5 of the best fruit trees to grow in pots
When you think of fruit trees, do you imagine great orchards heavy with the weight of apples, pears and plums? Or sweltering Mediterranean locations, harbouring fragrant citrus growing in the wild?
Well, you too could be picking fruit from a tree – but much closer to home. On your patio, in fact, even if you’ve only a small space to work with.
Citrus trees can be grown in pots and be put outside in summer in a sheltered, sunny position when the weather warms up, from mid-June to late September, the RHS advises.
But you will need to keep fleece handy to cover the plants in early summer on cold nights, or you could lose them. Lemon trees aren’t hardy, so they will need to be moved indoors once autumn comes.
There are some patio fruit trees, however, which are hardier and will withstand our winters in a patio pot too.
Fruiting plant specialists Chris Bowers and Sons (chrisbowers.co.uk) from Whispering Trees Nursery in Norfolk, have identified two apple trees plus a pear, cherry and a plum that are all perfect for pot-growing on a patio – and they don’t need to come inside in winter.
“Super-column trees are ideal for patio and terrace gardens and thrive in containers,” says John Bowers, son of the nursery founder. “What makes them so special, apart from their hearty cropping, is a greatly simplified pruning process.
“They take up very little space and enjoy a freely spurring nature creating abundant crops which ripen very well and quickly, benefiting from the hours of sunlight. This also encourages sugar production enhancing the flavour of the fruits.”
Bowers has selected five varieties that can all be grown this way…
1. Apple ‘Red Falstaff’
This is an indomitable cropper with frost resistant blossom. The handsome fruits are bold red and crisp. They will store for several weeks. This newer variety has great disease resistance.
2. Apple ‘Limelight’
These are very easy to grow and manage, perfect for those who like green apples. It has a refreshing, juicy flavour and average frost resistance.
3. Pear ‘Concorde’
Bred from the famous ‘conference’ pear but with a sweeter flavour, this is freely producing from late September and throughout October. It is a compact, easy to manage tree and self-fertile, with excellent frost resistance.
4. Black cherry ‘Sunburst’
A reliable, decadently sweet black cherry that ripens in July with large, black juicy fruits, it’s the hardiest and most reliable sweet cherry for the UK climate – and it is self-pollinating, says Bowers.
5. Plum ‘Jubilee’
An excellent cropper regardless of the weather, and a much better and tastier plum than the ubiquitous Victoria, Bowers advises. It ripens early with an abundant yield of rosy purple, egg shaped fruits with yellow, finely flavoured flesh.
How to grow fruit trees in pots
Plant a tree in a 20-litre container and use a loam based compost, such as John Innes No 3, Bowers advises. Water well after planting.
Use a slow release fertiliser that can be pushed into the compost. Alternatively, use a seaweed based foliar feed that should be applied every three to four weeks in the growing season.
Water at the base of the tree every day when it is warm and dry, or every two to three days otherwise. Do not water between October and March.
Pruning is simple – just pinch back all side shoots to three or four buds in late summer. The main growing or leader shoot can also be shortened at this time of year if desired.