The old adage “an apple a day keeps the doctor away” has more than a grain of truth to it. We know, or should know, that we should be adding more fruits and vegetables into our diets. It’s nice to be able to grow your own apple tree, but not everyone has the space for an orchard. What if you were to start small, say by growing an apple tree in a pot? Can you grow apple trees in containers? Yes, indeed! Keep reading to find out how to grow an apple tree in a pot.
Before Planting Apples in Containers
There are a couple of things to consider before planting apples in containers.
First of all, choose your cultivar. This sounds easy, just pick the variety of apple that you like best, right? Nope. Most nurseries will only carry trees that grow well in your area, but if you wish to purchase your tree online or from a catalog, you may not be getting one that will do well in your region.
Also, all apple trees need a certain number of “chill hours.” In other words, they need a minimum of time where the temps are under a certain amount – basically, a set amount of time that the tree needs to stay dormant.
Pollination of apple trees is another consideration. Some apple trees need another apple tree nearby to cross-pollinate with. If you have a truly small space and no room for two or more trees, you need to find a self-fertile variety. Keep in mind, though, that even self-fertile trees will produce a lot more fruit if they’re cross-pollinated. If you have enough space for two trees, be sure you are planting two varieties that bloom around the same time so they can pollinate one another.
Also, just because an apple tree is labeled dwarf doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a suitable container grown apple tree. The rootstock that the tree is grafted onto will determine the eventual size. So what you are looking for is a label referring to the rootstock. This system is a more reliable method for determining if the tree will do well in a container. Look for a tree that is grafted onto P-22, M-27, M-9, or M-26 rootstock.
Next, consider container size. They are measured by volume or diameter, so it’s sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly what size you need. For your first year apple baby, look for a pot that is either 18-22 inches (46-56 cm.) across or one with a volume of 10-15 gallons (38-57 L.). Yes, you can grow apple trees in smaller containers, but if you are in doubt, bigger is better than smaller. Whatever the size, be sure it has drainage holes. Get a wheeled base to put the pot on so you can easily move the tree around.
How to Grow an Apple Tree in a Pot
You can use potting soil or a mix of compost and regular garden soil to plant your container grown apple trees. Place some gravel or broken clay pot shards at the bottom of the container to facilitate drainage prior to planting the tree.
If you have a bare root tree, trim the roots so they’ll fit in the container easily. If the tree came in a nursery pot, check to see if the tree is root bound. If so, loosen the roots up and trim them to fit in the pot.
Fill the bottom of the pot with soil atop the gravel and situate the tree so the graft union (the bulge towards the bottom of the trunk where the tree was grafted) is level with the lip of the pot. Fill in around the tree until the dirt is 2 inches (5 cm.) below the lip of the pot. Stake the tree to give it some support. If you want, mulch on top of the soil to aid in moisture retention.
Cut the newly planted apple back by 1/3 and water the tree well until water runs from the holes in the pot. Feed the plant during its growing season, especially since some nutrients run out of the drainage holes.
Water is very important when growing apple trees in pots, or anything in pots for that matter. Pots tend to dry out much faster than things grown in the garden proper. Water the tree at least twice a week, daily during hot months. The smaller the container, the more often you need to water since the surface area is so small; it is difficult to get enough water in and to the roots. Drought stressed trees are open to insect and fungal infections, so keep an eye on the watering!
Growing fruit trees in pots and containers
Growing fruit trees in pots or patio containers has a number of benefits:
- You can move the trees into a frost-free garage during bad winter conditions or to avoid spring frosts. (Do not bring them into a heated house though).
- They provide a decorative and fruitful effect on patios, enhanced by an attractive container.
- You can grow fruit trees in very small spaces, ideal for houses with no gardens.
- If you think you might be moving house, you can take the trees with you.
However, there are downsides too. Growing any fruit tree in a container is always going to be more difficult than growing it in the garden - regular watering becomes critical, and trees will occasionally struggle or die for no obvious reason.
Growing Apples in Container Gardens
Any apple tree can be successfully grown and produce edible crops in a container. The container must be a large garden tub or half barrel suitable for growing plants outdoors. Malus or apple varieties growing in a garden container or large garden tub will have the same initial growing pattern as an apple tree planted in open garden soil. Apple trees will take two to three years to become established.
Growing apples in containers brings three advantages:
- After the growth and pruning of the apple tree in the first two to three years, there will be little to no pruning required for container growing of apple trees.
- Smaller trees on rootstocks, called ‘dwarfing’ or ‘semi-dwarfing’, planted in containers are easier for gardeners to inspect for garden pests and disease and treat if required.
- Ladders will not be required for harvesting apples.
