Growing fruit trees in containers is ideal for smaller gardens and patios, adding spring blossom and fruit as well as hight and autumn colour.
It’s important to invest in a large pot – ideally around 45cm. Terracotta pots tend to be frost resistant, but the porosity means the compost can dry out. They’re also heavy, which stops them blowing over, but this means they’re harder to move around. Lighter weight fibreglass retains the water better while metal is also lighter but can heat up in direct sun. And choose a suitable soil-based potting mix such as John Innes No 3. Finally, find a sunny sheltered spot for the best chance of a good crop. Make sure that the fruit tree is well watered, especially during hot summers.
Top fruit such as apples, pears, apricots and cherries are among the best fruit trees to grow in pots. Look for those grown specifically for patios, such as dwarf fruit trees, sometimes called patio or mini trees, which have been grafted onto a different root system such as M27 that restricts their growth. Cherries, apricots and peaches are self-fertile so you’ll get fruit even with one tree while most apples and pears need more than one for successful pollination, either in your garden or within about a mile radius of it. Good varieties for containers include ‘James Grieve’, ‘Falstaff,’ ‘Kidd’s Orange Red’ and ‘Sunset’.
If you have a sunny spot, a fig tree, such as Ficus ‘Brown Turkey’ with attractive, deciduous glossy leaves can be grown in pots. Siting them against a south-facing wall will give you the best chance of fruit. Prune in spring when all chance of frost has passed. In warmer parts of the UK, citrus fruits such as oranges and lemons look great in patio pots adding a touch of the Mediterranean - but will need to be brought into a greenhouse or conservatory in the colder damper months. Lemons and oranges need to be fed weekly in spring and summer with specialist citrus fertiliser and watered as much as daily when it’s very hot.
Trees in containers will dry out more quickly than those in the ground and will need regular watering, even during winter when winds can be drying. Ideally repot the every few years and remove a layer of compost in spring and replace with fresh compost with some slow-release fertiliser – or use a liquid feed at regular intervals.