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Growing Fruit Trees in Containers

Master gardener Chris Dawson shares these tips for growing fruit trees in pots.

Small lemon trees are perfect for container gardening and will provide wonderful color as well as fruit for the patio garden.

Even if you have limited space, you can still enjoy fresh fruit. Although not all fruit trees thrive in containers for long periods of time, you can grow any fruit tree in a container for a few years and then transplant it. You can also choose a dwarf variety, which is well suited to living in a container.

Some of the most popular dwarf citrus trees to grow in containers are:

Meyer lemon: First imported from China in 1908, it is believed to be a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. The fruit has a very sweet flavor and is less acidic than a true lemon.

Calamondin: Prized for its attractive shape and foliage, it produces fragrant flowers nearly year-round. It is grown primarily for aesthetics and less for actual, edible fruit.

Dwarf Kaffa lime tree: The rind of the fruit and the unique double-lobed, aromatic leaves are often used in cooking.

Master gardener Chris Dawson prefers mail order bare-root trees. Inspect the tree when it arrives to be sure the packing material is still moist and the roots are in good shape. As with any bare-root tree, make sure the roots never dry out before planting. To plant:

  • Use any kind of container as long as it has drainage holes and is an adequate size for the tree - 10 to 16 inches in diameter.
  • Fill the container with a light, well-drained potting mixture. Make a small mound in the center of pot and arrange the roots over the mound. Cover the roots with soil and tamp in lightly.
  • Leave the stake in place to help the tree remain sturdy while the roots become established.
  • Place in full sun, southern exposure.
  • Water to keep the soil moist, but not soggy.
  • Fertilize with a formula high in nitrogen with trace minerals.


The one compromise with container fruit trees: They rarely bear as much fruit as their planted counterpart. On the plus side, the fruit usually appears a season or so ahead of trees planted in the garden.

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