Here’s all you need to know about How to Grow An Apple Tree in Container. Growing Apple Trees in Pots is going to be really easy now!
Want to know How to Grow An Apple Tree in Container? We have all the tips to help you grow it easily at home!
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How to Choose a Right Apple Tree?
Growing apple tree from seeds is a bad idea. Instead, buy a dwarf or semi-dwarf grafted tree from a nursery.
Apple trees are grown by grafting on a rootstock, which has many benefits. If you are unaware of apple rootstock grafting, you might like to read more on this on the official website of Ministry Of Agriculture Food And Rural Affairs (Ontario) and a very informative article of Cornell University.
Basically, dwarf apple trees are those in which dwarf rootstocks are grafted to control their height and size to improve fruit production and resistance to diseases and pests.
When you go to a nursery or shop online, search for rootstock choices like M27, M26, Bud9, G16, or M9. Apple trees grown on these rootstocks are dwarf and usually don’t grow above 8 ft. You can also look for semi-dwarf trees. It is also possible to grow them in containers.
Buy Self-Fertile Variety of Apple Tree
Apple trees require cross-pollination. You’ll need to buy two apple trees for pollination. If you’re going to plant only one plant, buy a self-pollinating variety.
Considering the Chilling Period
To set flowers, apple trees require an annual cold-weather cycle in winter called chilling. A chilling period requirement of an apple tree is measured from the total number of hours it gets per year when the temperature remains below 45 F (7 C) but above the freezing point.
Average chilling hour requirements for apple tree varieties are around 800-1000 hours.
If you live in a mild winter climate, choose low apple cultivars and if you live in a harsh winter climate, choose high chill apple varieties. This simple trick will improve the productivity of your apple tree growing in containers.
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Choosing a Pot for the Apple Tree
Don’t start growing apple trees in a too-large pot initially, as it will result in overwatering and excessive moisture in the growing medium, which is a big NO for the plant.
A standard size pot (5-6 gallon) 10-12 inches deep and wide is great to start with. Gradually change the size of the container each year or when you identify that the plant is root-bound. You’ll find out if the plant is rootbound or not when it’ll stop its vertical growth.
Upgrade your pot in sequence by choosing one size bigger pot than the previous one each time. Once your apple tree in a pot reaches the desired height, stop changing the pots. A 20-25 gallon pot would be sufficient as a final one. After that, you’ll have to do regular pruning and root trimming from time to time to maintain it.
Requirements for Growing Apple Trees in Pots
Like other fruit trees, the apple tree loves to grow in the sun. In hot summer days (in warmer regions, USDA Zone 8-9) move the container to a place that is shaded from the afternoon sun. Choose a sunny location that’s less windy.
Also, keep in mind to maintain good air circulation around your apple tree. If you are growing it on your balcony or rooftop garden, don’t place it close to the walls.
Growing apple trees require cool winter and moderate summer. You can’t grow apple trees where the temperature remains the same or too hot.
Apple tree can tolerate shallow temperatures by going dormant in winter.
Growing apple trees in pots requires regular watering. Generally, you should water more abundantly during the formation of flower buds and moderately all the other time. Reduce watering in winter.
Water deeply to promote the growth of healthy roots. Commonly the apple trees growing in containers die due to root rot in waterlogged soil and excess watering. In any case, avoid the chance of overwatering the plant.
Also, avoid overhead watering as wetting the foliage favors the growth of powdery mildew.
Apples prefer deep, fertile, and well-draining soil; avoid waterlogging soil. On the ground, sandy loam to sandy clay loam soil is preferred.
To grow an apple tree in a container, use a potting mix rich in organic matter with slightly acidic to neutral pH (6-6.8).
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Apple Tree Care
Fertilize your apple tree with a balanced liquid fertilizer, diluted to 1/4 of its strength, when the tree is young every 2-3 weeks during the growing season.
Apply any fruit fertilizer once the tree gets older. Start to reduce the feeding of fertilizers from late fall and stop fertilizing in winter.
Repot the young apple tree in a year or so. Repot in one size bigger pot, after spreading roots from sides and bottom.
When growing apple trees in pots, you must know that during hard frosts and too cold temperatures, you’ll need to protect the plant’s roots. For this, wrap the container with bubble wrap.
Pests and Diseases
An Apple tree in a container is susceptible to aphids, moths, apple blossom weevil, scab, powdery mildew, brown rot, etc.
Pruning Apple Tree
Pruning is an essential part of apple tree care. But a dwarf apple tree requires less pruning than a semi-dwarf or standard size tree. Pruning must be done to control the shape and size of your plant.
Dead, damaged, or diseased branches must be pruned from time to time. Also, prune off the branches that are crossing each other or growing inside towards the main trunk. The best time for pruning is late winter and summer.
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Pollinating Apple Tree
Most of the apple tree varieties require cross-pollination in order to fruit, which means you have to buy at least two apple trees. But the best way to avoid this is to buy a self-fertile variety.
Picking Flowers and Fruit Thinning
Dwarf apple trees start to produce flowers in 2-3 years. In the first flowering year, remove all blooms to prevent the tree from setting fruits. This way you’ll allow the plant to direct its energy into growing.
Fruit thinning allows the plant to grow better quality fruits. Wait for a few weeks after fruit setting and remove the fruits that are growing too closely.
Harvesting Apple Tree
The apple tree will be ready to harvest in 4-7 years. Pick one apple from the tree and taste it to know whether the rest are ready to harvest or not. Do not pull the fruits from the tree as it might damage the stem. Instead, use the twist in a rotating motion technique.
You can store them in a refrigerator for 6-8 weeks.
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