerned about the roots getting into the foundation and causing problems.

What about planting a dwarf version of some kind of palm, sego, or other tropical tree - in a Planter, not in the ground? That way you can move it where you want to and w/o endangering your foundation. If you do a google search, you may be able to find a vendor that specializes in exoctic palms. I found one once that way because I wanted a particular kind of dwarf palm, then changed my mind at the last minute, but they are out there.

Just my $0.02.


Joined: Apr 19 2007

our lesson learned = plant the right tree in the right spot and take care of it. the atrium is a great place for some taller-than-head-height greenery, but choose wisely. our previous owners either did not soose wisely or maintain their choice properly:

we'll likely replace with a slender-branched maple or similarly whispy tree whose branches will not be an expressway for squirrels, but provide some variety in color and height and perhaps a bit of shade.

Joined: Dec 27 2006

How about considering what we did? Out tree and bamboo are in pots to keep things from getting out of control.

Joined: Aug 16 2007

Yeah, the people we bought our Eicher from assured us the twin queen palms in the atrium would never get too big. Well, that was a few years ago when their fronds were easily maintainable from the ground or at least standing on the roof. Now one is tall enough that even an extending pruner standing on the roof is difficult.

25-40' is what I read as typical for these, and that's where they're heading.

They were definitely nice when small enough as to provide ambiance and shade.

Don't do it.


Joined: Feb 27 2006

We have a ficus in our atrium that has been there for decades. We just have our arborist prune it once a year.

Joined: Apr 20 2006

Shade plants can make an atrium a fabulous retreat. If the plants get too big for the atrium, they start covering the surrounding roof. In the 'old days' shading the roof made the poorly insulated Eichler more comfortable in the summer by reducing temperatures inside. Extending the shade over the whole atrium, eliminating the direct sunlight is desirable to many Eichler owners. I have seen many types of fabulous foliage shading Eichler atriums. Many owners are worried about losing their shade, ambiance and plants to a roofing crew with saws and pruners. When we install a foam roof, we only need to have reasonable access to the atrium edges. Removing foliage for this access is not very visible inside the atrium. Trimming branches close to the roof around the edges often allows more indirect light. Customers have generally been quite pleased with the small change this makes in the atrium lighting.

Joined: Apr 10 2003

Consider a Trachycarpus fortunei (sp?), it's cold hardy, slow growing and self trimming and they might get to 30 ft. if that. Or a european fan palm they stay small have the same advantages but they are clumping so ya have to be vigilant about removing the sprouts/suckers of new ones. At all costs avoid a washingtonia filifiera or mexicana they are messy and way way overscaled for the area that you are planting in.

Wishing for modern home.

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