Few items indicate the bounty of early fall more than the sight of fruit blossom, even if it’s growing on a little plant in a pot on your patio. Although generating enough of a crop to produce pies or juice is generally a laborious job, growing fruits or berries in a container can be pretty simple and exceptionally satisfying.
It’s a great way to add seasonal interest to your garden, give you samples to nibble on, and introduce your family to the manners of character — you know, where blueberry babies come from, etc..
Following are five tips for autumn berries and fruits well suited to container growing, and also how to get started.
Start with a large plant if you would like anything to harvest sooner: a 5-gallon nursery plant or larger. Transplant into a pot that’s two inches deeper and broader than the nursery container, and fill it with good potting soil. Pay particular attention to feeding and watering during the growing season. It is possible to prune to control dimensions, but don’t cut off flowers that result in fruit production.
Note: Most of these plants are best suited to moderate climates. If they are marginal where you live, you may be able to shield them indoors during the coldest weather. And nearly all of these will not grow in a container indefinitely; plan to transplant in the ground a few years later on.
Pomegranate. Do not bother dreaming of going into the juice industry, but growing a pomegranate in a pot provides you a opportunity to view up close the intriguing and gorgeous evolution of the fruit. Starting in early summer, waxy orange-red flowers appear. Then the fruit gradually fattens and reddens by early autumn, occasionally splitting open to reveal the glistening reddish edible seeds. All it takes is one fruit to make your effort worthwhile, and even if you hit out on a crop, the plant may give you yellow fall foliage.
A dwarf variety like’Nana’ is especially well suited to life in a container. It develops 2 or 3 feet tall, with proportionately dwarfish fruit.
Botanical name: Punica granatum
Where it will grow: USDA zones 7–11 find your zone
Water necessity: moderate to moderate
Light requirement: Complete sun
Mature dimensions: 10 feet tall and wide (when grown in the ground, smaller in a pot)
Growing tips: Feed several times during the growing season. Prune to control size in winter months when the plant is leafless. Throughout the growing season, cut back branch strategies for bushiness — don’t cut back too much or you shed flowers and fruits.
Regardless of how big and sprawling a mature pomegranate can eventually become, a full-size variety can also do well in a pot. The one shown here is’Angel Red,” using a couple and a half peeled fruit after four years, in a deep blue ceramic pot that strikingly sets off the color of the fruit.
Kumquat along with other citrus. Various kinds of dwarf citrus succeed in pots and can generate a tasty crop if your home is in citrus nation. Kumquat may not offer you a lot of crop, but its bright orange fruits are very pretty and come dependably from autumn through the winter.
Revealed here is’Nagami’ kumquat, using glistening thumb-size fruits. The bushy, shiny-leafed plant is small enough to live in a container for several years. Move your container plant into a protected spot (or indoors) if winter nights get too chilly.
Botanical name: Fortunella margarita’Nagami’
Where it will grow: USDA zones 9–10
water necessity: Moderate, more commonly in warm climates
moderate condition: Full sun or part shade especially in a container in hottest climates
Mature dimensions: 8 feet tall, 6 feet wide (when grown in the ground)
Growing tips: Good soil mix is a must. Keep foliage glistening green with citrus food; yellow leaves typically indicate deficiency of iron.
For much more about growing citrus in containers, check out Four Winds Growers, a pioneer in the growth of dwarf varieties.
Blueberries. Long thought of as a Northern specialization, blueberries have steadily been progressing south and west — not due to changes in climate but clever function by plant breeders.
New varieties like’Bountiful Blue’ and’Peach Sorbet,” shown, can grow in dryer warmer climates. They’re compact enough to flourish in a container and supply berries over a long period, well into autumn, and perhaps even offer a touch of fall color.
Botanical name: Vaccinium corymbosum
Where it will grow: USDA zones 6–10
Water necessity: Moderate
moderate requirement: Full sun or part shade especially in a container in warm climates
Mature dimensions: 3–4 feet tall and wide (when grown in the ground, smaller in a container)
Growing tips: It’s very important to use planting mix full of organic matter, like the kind sold for camellias and azaleas. Keep soil moist during the growing period; feed acid food. Prune back lightly at the onset of expansion in spring, and pinch tips for bushy growth during the growing season.
Olive. This is a another surprising choice for a container if you are used to the gnarly, old olive trees in California and Mediterranean climates around the world. But an olive can dwell in pot for some time and even produce olives that begin green, as shown here, and turn black. Bear in mind that fresh olives aren’t good to eat and require processing. If you are prepared to await fruit on your container plant, you can begin with a small seedling — that the one shown here started as a gallon-can plant. Even young olives possess an interesting twisted form as well as the identifying gray-green foliage.
Containers especially suit dwarf olives, such as’Small Ollie’; it grows 6 to 8 feet tall but is deemed non-fruiting.
And, yes, plenty of olive fruits are able to create a mess, however, the super-fastidious will probably be bothered by what type of container-grown plant drops.
Botanical name: Olea europaea
Where it will grow: USDA zones 8–11
Water necessity: Light
moderate requirement: Full sun Mature dimensions: Old trees can reach 20 to 30 feet tall.
Growing tips: Feed container-grown plants a couple times during the growing season. Keep the little tree in a pot until it outgrows it; pruning keeps it even smaller. Transplant to the ground or a larger container when follicles fill up the kettle.
Fig. Many cold-climate gardeners, especially those who have blossom roots, prize figs sufficient to grow them outside in containers to the summer and keep them in a cellar during winter. Even without an edible incentive, a fig makes a fine container plant. It is rapidly growing, and its enormous leaves have a striking tropical appearance. Typically fruit comes in 2 batches, late spring and early autumn. ‘Brown Turkey,’ shown here, is smaller than many varieties.
Botanical name: Ficus carica, many forms.
Where it will grow: USDA zones 7–9
Water necessity: Light
moderate requirement: Full sun
Mature dimension: 15–30 feet or more tall and wide when grown in the ground. In a pot, pruning can keep height less than 8 feet.
Growing tips: Desires a large pot. Prune back in winter. For much more on growing figs in containers, especially in cold climates, check Stark Bros. nursery for information.