Growing Dwarf Fruit Trees in Backyard, Containers

Introduction to growing dwarf fruit trees in the backyard

Dwarf fruit trees add freshness, fragrance, and color to an indoor setting. Also, they can provide years of fruit. Many dwarf fruit trees require an 8-foot-diameter space and some thrive in even less, fitting in a pot on a patio. In this article we also discuss the below topics;

  • How much water do dwarf fruit trees need
  • Growing dwarf fruit trees in containers
  • Best dwarf fruit trees
  • How to grow dwarf fruit trees from seed
  • When to plant dwarf fruit trees
  • How far apart should dwarf fruit trees be planted
  • How long does it take for a dwarf fruit tree to bear fruit

A step by step guide to growing dwarf fruit trees

Dwarf fruit trees can be used to hide unsightly features such as fences, alleyways, and sheds. Their dense foliage buffers street noise or sounds from neighbors as it provides privacy. Taking into account the shadows they will cast at maturity, and place individual trees at the corners of the garden or plant them as a garden border or in an informal row along a walking path. The fragrant blossoms of trees such as citrus enliven a patio garden. Not only do the trees offer the beauty of spring blossoms, but they also give layers of green summer foliage and colors of ripening fruit and fall foliage that boost yard appeal as the season’s progress. Standard-size fruit trees bear fruit in 7 to 10 years, and dwarf trees produce fruit in as soon as 3 to 5 years.

Choosing the perfect yard area for the dwarf fruit tree involves careful consideration of the year-round sunlight for bountiful harvests. Caring for dwarf fruit trees is much easier than caring for standard-size fruit trees. The dwarf trees need minimal pruning that involves maintaining the desired shapes and sizes. Dwarf fruit trees mature around 8 to 10 feet tall. These small-sized trees will provide an abundance of full-sized fruit, but without requiring a large amount of room to grow. The main benefits of dwarf fruit trees include;

  • Full-size fruit on a smaller tree.
  • Easier to harvest and protect from pests than standard (full-size) trees.
  • Fruit trees, which grow into dwarf trees due to the rootstock type they have, bear fruits in the same quality of traditional trees.
  • Since their roots are dwarf sized you can do high-density planting. So, you get more fruits from smaller gardens.
  • In dwarf fruit growing, the tree has early productivity. A dwarf tree yields fruits in its second year and the fourth year it begins its economic life.
  • Dwarf fruit trees do great in containers.
  • Dwarf fruit trees can stay very short and narrow. They don’t require much space to grow.
  • Easy care – pruning takes a fraction of the time compared to a full-size tree.

Location for planting dwarf fruit trees

Dwarf trees’ small stature makes them vulnerable to shading. Your planting location should have as much sunlight as possible, typically an average 8-hour period each day. Excessive shading inhibits sugar formation through the photosynthesis process and sugars are a key ingredient for fruit production. To combat any shading, select a south-facing property space that offers optimum light without nearby structures, like potting sheds, casting shadows onto the tree. Alternatively, growing the dwarf fruit tree in a container allows you to move the plant into a different area if shadows persist on the growing canopy.

Location for planting dwarf trees.
Location for planting dwarf trees.

Dwarf fruit trees spacing

Growing multiple dwarf fruit trees in your yard allows you to grow cross-pollinating cultivars, but you require space between the plants for healthy light exposure. Depending on the species, each dwarf variety requires an average of about 8 to 12 feet between each tree. Though, air easily circulates between the canopies for carbon dioxide exchange through sunlight penetrates down along the trees’ sides for fruit production on lower limbs. Without proper spacing, the dwarf tree will still grow, but the excessive shading causes more vegetative growth instead of concentrated flower and fruit generation.

Best dwarf fruit tree varieties for pots

Growing dwarf fruit trees come in several varieties and you can select apples, apricots, peaches, pears, nectarines, cherries and plums.


Apples grafted onto dwarf rootstocks are suitable for pots. If you grow only one plant, make sure to select a self-fertile variety in which several varieties are grafted onto the same rootstock. A popular dwarf apple tree is the Cameron Select brand of the Honeycrisp and it matures at 8 to 10 feet tall. Apple trees are among the hardiest of fruit trees, and some kinds of plants are disease-resistant.

Apples thrive best in drier soil and a drier climate can make it even precious. Proper plant care is a compulsion to get quality fruit so if there is a drenched climate than apple trees want constant drainage.

Dwarf coconut trees

The dwarf coconut tree is a range of varieties of the coconut palm. Dwarf varieties of coconut palm trees grow about 6 to 7 feet tall, although they reach 25 feet tall and produce coconuts just like full-sized coconut palms. Dwarf coconut trees are so named because they are shorter-stemmed than tall varieties, but they may still reach 20 to 60 feet in height. Dwarf coconut trees can be successfully planted at any time of year when given the proper care and the right conditions.

Plant dwarf coconut trees – Select an appropriate location for your coconut palm, where the tree will see the full sun during the daylight hours. Then, give the tree enough room to grow to at least 30 feet tall and 15 to 20 feet wide without crowding from other nearby trees. Amend clayey soil by mixing it with organic matter such as peat moss, to encourage proper drainage. Dig a hole just deep enough for the root ball of the dwarf coconut palm tree. Insert the root ball into the hole and then cover it with soil, so the uppermost roots of the plant are approximately 1 inch below the surface of the soil. Spread about 3 or 4 inches of organic mulch on the soil beneath the crown of the tree, but do not allow the mulch to come within 4 inches of the trunk. Water the coconut tree deeply until puddles form around the base of the tree. Water your tree well and you’ll need to water your coconut palm at least once a week for several weeks until the tree has started to establish itself in its new spot. Malayan dwarf coconut trees like fertilizer and will respond well to it. Choose a general-purpose palm fertilizer and apply it to the area underneath the palm quarterly. As the bottom coconut limbs get older they will turn brown and then die. This is natural for coconut palms or any type of palm. Then, trim off any branches once they’ve turned completely brown.


Cherries are grown as much for their spring blossoms as their summer fruit. Sweet varieties of the cherry plant need lots of suns, while the sour varieties are more tolerant of shade. Cherries have shallow roots so they need good attention to watering, while sour varieties tolerate more shade. Then, they are shallow-rooted, so water cherries well in their first year and in any dry spells. A good sweet variety is ‘Gisela 5;’ a recommended sour cherry is ‘Colt.’ For a semi-dwarf cherry tree, look for a Stella graft that uses a Colt rootstock and the tree will reach a mature size of just 10 feet tall.

Peaches and nectarines

Dwarf varieties of peaches and nectarines are excellent for pots since it is very easy to protect the sensitive flowers from cold spells. They must be repotted every two years. ‘St. Julien A,’ ‘Pixy,’ and ‘Bonanza’ are good plant varieties to try.


This is another fruit tree that can be moved around or covered to protect the tender early blossoms. Plums require good drainage, so add sand or perlite to the potting soil. If you have room for only one plant, make sure to select a self-fertile variety. A good dwarf variety plum tree is ‘Pixy.’


There is summer- and autumn-bearing varieties of this cane fruit that can be grown in pots. Although not a tree, raspberries form long canes that provide a shrubby look when grown in pots. Summer-fruiting varieties are less bushy, which can be helpful in small spaces since the canes are prickly and good varieties include ‘Glen Ample’ and ‘Glen Moy.’

Dwarf Apricot Tree

The dwarf varieties of Apricot fruit can be produced with the help of containers. Early spring is the season for apricots to bloom and trees are strong enough to cope with winter temperature. These Apricot trees can be planted any time except when it is extremely hot. They require much warmth during the summer, however 2-3 years old is good to be bought at buying time.

Dwarf Pear Tree

Another kind of dwarf fruit tree is the pear dwarf tree, pears can be considered as the largest of such varieties pruning in early spring or winter. Slightly rich acidic soil with a pH level of 6.0-6.5 with sunlight is favorable for this fruit tree. Such trees are spaced about 8 feet apart and semi-dwarf at 13 feet apart.

Banana Trees

The dwarf Cavendish banana tree is about 8 to 10 feet tall. The fruit is sweet and 3 to 6 inches long and the big, tropical leaves lend an aesthetic value to the landscape. It is self-fertile.

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Growing dwarf fruit trees in containers

Step 1) Growing dwarf fruit trees in containers makes them easier to prune and harvest. Younger trees bear fruit faster and you can find dwarf varieties of almost any common fruit tree, but citrus trees are the most commonly grown. Containers for growing dwarf fruit trees may include those made from plastic, metal, clay, ceramic, or wood, as long as there is adequate drainage provided. A general rule of thumb, however, is to start with a container approximately 6 inches wider than that from which the tree is initially placed in at the nursery. The miniature fruit tree enjoys well-drained sandy soil of moderate fertility, and which is suitable for most dwarf fruit trees.

