Can Fruit Trees Grow In Pots? (Plus 9 Fruit Trees For Pots)


Fruit trees are a great way to add beauty to your yard while giving you the chance to harvest some delicious produce during the year.  However, if you have limited space, you might want to grow fruit trees in a pot.

So, can fruit trees grow in pots?  Fruit trees do grow in pots, and your best bet is dwarf fruit trees. They have a limited size due to genetics (rootstock). You can keep fruit trees small with sensible pruning and small container sizes. You can grow apples, cherries, figs, lemons, limes, oranges, peaches, pears, and plums in pots.

Depending on the dwarf fruit tree you choose (and where you live), you might need to bring the pots indoors for the winter to keep them alive.

In this article, we’ll talk about growing fruit trees in pots and why dwarf fruit trees are a good choice.  We’ll also talk about some important topics for potted fruit trees (such as container size, watering, and pruning).

Let’s get started.

Can Fruit Trees Grow In Pots?

You can grow fruit trees in pots, and your best bet will be dwarf fruit trees.  Dwarf fruit trees are smaller than normal fruit trees, but they produce normal-size fruit (although with smaller yields).

purple figs
You can grow figs and other fruit trees in pots, and there are ways to limit their size, including careful pruning.

The size of a dwarf fruit tree is limited by genetics, grafting, or environment.

  • Genetics – dwarf fruit trees are selectively bred over generations by choosing smaller trees with less width and height (generally, dwarf fruit trees are not GMO, but you can check to be sure).
  • Grafting – two or more varieties of one type of fruit are “combined” into one.  This gives you the best characteristics of each tree (for example, a disease-resistant rootstock on the bottom and excellent fruit on the top).
  • Environmental conditions – a fruit tree grown in a small container will have stunted growth, due to the limited space for its roots (similar to the idea for bonsai).
clay pots
Keeping fruit trees in smaller containers will limit their size, as will choosing dwarf varieties.

This smaller size makes it easier to move and care for dwarf fruit trees.  It also makes pruning and harvesting much safer and more manageable.

Growing fruit trees in pots is a great option for small spaces (such as patios, porches, or balconies).  The container size will depend on the fruit tree you choose and its maximum size (so, choose smaller varieties if you don’t have much space).

Fruit Tree Container Size

According to the University of Florida, new dwarf fruit trees often arrive in a pot that is about 4 inches in diameter.  However, most fruit trees will soon outgrow this starter pot (even dwarf fruit trees).

Dwarf fruit trees may be able to grow for 1 to 2 years in container that is about 8 inches in diameter.  However, further growth will be limited (due to the plant getting root-bound in the pot).

(For reference, a 5-gallon bucket has a diameter of about 12 inches).

5 gallon bucket
A 5 gallon bucket is about 12 inches in diameter.

 At some point, you should transplant your fruit tree into another larger container.  The University of Vermont suggests a minimum container size of 5 gallons, with repotting every 3 to 5 years.

The ideal dimensions of a pot for a fruit tree are:

  • Volume: 15 to 20 gallons
  • Width: 18 to 24 inches (1.5 to 2 feet)
  • Depth: 12 to 16 inches (1 to 1.3 feet)

This larger pot size is ideal, since it leaves more room for root growth.  Just remember that a 20 gallon pot with a tree and full of wet soil will be pretty heavy.

So, if you need to move a large container indoors for winter, decrease the weight.  Harvest as much fruit as you can and let the soil dry out a bit to make the pot lighter before moving it.

Fruit Tree Container Materials

Containers made of stone, terra cotta, or ceramic are nice to look at, but they are heavy and difficult to move.  They can also crack in the cold if water in the soil freezes.

If you need to move your fruit trees indoors for the winter, consider plastic pots instead.  Plastic pots are lighter than clay, making them easier to move.  They also retain more moisture than clay pots.

(You can learn more about the pros and cons of plastic and clay pots here).

It is a good idea to fill your container with well-draining soil to prevent root rot.  Soil that stays too wet for too long causes root rot, due to lack of air.

(You can learn how to improve drainage for potted plants here).

To create well-draining soil, try mixing 1 part peat moss with 1 part topsoil or potting soil.

(You can find some recipes for homemade potting soil here).

How Often Do You Water Fruit Trees In Pots?

The best way to water fruit trees in pots is to feel the soil every few days.

  • If the soil is wet on top, do not water.
  • If the soil feels dry deeper than a few inches, then you can water. 
soil
Feel the soil down to a depth of at least a few inches. If it is wet, you can wait to water.

You will need to water more often for fruit trees in pots than for fruit trees in the ground.  The soil in containers will dry out faster, and a dwarf fruit tree in a container has a smaller root system.

You will also need to water fruit trees more often right after transplant.  Give them less water later in the summer, and keep the soil just slightly damp in the winter.

If your potted fruit trees are outside in the summer, pay attention to the weather forecast.  A hot, dry spell with no rain means you will have to water more often.

daylight
Keep an eye on the weather forecast, and make time to water potted fruit trees more often during a hot, dry spell.

If you are going away, you can use water bottles turned upside down to drip water into the slowly over time (by gravity).

Due to faster drainage in pots, the soil may also lose nutrients faster.  So, monitor with a pH test kit and add a slow-release fertilizer if needed.

How Do You Keep Fruit Trees Small?

