by Matt Gibson
Ready to grow your own fruit in a container garden? Whether you don’t have access to a large garden area or just don’t feel like digging up your yard to create garden plots, container planting is the way to go. You don’t have to live on a tropical island to grow tropical fruits. With the right knowledge and materials, you can grow lots of different types of fruit in pots and containers, indoors or outdoors.
Growing your own fruit in containers is a wonderful way to save money on your grocery bills. Plus, there’s nothing more satisfying and delicious than biting into a juicy piece of fruit that came out of your own garden.
Below are seven great fruits (and fruit trees) to plant in containers — as well as each plant’s preferred growing conditions and care instructions. We’ll also give you a rundown of tips and growing instructions to give you a much better chance of succeeding in your mission to grow your own fruit and to help you get started with confidence.
Then, if you want to go into more depth when you’re learning about how to grow and care for each fruit we recommend, take a look at the list of links we’ve included to the best videos that will further illustrate how to grow each individual fruit or fruit tree in containers.
Pro Tips for Getting the Most out of Your Fruit Container Garden
Many types of fruit grow on shrubs and small trees, which means you’re going to need some really big containers. However, you don’t want to start your plants out in those massive pots. For those, you’ll need to wait until they are ready. Instead, start as small as possible, using three- to five-gallon containers.
Once your fruit plants start to get bigger and outgrow the medium-sized containers, replant them into bigger pots gradually, working your way up to the 20- to 25-gallon containers, which are the ideal size for mature fruit trees.
Along getting container size right, another key to success when growing fruit trees in containers is to start out with high quality soil. Remember, these are not plants that you will toss out and regrow each season but long-lasting trees. Those trees, if given the proper care and attention, will stick around and provide you and your family with harvest after harvest for years to come.
Some growers recommend a mixture of three parts potting soil to one part perlite and one part quarter-inch pine bark. This mix will allow for plentiful oxidation as well as providing lots of organic matter that will break down in the soil and provide essential nutrients for your fruit trees.
When planting your fruit tree, put enough of the soil mixture you prepared into the bottom of the container so that the tree’s root ball will rest about three inches below the rim of the pot. Press the soil down to remove any air pockets, then place the fruit tree in the container, and add more soil around the sides and top of the root ball, firmly pressing the dirt in place. When it’s time to move your fruit tree into a larger pot, add a layer of mulch as a top dressing to keep weeds from invading, to lock in moisture, and to add another dose of nutrients to the mixture.
Another important factor to ensure your success when growing fruit in containers is knowing which fruits are best suited for containers and which are not. There are a whole lot of list articles available on the web that have published misleading information when it comes to which fruit plants work the best in containers. Let’s just say that there several sites out there claim that peaches, plums, nectarines, and other stone fruits are well suited to container growing—which is simply not true.
The root systems of stone fruit trees are such vigorous growers that these plants will outgrow their pots quickly, making it impossible to keep transplanting them without sending the whole plant into shock. The shock will, in turn, keep the tree from producing much, if any, fruit. Stone fruit trees need to be planted in the ground, where they can get comfortable and spread their roots out far and wide.
Pruning your trees allows you to direct how you want them to grow. As you don’t want them becoming too large for a container garden, pruning your fruit trees early and often will help keep them from getting out of hand. You want to keep your trees around eight feet in height. You don’t just want to prune your trees from the top down, though, but also from the bottom up.
Root pruning is essential, not only to keep your trees from growing too large for their containers and to promote root growth, but also to keep the roots from becoming pot bound, which means you wouldn’t be able to transplant into a bigger pot. Remove about one third of the roots from the root ball early in the spring, before the plant is about to add on a bunch of new growth.
Trees grown directly in the ground can last a lifetime. Trees grown in containers, however, have a lifespan of about 10 productive years. After that, it’s time to invest in some new young trees and start from scratch. Still, 10 years of fresh fruit for one season of setup is a good investment any way you look at it.
The 7 Best Fruits to Grow in Containers
Not every fruit grows on a massive tree. Blueberries, for example, are probably the easiest fruit to grow in containers. They enjoy acidic peat-based soil and full sunlight to partial afternoon shade. Keep them well watered and protected from birds and other scavengers. Two blueberry plants should provide you with a decent harvest of fruit that will last from June through August. You will need a pot that is 22 inches in diameter and 18 inches deep.
Strawberries are not only easy to grow, you can keep the same plants alive and producing year after year. Just don’t forget to bring your strawberry plants indoors during frosts, as they are not likely to survive prolonged freezes. The everbearing variety produces two harvests per year. You will need 10 to 12 plants for a sizeable harvest. All these plants can fit snugly into a pot that is 18 inches in diameter and depth. Strawberries need full sunlight exposure, lots of water, and excellent drainage. Read more about how to grow strawberries in containers here.
If you live in a warm and humid climate, growing pineapple in containers can be an incredibly simple task to undertake. Cut the crown off of a pineapple, and place it in water for two days. Plant it in a gallon-sized container, then give it full sunlight and lots of water. Pineapple’s shallow root system makes it a great fit for large containers. You can even grow pineapple indoors.
Watermelons, as the name suggests, require a lot of water. Believe it or not, you can grow them in containers. It is recommended that you use a self-watering container if you’ll be growing watermelons for this reason. You will also need a trellis or stake of some sort to support the vines. Watermelons make great companion plants to cucumbers, as both have very similar care requirements.
If you reside in USDA zones 8-11, growing bananas in containers outdoors may be right up your alley. Banana trees love full sun, heat, humidity, lots of water, and well-draining soil. However, there are some cold-hardy cultivars that can be grown outside of tropical and subtropical regions.
Very similar to blueberries in growing conditions and care needs, raspberries are very easy to grow in containers. There are summer- and autumn-fruiting varieties available, so if you’re a big fan of the raspberry, you might want to try your hand at both types so you will have more time to enjoy your harvests. Three plants should provide a nice batch of berries for each harvest, and this crop will require a 12-inch pot and a sheltered, sunny home.
Lemon trees are known as a tropical plant, but gardeners have been able to defy logic and grow them in cold regions where you would never expect lemon trees to thrive, especially in containers. You still need to protect your lemon plants from freezes and provide plentiful sunlight. Though lemon trees will grow in just about any well-drained soil, they prefer a slightly acidic mix.
Other fruits that do well in containers include: figs, apples, cherries, and currants.
Videos About Growing Fruit in Containers
Here’s a list of quick tutorial videos for growing each of the fruits we recommend in containers: