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Growing Apple Trees in Pots | How to Grow Apple Tree in a Container and Care

Here’s all you need to know about How to Grow An Apple Tree in Container. Growing Apple Trees in Pots is not difficult if you understand the requirements!

Growing Apple Trees in Pots
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Want to know How to Grow An Apple Tree in Container? We have all the tips and tricks to help you grow it easily at home!

Learn How to Grow Sugar Apples here


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 reputed 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 the Ministry Of Agriculture Food And Rural Affairs (Ontario) and this very informative article from Cornell University.

Basically, dwarf apple trees are those in which dwarf rootstocks are grafted to control their height and size and 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 feet. You can also look for semi-dwarf trees. Doing this makes it 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 and it can be less or more depending on the type you select.

If you live in a mild winter climate, choose low chill 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.

Learn How to Grow Crab Apples here


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 every year or two at the start of the growing season 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 growing.

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

Growing Apple Trees in Pots 2
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Position

Like other fruit trees, the apple tree loves to grow in the sun. If you like, on hot summer days (in warmer regions, USDA Zone 8-10), 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.

Temperature

Growing apple trees require cool winter and moderate summer. You can’t grow apple trees where the temperature remains the same or way too hot.

Apple trees can tolerate low temperatures by going dormant in winter.

Watering

Growing apple trees in pots requires regular watering, especially in the first year. Water deeply to promote the formation of healthy roots. And reduce watering in winter.

Commonly the apple trees growing in containers die due to root rot in waterlogged soil and excess and frequent watering, so avoid this. In any case, prevent the chances of overwatering the plant again and again.

Also, avoid overhead watering as wetting the foliage favors the growth of powdery mildew.

Soil

Apples prefer deep, fertile, and well-draining soil; don’t use soil that thwarts the drainage. When grown 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). You can mix compost or well-rotted manure to enrich your growing medium.

Can Cats Eat Apples? Learn here


Apple Tree Care

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Fertilizer

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 and don’t start before the warm weather arrives in spring.

Repotting

Repot the young apple tree in a year or two. Repot in one size bigger pot, after spreading roots from sides and bottom.

Overwintering

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. You can easily control all of these by keeping an eye on them.


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 spring, and the well-trained specimens can be lightly pruned in summer.

Learn the Best Crab Apple Pruning Tips here


Pollinating Apple Tree

Most apple tree varieties require cross-pollination to fruit, which means you have to buy at least two apple trees. But the best way to avoid this is to search for 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.

Learn How to Grow Feijoa here


Harvesting Apple Tree

The apple tree will be ready to grow fruits fully in 3 to 7 years. When ready to harvest, 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, twist it in a rotating motion technique.

You can store them in a refrigerator for up to 6-8 weeks. Otherwise, freshly picked apples taste heavenly, keep munching them daily and enjoy.

Watch a great video that we have made here

14 COMMENTS

  1. You state that one should not start with a large pot but you do not explain why. If the end result is a 20-25 gallon pot why is it an issue to begin with this size? Will starting with a large pot effect the tree or are you suggesting to start small and move to large to lessen the burden of lugging around 20-25 gallons of dirt when the tree is still an infant?

    • I’ve been growing plants a while and though I didn’t write the article I may be able to answer this for you. You don’t want to start with a pot too large because you risk over watering. If you put a 3 ft tall tree in a 25 gallon pot, water will pool in areas where roots can’t directly absorb water. You’ll very likely end up suffocating the tree or promoting root rot.

    • The reason for not using a large pot is because water travels the least resistance. Therefore watering your plant in a too large of a pot will not allow the roots to come in contact with the water, thus negating the process of watering your tree and allowing it to uptake nutrients.

  2. Hello,
    We have a large 7ft apple tree in a pot on our balcony that has grown from our compost and we decided to keep him. When is the best time to repot? And we have never pruned; should we?

  3. Why do they use such obviously photoshopped pictures? In the third picture down, it’s the same apple with the same spot near the core that has been duplicated all over the tree. Why not show a real tree, with real results.

  4. OH NO!!! I have already failed by growing an apple tree from seeds from, yes, an apple. So now I have two apple trees in the kitchen window, almost 5 feet tall and about 3 years old. They are pretty weak and thin though — to move them to a floor pot I will probably need to stake them upright with something. About to move them to a 16″ square pot.

    All advice welcomed!

  5. Hello I want to buy variety of all fruits tree for my garden.. So pls suggest me to which type of fruit tree is perfect for my garden… From where to buy 100% garanted fruit trees

  6. I started my apple tree with an apple pit. For one year it was on my patio, closed in balcony. Grew slowly, over winter it was too cold, it stopped growing. This year I took the pot inside and the little tree grows continuously, in a few months over one foot. Transplanted it in a slightly larger pot and stands by large window, getting light all day. Thanks for the good advice, not misting from above. Very useful article.

  7. 1. I have 5 acres in Zone 4-3 ((Across the St Croix River from Wisconsin)
    2. I “air Layered” a 40 year old apple tree late this August, and because it was late in the season I potted it…and its leafing and healthy, however
    3. WI winter is coming
    4. So what now?…
    5. Leave in pot and bring into the farm’s basement, watering appropriately, or
    6. Leave outside but dig a hole to bury the tree and pot in the hole, covering
    7. Since I grow grapes, I propagate the vineyard with cuttings, each winter after harvest…and grow them in the basement into plants for the coming spring
    8.If I put the Apple tree pot in the basement, it would be growing along side of the grapes..
    I would appreciate your thoughts, and realize whether or not I follow your advice is up to me, even if it doesn’t work THNX, George

  8. my four years old apple tree in the pot was doing well till three weeks ago. I saw white stuff (mildew ??) all around the root. removed the tree with is about 3-4 feet tall and clean the root. place it in the new pot with new sandy soil, add root hormone and vitamin B-1. this apple tree has already several fruits on it. please advise if this apple tree will make it ?

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