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!
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
Repot the young apple tree in a year or two. 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. 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.