Home Sweet Home: Growing Fruit Trees for House and Patio, Part I

Ever go to the supermarket hoping for some nice succulent fruit and find only fruit that is bruised or, even worse, moldy? If you live in California or Florida, things may be different, but in most of the rest of the country, good fruit can be hard to find out of season – sometimes in season, too! No wonder more and more fruit lovers are taking matters into their own hands and growing dwarf fruit trees. And why not? With a little TLC, you can harvest sweet and nutritious fruit for fresh eating, baking, and more, even in January. Not only that, but fruit trees make gorgeous house plants. Many offer sweet-smelling blooms and lush foliage all year-round. What’s not to love?
There are many native and exotic plants from which to choose: peaches, pears, apples, cherries and blueberries can all easily be grown in containers. Thanks to their reduced side, dwarf-sized trees of a tropical origin (such as dwarf lemon, dwarf banana or dwarf orange) make great houseplants. These varieties are not cold-hardy in most of the country – but if you grow them indoors, they add striking colors, textures and scents to your home during winter months! Size Matters Dwarf trees, when grown in an orchard, can reach a mature size of 6-8’, but most adapt well to being grown in containers, especially if you prune them to keep their height under control. You can also prune these trees for shape – pomegranate and blueberry in particular are popular not only for their fruit but also as beautiful specimens for bonsai. How large you allow you trees to grow is a matter of personal preference, but you’ll obviously get larger harvests from larger trees. Dwarf apples, apricots, peaches, pears and plums thrive in containers that are about 2’ wide x 3’ deep, although they’ll tolerate smaller pots. Note that these are all hardy varieties, so they’re often grown as patio plants and left outdoors all year, even in the North. For tropical fruits, which you’re more apt to move around, a 10” pot is usually adequate, at least to start. If you choose to keep larger pots, invest in a set of caster-equipped pot platforms, which most large home stores carry.