Apple trees can flourish in containers. There are dwarf varieties that have been developed to give you full-size apples in a compact space. And with a little prudent pruning, you can have a beautiful, productive tree for years. There are traditional pruning shapes or you can train your tree to grow along a trellis, a wall, or guide wires. It won’t have that classic bushy tree shape, but it will still provide you with tasty apples.
Container-grown apple trees need much the same things as trees planted in the ground. The key is to make sure they have good access to light and water, and that you upgrade their living space when the container they’re in becomes too tight.
Apple trees need six to eight hours of sunlight each day to flourish. Ideally, you’ll have a spot on your deck or patio that won’t require you to move the tree every day. Scope out the spot you’re considering for your trees to make sure they’ll get enough light. As the seasons change, you may need to move your trees, so be sure to put the container on a wheeled platform to keep the tree safe and to take it easy on your back.
One of the hazards of growing any plant in a container is a lack of water. You will need to pay special attention to your trees, since they can’t stretch out their roots in search of more water if they’re thirsty.
On the flip side, you want to make sure you don’t kill your trees with kindness by overwatering them. Soggy roots are targets for fungal infections. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Check the soil a couple of inches below the surface. If it’s dry, give your tree a drink.
You want to be especially vigilant during the tree’s growing period, when it’s in full leaf from spring through summer. During that period, your tree may need daily watering, depending on its location.
For a happy, healthy apple tree, use a commercial soil mix developed for trees. Some gardeners prefer to use soil from their garden, but that can introduce any number of pathogens to your young tree.
When it comes to using fertilizer, only fertilize your tree when it’s actively growing, usually spring through summer. Use rich compost, a compost tea, or a water-soluble fertilizer to ensure that the roots get the nutrients they need.
Have you grown apple trees in containers? Please tell us about your successes and challenges growing apple trees in containers.