How To Grow Apple In Pots: A Step By Step Guide
An apple a day keeps the doctor away. Apple is a very healthy and delicious fruit. That is why one of the most popular fruits in the world. Growing an apple tree is not difficult as long as you know how to care for it. Apple can be grown in gardeners or in containers. If you want to grow apple in containers, follow the below guide on how to grow apple in pots.
If you want to grow apple tree for its fruit, we highly recommend that you don’t start from seeds. Seeds require a large space to grow and it is highly like that your tree will fail to bear fruits if you grow it from seeds.
Choose The Right Apple Tree
To grow apple in a container, you will need to buy a dwarf apple tree from your local nursery tree. There are a lot of choices available for you but we recommend the following varieties:
You can control the production and size of these varieties that usually does not exceed 8 feet. These varieties are also known to be resistant to pests and diseases.
2. Self-Pollinating varieties
It is true that there are some self-pollinating apple varieties but these varieties are suitable to grow in containers as their size is large and they require a vast space. However, if you are planting a dwarf variety, you should grow two apple trees from two different types so they can self pollinate each other.
3. Choose A container
You should start with using a relatively small container. 5-6 gallon standard container that is at least 12 inches deep and wide will be perfect for the initial growth of your tree. However, you will need to change the container and use a bigger container every year in order to meet the growth requirements of your tree. It is crucial to transplant your tree into a larger container once it stops its vertical growth which means that the plant is root bound.
Many of you would ask why don’t we grow it directly in a large container? Growing a young apple tree directly in a large container will hinder its growth. Therefore, you should gradually upgrade the size of your container. You can stop changing the container once your tree reaches the desired height. Then, you can use a permanent pot. A 20-25 gallon container would be ideal.
This is one of the most crucial tips on how to grow apple in pots. Apple trees require sunlight exposure to growing. Therefore, you should choose a sunny location to place your pot in. However, if you live in a hot climate, expose your tree only to morning sun and shield them away from evening sun because it would be too hot and it may burn your plant. You should also keep in mind that air circulation is very important, don’t place your tree too close to a wall or in a sealed place.
Apple trees are sturdy but they don’t like too much heat or cold. Thus, it is better to grow them when the temperature is moderate. Extremely cold will not kill your trees but it will make them go dormant. However, extreme heat is fatal especially if you don’t water regularly.
This is one of the most essential tips on how to grow apple in pots. Just like other fruits, apple trees need regular watering to grow especially if they are grown in pots. You should increase the watering rate during the formation of flower buds and reduce it when the tree becomes dormant in winter. Be careful not to over water your tree. Consider using a self-watering container.
You should water the tree at the roots. Deep watering will promote the growth of healthy roots. Too much water will cause root rot. Therefore, make sure not to waterlog the soil and avoid wetting the foliage because it encourages diseases and pests such as powdery mildew.
7. Soil Requirements
It is recommended that you avoid using soil from your garden. You should buy a good quality potting mix that is deep, fertile and well-draining. The potting mix should also be slightly acidic and rich in organic matter.
This is one of the most important tips on how to grow apple in pots. Apple trees are heavy feeders and they need fertilization. When the tree is young, half-strength balanced liquid fertilizer every two weeks. When the tree grows, any fruit fertilizer is recommended. Keep in mind to reduce fertilization in fall and stop it completely in winter.
As we mentioned below, for a healthy productive apple tree, you will need to report your tree every year into a larger container until it reaches the height you desire.
Young apple trees are not strong enough to survive winter, especially in cold climates. Thus, you may want to overwinter your plant by wrapping the pot with bubble wrap. This will keep your plant warm and protect it from frost and extremely low-temperature degrees.
Regardless of the dwarf variety, you are growing, pruning is essential. Pruning allows having control over the size and the shape of your plant. This is extremely important as you may want or need to take your plant inside your house. You will need to prune off dead, damaged or diseased branches. You should also remove branches that are crossing each other or growing inside towards the main trunk. Pruning should be done in late winter or summer.
12. Picking Flowers and Fruit Thinning
After 2 to 3 years from planting your tree, it will start to develop flowers. It is essential that you remove all blooming flowers to prevent the tree from bearing fruits. Thus, instead of developing fruits, the plant will redirect its energies into growing.
Fruit thinning is also quite important as it will help your plant better quality fruits. After you plant starts producing fruits, wair for a few weeks then remove fruits are growing to close to each other.
13. Pests and diseases
the Apple tree is a delicate plant and even if you grow in a container, it will still susceptible to pests and diseases. The most common pests and diseases are aphids, moths, apple blossom weevil, scab, powdery mildew, and brown. There are a few more pests and diseases that may attach your plants.
You should start harvesting your apple tree as soon as a few fruits start to fall from the plant. Learn more about harvesting apple in this post.
These are the best tips on how to grow apple in pots. These tips are effective, experimented and recommended by experts gardens. Apply them and you will be rewarded with a high yield of delicious apple fruits.