Growing Fruit Trees in Containers

Container Gardening
Fruit Trees In Containers

Nothing feels better than growing your own fruit. You can personally monitor the whole process, you can pick the fruit and eat it. The main problem for the home gardeners is that there is often a shortage of space. Many people don't have big enough gardens to plant the fruit. The good news is that it's possible to grow fruit trees in containers successfully.

One good alternative is to grow fruit trees in containers. This is a great option for those who don't have much space. It also offers more mobility so you can place your tree in the most appropriate place regardless of the weather conditions. Containers are great for growing warm weather varieties such as banana plants, citrus trees or fig trees in areas where the climate is naturally cooler than in plants' native area.

How to Choose the Right Container

The first thing you should pay attention to is the container for your fruit tree. It has to be large enough to support the tree but also small enough to be movable without a hassle. Containers about 10-15 gallons in size work best. This size is a good choice because you can place it on your patio or balcony, and you can even bring the tree indoors during the cold weather. It is also a great thing in case you need to move your tree to a different place (a garage or a shed during winter, for example).

Alternatively, you may wish to start out small and choose a 7 gallon container in the beginning. When the tree starts growing it will become root-bound. At this stage, you should simply repot the tree into a larger container. It's very easy to tell that your tree has become root bound in its container by the lack of vertical growth. At this point, the tree will still produce leaves and fruit but it's best to repot the plant into a bigger container to support its growth and enhance fruit production.

One important thing to keep in mind about the container is that it has to have adequate drainage. You have to make sure that the container has holes (on the bottom or sides) so that all of the excess water can safely drain and also that the air can access the soil. This will ensure that the roots of your tree are healthy. Excessive moisture and water accumulation can make the roots rot, which can kill the plant.

Planting Your Tree in a Container

Before you plant the tree, make sure to choose the right soil. It's best to use potting soil because it's specially made for containers. It's also widely available at all garden supply stores. Avoid using the top soil, because it usually becomes compacted and can cause water to run down the inside edges of the container and out of the bottom. This way, the water will barely reach the roots.

To fill the container, use a layer of rock or gravel first and place it on the bottom of the container. This will help with drainage. After this, you can add some soil mix for the roots to rest on. Carefully place your tree in the center of the pot and make sure it's straight and vertical.

After that, carefully add the rest of the soil until the tree is properly supported in the container. Tamp the soil down around the tree to remove any air pockets.

After planting, it's best to give the tree some proper watering and it's ready to grow and thrive in the container.

It's important to give your trees all the necessary nutrients, water and sunlight so they can grow safely and stay healthy.


This is one of the most important things you should monitor. Overwatering is very dangerous for young potted trees so you need to keep a close eye on your tree and water it only when it's absolutely needed. You shouldn't let the soil dry completely, but daily watering is probably not necessary so it's best to be avoided. Water your tree only when the soil is dry to the touch a few inches below the surface.

When the tree gets more mature it will need more water, especially during months when it's in full leaf (late spring and summer). A mature tree in full leaf will usually benefit from daily watering until the temperatures cool off. This is when your tree will begin to harden off and prepare for the winter.


Some of the potting mixes come with fertilizer included. If this is the case with the potting mix you want to use, then there's no need for additional fertilizer at planting time. You may wish to introduce some fertilizer later, during the growing season. Always use a water-soluble fertilizer so the roots are able to absorb the nutrients.


It's important to prepare all of your potted trees for the winter. Your tree will become dormant in the fall, so this is when you should take some important actions to properly protect your tree:

  • Pruning. This will remove all the damaged, dead or disabled branches. It will help the tree survive the winter and it will enhance its future production. It is also a vital step in shaping of the tree.
  • Watering. Water the soil around the roots to avoid freeze damage in case you're not prepared to bring your container indoors.
  • Mulching. Mulching over the surface of the soil will insulate the roots and protect them from winter. This is very important if you choose to keep your tree outdoors during winter.
  • Bring your tree inside. You may need to bring your tree indoors to protect it from winter.

Photo credit: Choo Yut Shing

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