Step 2) While you can plant dwarf fruit trees in the ground, many varieties also thrive in containers. Dwarf fruit trees in containers can be moved for protection from harsh weather, making it possible to grow some plant varieties such as Eureka lemons year-round, even in cooler areas.

Step 3) Use container trees to design non-permanent windbreaks or to give shade from extreme heat for tender plants. Then, place them near a birdbath to offer perches and nesting areas to wild birds. Avoid overcrowding container-grown dwarf fruit trees by positioning the containers at least 8 feet apart. Rotating the containers gives the trees even sunlight on all sides, and improving fruit production and ripening.

Step 4) A selected container can be moved around outside to take advantage of the sun or moved indoors during extreme cold. Finally, using containers can make it possible to produce certain species of fruit trees that are borderline hardy in your region.

Step 5) Start with a small pot, about a 5 or 7-gallon container. As the fruit tree grows within its container, it will eventually become root-bound. Before this happens, re-pot it into a large size container. You can tell that your fruit tree is root-bound by its lack of vertical growth. It will still produce leaves and even fruit, but you will want to select a bigger container to support continual growth and increased production.

Step 6) Be sure the pot has adequate drainage (holes in the bottom and sides) so that excess water can drain and air can access the soil. Then, this will help prevent diseases such as root rot from developing. You should add a layer of gravel or rock to the bottom of the container to aid good drainage.

How to plant dwarf fruit trees in the ground

Dig a hole 12-18 inches deep and wide in an area that gets 6 to 8 hours of sun daily. Place your tree in the hole, but make sure the grafted joint stays about 2 inches above the soil. You will see the joint clearly at the base of the tree and cover with soil and compost, then mulch around the tree to help keep the soil moist and water well.

Basics of growing dwarf fruit trees indoors

Dwarf fruit trees result from grafting a fruiting variety of trees onto the dwarf rootstock. Plant dwarf fruit trees to frame a view from a window, deck, or patio, and mark a boundary with a row of trees. Then, create a screen with depth and texture by setting the small trees as a layer of mid-level foliage against a low-growing hedge. Space the trees 8 to 10 feet from the hedge and at least 8 feet apart in the row, to allow trouble-free maintenance. To use dwarf fruit trees as focal points in garden beds, underplant them with ground covers or lower growing annuals or perennials. You’ll need to increase irrigation to provide ample water to both fruit trees and understory plantings, and the increased uptake of nutrients in densely planted areas may require additional fertilization as well.

Pruning dwarf fruit trees

Healthy dwarf fruit trees slowly grow taller. Dense canopies hinder fruit production on the lower limbs since light cannot penetrate through the top foliage layer. Pruning your dwarf tree during its dormant period, typically before spring growth, allows you to remove damaged and unproductive limbs for optimum light penetration. In general, your fruit tree shape should be cone-shaped, allowing the most light to move down through the layered limbs for optimum photosynthesis.

Care of dwarf fruit trees in containers

  • Care of dwarf fruit trees begins with suitable light conditions. Most miniature fruit trees grow best in full sunlight, but some may also do well in partial shade, and depending on the type of dwarf fruit tree. Generally, container-grown dwarf fruit trees should be placed where they will receive maximum sunlight.
  • Regular pruning is sometimes necessary for proper care of dwarf fruit trees to maintain the shape of your miniature fruit tree. Most pruning is performed during dormancy, just before active growth begins in the spring season. However, summer pruning can be done to remove undesirable growth and maintain smaller tree size. 
  • Your potted miniature fruit tree should be moved indoors during cold spells and placed away from drafts. They should also be watered only as needed, depending on the species of fruit tree, the size of its container, and its surroundings. For most dwarf fruit trees, the soil surface must be allowed to dry out some before watering. Fertilizing should be done more often, at least once every four to six weeks during the growing season. When growing dwarf fruit trees, you should repot them one size up about every 2 years.
  • Overwatering can be dangerous to young potted fruit trees. Once the fruit tree is planted in the container, keep a close eye on it and only water when needed. Daily watering could not be necessary, but avoid letting the soil dry out completely.
  • Mature fruit trees in containers outdoors, during the months where they are in full leaf, use plenty of water and may benefit from daily watering, at least until the temperatures cool off.

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