There are three basic ways to keep fruit trees small:

  • Container size – choose a small pot to limit the root system, which will reduce the growth and size of the fruit tree.
  • Grafting – choose the variety of fruit you like best and graft it onto a dwarf rootstock to keep the tree small.
  • Pruning – prune away branches as the tree grows, which will keep the height and width manageable.
grafted tree
You can graft two different fruit trees together to get a strong rootstock (bottom) and a scion (top) with good fruit.

When pruning potted fruit trees, follow the same principles as for standard size fruit trees.   The best time to prune fruit trees is in late winter to early spring.

(You can learn more about pruning fruit trees here).

What Fruit Trees Are Best Grown In Pots?

The best fruit trees to grow in pots are dwarf varieties of various types, such as:

  • Apple
  • Cherry
  • Fig
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Orange
  • Peach
  • Pear
  • Plum

Let’s take a closer look at each type of dwarf fruit tree.

Apple

Apple trees are a great choice if you want to grow fruit at home.  Even better, there are some dwarf apple trees that you can grow in pots.

For example, the Dwarf Golden Delicious apple tree or the Dwarf Granny Smith apple tree from Willis Orchard Company.

wedding venue apple orchard
Dwarf or columnar apple tree varieties won’t take up as much space as other types, and they can grow in pots.

There are also columnar (or “pillar”) apple trees available.  These columnar apple trees have a very narrow branch structure, which means they have a limited width.

This makes them a good choice if you want to grow fruit in a tight space.

You can find the following columnar apples tree varieties at Stark Brothers:

You can also find the following columnar apple trees from Fast Growing Trees:

Cherry

Cherry trees are another great choice if you want to grow fruit at home.  However, you will have to decide if you want sour (tart) or sweet cherries.

Here are some dwarf cherry tree varieties you can choose from:

Cherry Tree
Some sour or sweet cherry varieties are also dwarf types, meaning that they are suited for growing in pots.

Fig

Most fig trees cannot tolerate as much cold as apples, cherries, or other cold-hardy fruit trees.  However, you can still grow them indoors (or outdoors in summer or if you live in a mild climate).

Here are some dwarf fig tree varieties you can choose from:

fig on tree
Dwarf fig trees are smaller than standard fig trees and can grow in pots. Just make sure to bring them indoors before winter in cold climates.

Lemon

Dwarf lemon trees are a great way to get citrus fruit indoors during winter.  However, many lemon trees cannot tolerate cold.

The Meyer lemon tree from Stark Brothers will grow to a maximum height of 8 to 10 feet tall and 3 to 5 feet wide.

lemon tree
Dwarf lemon trees (like the Meyer lemon) will not grow too tall and will fit in pots.

Lime

Dwarf lime trees are another great choice if you want citrus fruit indoors during winter.  Like their citrus cousin (lemon), lime trees cannot tolerate cold.

The Key lime tree from Stark Brothers will grow to a maximum height of 6 to 8 feet tall and 5 to 6 feet wide.

lime tree
Dwarf lime trees (like the Key lime) will grow in pots and provide you with fresh citrus during winter.

You can keep it smaller and thinner with careful pruning.

Orange

Dwarf orange trees are also an option if you want to grow citrus fruit for eating indoors during winter.  Orange trees cannot tolerate cold (probably why most oranges are grown in Florida or California!).

The Calamondin orange tree from Stark Brothers will reach 6 to 10 feet tall.  Use a smaller pot to keep them smaller indoors.

calamondin orange tree
Calamondin oranges can replace lemons or limes, and the tree stays small so you can grow it in a pot.

Peach

Peach trees are wonderful for growing fruit that you can eat fresh or preserve.  There are several dwarf peach trees that you can grow in pots.

For example, the Bonanza Dwarf peach tree or the Bonfire Dwarf peach tree from Willis Orchard Company.

peach tree
Try a dwarf peach tree (or a columnar variety) to grow peaches in pots if you have limited space.

There are also columnar (or “pillar”) peach trees available.  These columnar peach trees have a very narrow branch structure, which means they have a limited width.

This makes them a good choice if you want to grow fruit in a tight space.

You can find the Crimson Rocket Columnar peach tree variety at Stark Brothers.

You can learn more about peach tree care here.

Pear

Pear trees are easy to grow and can be eaten fresh or preserved.  There are some dwarf pear trees that you can grow in pots.

For example, the Anjou pear tree or the Bartlett pear tree from Stark Brothers.

brown pear
Dwarf pear trees stay small so you can grow them in pots, but produce normal size fruit.

Plum

Plum trees are nice for growing fruit that you can eat fresh or preserve.  There are several dwarf plum trees that you can grow in pots.

For example, these are some dwarf plum trees from Stark Brothers:

damson plums on tree
Dwarf plum trees (Damson is available as a dwarf) can grow in pots to provide delicious fruit on a patio, balcony, or indoors.

Conclusion

Now you know more about growing fruit trees in pots and how to choose a container size, soil type, and fruit tree. Try out one or more of the varieties above and you’ll be growing fruit in a small space in no time!

You can learn more about dwarf fruit trees here.

You can learn more about container gardening here.

You can find out more about when to plant fruit trees here.

I hope you found this article helpful.  If so, please share it with someone who can use the information.

If you want to read some of my most popular posts, check out the “Best of GreenUpSide” page here.  Enjoy!

~Jonathon

jonathon.david.madore

Hi, I'm Jon. Let's solve your gardening problems, spend more time growing, and get the best harvest every year!

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