Growing fruit in containers

Information sheet

Some cultivars of fruit are suitable for smaller gardens and growing in containers. Follow this guide to make the most of your growing space.

  • School term: All year round
  • Level of experience: No experience needed
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Productive pots for the garden

Containers can be used to add structure and style to your garden as well as adding extra space for crops. Where existing conditions are poor, pots can provide the right growing conditions. For example blueberries require acidic soil and so can be grown in pots in areas with alkaline soil.

Growing tender fruit in containers is also an advantage for some plants. For instance, peaches and citrus trees such as oranges and lemons enjoy sunny growing conditions throughout the summer, and container growing  means they can be grown indoors in a light place over winter.

Figs, fruit trees, soft fruit and strawberries can also be grown successfully in containers provided that the right cultivars, rootstock and correct container size are chosen.

Check the RHS website or gardening books for more information regarding pruning and pest and disease management.

Plant choice

Tree fruits

It is important to make the correct plant choice when growing in containers. The RHS website has lists of suitable cultivars of tree fruits.

When growing apples and pears choose one that has been specially grown for a container, these should be marked as container rootstock or M26.  Apple trees are not grown on their own roots, the top of the tree is grafted onto different roots (called rootstocks) and these control the size of the tree. Apple trees should be sited in a sunny, sheltered place out of frost pockets. 

Planting is best from Nov-March. Choose a container which is at least 45-50cm in diameter. Ensure the pot has good drainage and fill with good quality growing medium. This should be a mixture of compost and grit mixed by volume, 2 parts compost to one part grit. Ensure the tree is planted correctly: tease  out some of the roots and place the existing top of the root ball level with the top of the soil, then firm well in. Ensure the tree is well watered initially, then during dry periods and also when the fruit is forming. It is a good idea to add some slow release fertiliser to the compost at the time of planting, and apply liquid feed with a high potash content throughout the growing season.

Apples and pears can also be grown as cordons or trained trees. Choose varieties which bear fruit on short side shoots (spur bearing). The RHS website has more details on growing these here

Fruit bushes and berries

Blueberries are acid loving plants and are often grown in containers. They have clusters of white flowers in spring followed by plump blue-black fruits in later summer. Some varieties are self fertile whilst others prefer to be grown in groups for better pollination. Once planted keep the (ericaceous) compost moist and feed with an ericaceous liquid fertiliser once a month. Plants should be repotted every two years.

Gooseberries  should be planted during the dormant season in soil based compost and kept in a sunny spot with good ventilation to prevent diseases. Gooseberries are self fertile and respond well to growing as a single cordon (stem) or training on walls and fences. Apply liquid tomato feed fornightly when the plant comes into leaf.

Redcurrants, white currants and blackcurrants these shrubs are vigorous and require large containers at least 45cm wide to grow. Plant when dormant in soil based compost in full sun or partial shade. Plant blackcurrants deeply,  pruning back the shoots to 5cm to encourage new ones to form. Keep all containerised currants well watered and fertilised throughout the growing season.

Strawberries can be grown individually in pots, in multiple strawberry pots or hanging baskets. Grow several varieties together to extend the season or use perpetual or ever bearing cultivars. Plant from late summer to early autumn for a good crop the following year. Place in full sun, water and feed throughout the growing season and replace plants every three years or so with new ones.

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