Our site is reader supported, this means we may earn a small commission when you buy through links on our site.
Growing fruit trees in containers – The complete growing guide
Last Updated on March 23, 2020 by John
Growing fruit trees in a container are not nearly as difficult as you think and it brings with it some advantages. A smaller fruit tree in a container is much easier to move around your patio or deck to take advantage of the sun and the shade patterns throughout the day or throughout the seasons.
If you don’t have soil or a position that is well suited to a particular type of fruit or simply don’t have beds or borders at all, you can fill a larger container with the exact growing medium you need for whatever you want. Finally, growing fruit trees in containers make it possible for you to grow species that otherwise wouldn’t thrive in your space.
Always choose fruit trees that have a dwarf root stock
When you select the fruit tree you want to plant, always choose a dwarf or a semi-dwarf specimen that has been grafted onto a dwarf root stock which is usually stated on the label, for apple trees it might say M9 or M26.
If you plant a full-size variety it will be very difficult to grow in a pot no matter the size of the pot. However, most dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties can be grown in a larger container without any issues. You will have to keep an eye on the tree and once it exhausts its space you’ll have to move it slowly into slightly larger containers but most can be retained for a few years in the same pot if not longer.
Fruit trees to choose from
The best fruit tree varieties for containers include apples. You can grow one type of self-fertilizing apple variety very easily as some new types have two varieties grafted to one root stock which will cross pollinate, however, we recommend getting two separate varieties that cross-pollinate which is usually the better option.
- Now you can grow two family favourite apple varieties from one tree - space saving and easy to grow!
- Cooking Apple Bramley and Eating Apple Braeburn have both been grafted on to the same tree!
- This novelty and compact tree will reward you with pounds of cooking & eating apples for years to come.
- As the tree already has a 'V' shape this tree could be trained along a wall or fence.
- Supplied as a bare root, grower quality tree, grafted on a single rootstock with 2 apple varieties.
Cherries work well in containers because they have shallow roots but look for a Colt or Gisela 5 root stock. If you are growing a sweet variety it will need a lot of sun and water but a sour variety can tolerate more shade.
- Dwarf Patio Stella Cherry Tree, In a 5L Pot, Miniature & Self-Fertile
- Patio Stella Cherry will give a very heavy crop of delicious sweet full sized fruit in Summer. It can be kept in a pot inside or outside and will crop best in a sunny spot.You will be able to produce a lot of fruit from a small space with this small tree.
- Common Name: Cherry Genus: Prunus Cultivar: Stella Skill Level: Beginner Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade Hardiness: Hardy Soil type: All, except very damp Height: 180cm Spread: 100cm Other Notes: Self Fertile
- This is a very reliable variety which will give excellent results in a warm, sunny and reasonably sheltered position.
Peaches and nectarines work well as long as you give them protection against cold spells by covering them with a lean-to shelter from autumn to late winter to protect them from peach leaf curl.
- Dozens of simply delicious, juicy fruits on this compact variety Its ideal in a patio pot
- Sweet scented peach blossom and deep-burgundy foliage
- Fully winter hardy and very easy to grow
- Supplied as a 70-90 cm tall, grower quality, multi-branched bare root tree
- Grown on a dwarfing rootstock will grow to approximately 12 m (5 ft) in 5 years
Plums can succeed in containers if you choose a self-fertilizing variety such as ‘Duke of York’, ‘Garden Anny’, ‘Garden Lady’, ‘Peregrine’ and ‘Rochester’ are self-fertile but make sure you add plenty of sand or perlite to your potting soil to optimize drainage.
- Dwarf Patio Victoria Plum Tree, In a 5L Pot, Miniature & Self-Fertile
- Patio Victoria Plum will give a very heavy crop of delicious sweet full sized fruit in Summer. It can be kept in a pot inside or outside and will crop best in a sunny spot.You will be able to produce a lot of fruit from a small space with this small tree.
- Common Name: Plum Genus: Prunus Species: Domestica Cultivar: Victoria Skill Level: Beginner Exposure: Full sun, Partial shade Hardiness: Hardy Soil type: All, except very damp Height: 180cm Spread: 100cm Other Notes: Self Fertile
- This is a very reliable variety which will give excellent results in a warm, sunny and reasonably sheltered position. As with all trees from the prunus family, the leaves will start to appear autumnal and slightly shabby with holes from mid July on wards. This is not a disease nor caused by insects, but is mainly due to this years contrasting weather conditions and will not affect the performance of the tree.
Both Summer and Autumn producing varieties of raspberries, blueberries can be grown in pots as well and you don’t need specific varieties but blueberries so need a soil-based ericaceous compost.
Recommended root stock guide
- Apple: M9, M26 (M27 is too dwarfing)
- Cherry: Colt or Gisela 5
- Pear: Quince C
- Plum, damson, peach, nectarine: Pixy or St Julien A
- Apricot: St Julien A or Torinel
Always pick the right soil – John Innes potting compost
The biggest consideration when growing fruit trees in a container is the soil. The potting soil you choose is going to need much more water than it would in the ground and you’re also going to need to increase the drainage more than you would in the ground, plus don’t forget to add some broken crockery to the bottom of the pot to stock the drainage holes becoming blocked.
We recommend using a soil-based compost such as John Innes potting compost. The other alturnative is to use a multi-purpose compost and mix in plenty of grit, around one-third grid to two thirds multipurpose compost. Because fruit trees are hungry plants we also recommend mixing in some slow-release fertiliser tablets too.
- 2 x Levington John Innes no.3 compost 10 litre
- Ideally matched to the needs of mature plants perfect for the final repotting of mature plants
- Traditional mixture of loam peat and washed and graded horticultural grit
- Re-potting is best done in the spring when plants are actively growing
Use quality pots that are stable and heavy to avoid them being blown over
Just because a container is more expensive doesn’t mean it’s better. You should always choose a high-quality container for a tree and avoid things like plastic as they tend to be light and easily blown over unless of course, they are in a sheltered position or inside a greenhouse or conservatory.
Trees are going to need larger sturdy pots that can handle the extra weight of the tree and the soil, but more importantly, help keep the tree upright as already mentioned. It should always be at least 50cm in diameter when you are just starting with your fruit tree, with polyurethane or ceramic being the optimum choices.
Always overwinter by giving them shelter
If possible you should overwinter your trees. Growing them in pots makes it particularly easy. You can store your fruit trees in your unheated greenhouse or at least in a sheltered position over winter if kept outdoors, effectively anywhere that doesn’t drop below -9 degrees Celsius for long periods of time and is protected from the worst of the winter weather.
Use the right food and water
Regularly applying time-released fertilizers will help keep your fruit tree healthy and optimize the fruit it produces. Don’t over-fertilize, always follow label directions.
The best fertilizer for fruit trees will have a wide selection of trace minerals with high levels of nitrogen, high-potassium liquid tomato feed can work really well and is worth using once every 2 weeks.
- Easy to apply simply mix with water in a watering can according to instructions
- For tomatoes and flowering pot plants
- With seaweed extract for maximum growth and better crops
- Produces high quality, full-flavoured tomatoes
- Can also be used with crops such as peppers and aubergines
In the summer when the weather is warmer, make sure you give them the right amount of water so they don’t dry out. If you have containers that are made from terracotta or clay the porous material will cause the soil to dry out faster so you should increase your watering accordingly. We recommend letting the surface of the soil becoming dry between watering but don’t let them get to dry between watering, especially they are producing fruit. You just want to avoid overwatering.
Last update on 2020-09-19 at 16:02 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API