Desire a Yard Mini Orchard? Create Your Personal Container Orchard

Not every gardener has a backyard large enough to support a spacious home orchard. But a container orchard is available to almost anyone. A container orchard is a perfect small home orchard. It consists of dwarf fruit trees in pots. Yes, the trees may be smaller but you can still wander outside with a basket and fill it up with fresh fruit.

How Do You Make a Small Fruit Orchard in Pots?

When you decide to create a mini orchard in pots, the fun begins. Yes, you can grow trees with normal-size, colorful fruit in containers in a small yard or patio. Many of the regular orchard fruits – like apples, peaches and plums – are happy and grow well in pots. These container plants not only provide you with fresh fruit, but also are appealing ornamentals that make your backyard look lovely.

You’ll need to locate a sunny spot, select the fruit trees for your backyard mini orchard, and pot them up appropriately. Learn about their maintenance needs before you buy.

Choosing the Right Spot For Your Mini Orchard

The right spot for your container orchard is an easy-to-access area that gets good sun. Protection from winds may be necessary if your backyard is subject to gusts. While full sun is always desirable for fruit trees, potted fruit trees will do just fine on five to six hours a day of sun.

What are the Best Fruit Trees for a Small Orchard in Containers?

Not every fruit and nut tree will do well in a container orchard. For instance, walnut trees not only are enormous, but they also take almost two decades to fruit. On the other hand, any regular fruit tree will grow in a pot – at least for a short period.

Columnar trees – that is, fruit trees with a narrow shape and a single truck – work well in containers. They grow essentially without branches and the fruit clusters against the trunk.

Dwarf trees are great too. Dwarf fruit trees are created from a process called grafting. Essentially, it is a melding of two trees – the root system of a dwarf tree with the top (or scion) of a fruit tree. It is the species of root system that determines the size of the tree.

Genetic dwarfs are trees that are naturally dwarfed. These make good selections since they don’t need a different rootstock. You can also plant berries – blueberries, strawberries and raspberries – that are naturally small and do not require grafting at all.

Which Size Container Do You Need for a Mini Orchard?

Most fruit trees are sold in small containers and will require transplant quickly. What size container to choose?

You’ll have to strike a balance between big and small when it comes to containers for a mini orchard. The bigger the container, the longer the tree will be able to survive in it. But the bigger the container, the heavier it will be to transport indoors for overwintering. So if overwintering indoors is part of your plan, be sure your container can be relocated without too much effort. Many gardeners start with a smaller container of 3 to 7 gallons (11 to 26 L), moving up in size over time to a 15-gallon (56.7 L) container for long-term use.

Shape is easier to dictate: pick a lower, wider container over a tall, slender container every time. Be sure that the container has water drain holes.

Caring for Your Container-Based Mini Orchard

Like other potted plants, container orchard plants require irrigation, fertilizer, an occasional prune, and a warmish place to spend the winter. Here are the details.


Containerized plants always require more regular irrigation than plants with their roots deep in your soil. They dry out, and during hot spells, can get very dry, very quickly. The smaller the container, the quicker the soil gets dry. Drip irrigation is considered the very best system for container orchards.

Take your irrigation cues from the weather and check the soil regularly. I recommend the finger-in-the-pot method. If the soil is bone dry an inch (2.5 cm) down, water the plant again, even daily or twice daily.


Fertilize your little fruit plants frequently, using less product than for regular-sized fruit trees. Start the process the minute new growth appears.


Prune to maintain the shape of each tree’s canopy. But the most important pruning will be of the roots. Take a look at each fruit tree’s root ball in spring. Root prune if the roots are spiraling around the inside of the pot, or if they fill up the pot.


Fruit tree varieties that are not cold hardy in your region should be overwintered indoors. Judge this in the same way you would for other potted plants: determine the plant’s hardiness zone, then compare it to your own. In close cases, you can wrap the little trees to protect them from dropping temperatures.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Easiest Dwarf Fruit Tree to Grow?

A tree that is easy to grow in a non-dwarf tree is likely to remain easy as a dwarf. I personally have had great luck with Improved Meyer Lemon trees – mine has been producing for a decade and is going strong. Brambles – like raspberries and blackberries – are also easy since they grow like weeds. On the other hand, fruit trees like peaches and nectarines won’t last more than a few years in pots.

Can Dwarf Fruit Trees Stay in Pots?

Most fruits can be container grown for several years, then be transitioned to in-ground planting. This is a good method for those who want to get a head start while they are developing a garden or seeking their permanent orchard space. Young avocados will actually perform better when grown in containers for their first three to five years, or until their trunks have developed true bark for 12 inches to 18 inches (30 to 45.7 cm)above the root flare.

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