What are Dwarf Fruit Trees?
A dwarf fruit tree is basically a regular fruit tree that is designed to be smaller in size. These trees grow only to a height of 1.5 to 3 meters, unlike traditional trees, which can grow up to 15 meters tall and wide. This makes them ideal for use in urban areas, and also for use in your backyard or patio space.
For those with limited space, dwarf fruit trees are the perfect solution for growing fruit at home. They're great for container gardening since they're known for their compact size and their fruits. Dwarf winter apple trees, dwarf peach trees, dwarf persimmon trees, as well as other varieties of dwarf fruit trees are all popular choices.
Benefits of Dwarf Fruit Trees
Dwarf fruit trees produce the same quality fruit as standard fruit trees, but on a smaller scale. They can be planted in containers, or in-ground, and are ideal for small backyards or limited space. Dwarf fruit trees offer a few other advantages over standard varieties:
Easy to manage. A dwarf tree is much easier to harvest, spray and prune than a standard tree.
Quick production. Dwarf trees bear fruit earlier than standard varieties — often within the first year of planting.
Smaller size. A dwarf tree needs less space to grow than a standard tree.
A variety of choices. Many traditional fruit trees come in dwarf varieties, including apples, pears, peaches and plums.
Two Basic Types of Dwarf Fruit Trees:
- Dwarf trees that stay small even when planted directly in the ground. These often have roots that are grafted onto dwarfing rootstock. Some join two different kinds of fruit trees together. For example, an apple variety grafted onto a crabapple rootstock will stay smaller than apple varieties grafted onto their own roots.
- Dwarf trees that are kept small by pruning and training. This is the type most commonly used for container/pot gardening.
It's easier to trim and harvest miniature fruit trees when they're grown in containers. Trees that are younger bear fruit more quickly.
Plastic, metal, clay, ceramic, or wood containers can be used to cultivate dwarf fruit trees as long as appropriate drainage is given. However, a common rule of thumb is to start with a container that is 6 inches (15 cm) wider than the one in which the tree was placed at the nursery.
It's also critical to select a pot or container that will thrive in the elements for many years to come. This will prevent unneeded transferring of your tree.
Best Dwarf Fruit Trees to Grow in Pots
- Apple - One of life's simple joys is a fresh apple plucked from the tree. It's completely possible to grow them in a container; all you need is the suitable tree, the right compost and the biggest pot you can find, at least 50cm (20in) tall and 40cm (16in) in diameter.
- Lemon - Lemons are an excellent choice for both hot and cool summers. They like a warm subtropical temperature and coastal locations, and they yield fruit all year. It's one of the best container citrus trees!
- Cherry - Sweet cherries are great for gathering and eating, whereas sour cherries are best for cooking. Sweet cherries grow nicely in pots and should be planted in an open area with enough of sunlight.
- Oranges - Summer heat is required for oranges to produce their sweet yet bitter fruit. Coastal places and northern climes with warm summers are not good for them. Orange trees require at least 8 hours of sunlight per day and thrive in warm locations with mild winters, but they may be planted in cool climates with some winter care.
- Pears - Pear trees are one of the greatest fruit trees to plant in containers, but you must choose one that has been grown specifically for containers. The rootstock that determines the tree's size is commonly known to as 'Quince C,' and this will be displayed on the plant label or included in the online description.
- Plum - The plum tree is one of the few fruit trees that requires little or no pruning. The majority are self-fertile, and the only effort necessary in the spring is to thin the fruit. Otherwise, instead of fewer, larger sweet plums, you'll get a lot of little sour plums. Once fruit production begins, plum trees require frequent fertilization.
- Fig - Because figs prefer to have their roots contained, they're perfect for growing in pots, and they're easy to train into fan forms by tying branches to a warm wall. Warm summers and cool winters are ideal conditions for fig trees. Pick figs when they are somewhat squishy and have a delicious aroma. Because figs don't continue to ripen once picked, it's preferable to select them as soon as you need them.
- Apricot - When dormant over the winter, apricot trees are frost resistant, but the blooms are susceptible to frost damage. They do require some tender loving care and a sheltered, south-facing location with walls to reflect the heat, but an apricot tree will pay off when the luscious, sun-warmed fruits are harvested.
When the fruit turns from green to yellow / orange in color and feels slightly soft but firm, it's time to pluck apricots.
- Peach - Another common fruit tree that may be planted in containers is the peach plant. Pollinators such as bees and other insects might visit the blossoms on your potted trees. Both peach and nectarine trees come in dwarf forms, which may require repotting every two to three years.
- Blueberry - One of the benefits of growing fruit in pots is that you may choose the type of soil you want to use. Blueberries prefer a somewhat lower pH than many other plants, as well as plenty of root area. You'll need to grow two or more different types to ensure pollination because they're self-sterile.
Things to Consider When Growing Fruit Trees in Pots
- Rootstock choices
When it comes to selecting fruit tree varieties for containers and patio pots, there are a few options. The most popular method is to employ dwarfing rootstocks, which reduce the tree's size to less than 2m / 6ft or so.
Using more vigorous rootstocks than are normally used for patio fruit trees, and relying on the container itself to limit root size, is a more modern strategy. This method has the benefit of allowing the tree to survive a little longer if you neglect to water it (but it will still need much more attention than a tree in open ground). This method may be more suited if you want a larger tree than the typical patio-container tree, such as one to grow in a garden.
Another option is to select fruit tree varieties that are slow-growing and/or do not produce a lot of fruit. In these situations, a more vigorous rootstock than the very-dwarfing rootstocks commonly used for patio-grown fruit trees could be used.
Pots and containers are available in a variety of sizes and can be classified by volume (capacity) or diameter (diameter), as well as being round or rectangular. This makes precise measures difficult to prescribe, but the diameter across the top is frequently a decent starting point.
The most acceptable size pots or containers for other new fruit trees will be those with a top diameter of at least 60cm / 2ft. This amounts to sides of around 16" / 40cm and a volume of 60 litres in the case of a square container.
You can then re-pot the tree every year or so, increasing the size by 10-20 gallons each time until it stops growing (which will be after a year or so for small trees and after 4-5 years for larger ones). You do not, however, need to re-pot every year; instead, you can use a large container right away.
You'll need to attach a thick bamboo cane into the bottom of the container to support the tree if you're using dwarf rootstock.
You'll also want to make sure the container is solid because, especially when the tree is in leaf, it can act as a sail and be blown over in a high wind, causing damage to both the tree and the container. As a result, narrow-base containers should be avoided. If you put a stake in the pot, you might be able to secure it to a nearby fence from the top.
- Right type of Soil
The soil type is the most important factor to consider while growing fruit trees in containers. The amount of water required by a tree depends on the growing media (potting soil) used in the pot, but any decent quality commercial potting soil will suffice. Mix 1 part sand, 1 part peat moss, and 1 part perlite or vermiculite to build your own fantastic potting soil. Otherwise, taking care of a potted fruit tree should be similar to taking care of a garden tree.
Normal soil, or a mix of compost and ordinary soil, is excellent; do not use entirely compost because it dries out too quickly. To allow drainage, fill the bottom with large pebbles or broken clay pot pieces. On top of the soil, a beautiful mulch will assist keep moisture in. The most important thing to remember while growing fruit trees in pots is to keep the soil moist.
It's also worth replacing a portion of the soil every 3-5 years after the tree has reached its full growth. Some experts recommend root-pruning at this time as well, which involves cutting the tree's roots back by about a quarter, allowing it to continue growing but keeping it from becoming too large.