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Growing fruit in pots and containers

Val Bourne / 07 May 2021

Even the smallest balcony or patio can be used to grow fruit. Find out about the fruit trees and berries you can grow in pots and containers.

Potted strawberry plant
Strawberries are one of the easiest potted fruit to grow in a small space

It’s quite possible to enjoy the flavour of freshly-picked summer fruit, whatever the size of your garden, because there are lots of varieties suited to container growing. Patio-sized fruit trees, cascading blackberries, compact raspberry canes, standard fruit bushes, and strawberries galore - are all there for the picking. Use a specialist fruit grower and be prepared to cosset your fruit, by regular watering and feeding, and you can’t go wrong.

Use a fruit specialist. They have larger ranges and they can offer advice. Pomona Fruits are excellent.

Where to position your fruit containers

Avoid frazzling your fruit plants in all-day sunshine. Give them a bright position that gets sunshine for part of the day, at least five hours in summer, and they will respond.

Find sheltered positions away from prevailing winds, which can tip the pots over.

East-facing positions are problematic too. Morning sun causes a quick thaw and browns fruit blossom. West-facing or south-west facing is best.

Selecting your pots

Use rugged, weighty all-weather containers for fruit plants and trees. Terracotta, stone and wood are ideal. They must have drainage holes and water must drain away, so stand your pots on pot feet. Avoid tapering, tall pots and go for squat and solid.

Visit our Home and Garden section for gardening guides, home improvement tips and much more.

Compost for container-grown fruit

Use a loam-based heavier compost, such as John Innes number 3 or opt for Dalefoot’s vegetable compost, which is also good for container-grown fruit. These heavier composts retain water far better than lighter composts, so there’s less watering, and they also hold nutrients for longer.

If you intend to grow blueberries you will need to plant them in ericaceous compost and feed them with an ericaceous plant food. Dalefoot ericaceous compost is ideal and EcoGrow produce an ericaceous liquid food.

Find out more about what you need to know about compost and soil improvers

Protecting your fruit in bad weather

If a late May frost is forecast, be prepared to fleece any flowering fruit overnight. Strawberries are very prone to frost damage.

Protecting fruit from birds

You may have to protect your fruit from birds. Thrushes and blackbirds adore strawberries!

Feeding containerised fruit

Feed containerised fruit with a high-potash, slow-release fertiliser in spring and again after fruiting. The pelleted form of Vitax Q4 is ideal. It will promote more flower and toughen up the foliage. Avoid nitrogen-rich feeds, because they produce soft leafy growth, which attracts aphids, rather than flowers and fruit.

Read our guide to feeding plants

Do you prune patio fruit trees?

Dwarf patio trees should not be pruned.

Growing strawberries in containers

Strawberries are an obvious choice because they look so attractive. White flowers produce attractive pendent red fruits and fresh-green foliage. There are two types of strawberry – summer-fruiting and perpetual.

Top tips for growing strawberries in containers

Strawberry plants are available from spring through to autumn. Pomona Fruits have the best range.

Strawberries need lots of water from the moment they are planted. Water on a tomato feed every week as soon as the flowers appear.

Shear the foliage back after fruiting and feed with Vitax Q4, or another high potash feed.

Slugs love strawberries – frisk them regularly at dusk.

Don’t grow them near potatoes. Both suffer from verticillium wilt.

Strawberry plants can die in early summer, due to ant activity disturbing the roots. Soak any affected plants to encourage ants to move their nests.

Watch out for vine weevil – they like the soft stems of strawberry. Plants flop and have little root. You can use nematodes, but it’s often best to wash the roots and re-pot.

Award-winning traditional summer-fruiting strawberry varieties

The traditional varieties produce large luscious in early summer and they have an authentic strawberry flavour full of sweetness. There are early mid-season and late varieties so that you can get at least 4 -5 weeks of picking. You can buy table-top growing systems from Agriframes – Pomona fruits have a three-tier strawberry planter and you can also grow them in a variety of pots.

‘Malling Century’ (early)
Bred in the UK by East Malling Research Station and named to mark their 100th anniversary, this flavourful variety is an excellent garden variety. It yields heavily and the uniform fruit is a good size, with high sugar levels.

‘Honeoye’ (early)
The bright red fruits are large and round and have a very good old fashioned strawberry flavour. Makes wonderful strawberry jam. Heavy cropping.

‘Korona’ (early)
This early strawberry is an excellent garden variety as it combines superb flavour with high levels of disease resistance. It produces heavy yields of large, attractive, bright red fruits that are highly rated for their excellent flavour and aroma. Resistant to verticillium wilt and botrytis. Some resistance to powdery mildew.

‘Elegance’ (mid-season)
New summer fruiting strawberry produces very heavy crops of large, glossy fruits with a wonderful sweet strawberry taste and a juicy, pleasant texture. In trials it proved to be the heaviest cropping variety.

‘Hapil’ (mid-season)
Belgium-bred variety that’s very popular with home gardeners for many years because it crops well on light soil and in drier summers. The large, bright-red glossy berries have an excellent sweet flavour.

‘Florence’ (late)
Produces a late and abundant crop of large, dark-red fruits with very good flavour. It has outstanding disease resistance, especially against powdery mildew. Plants also show some resistance to vine weevil. Ideal in containers.

‘Fenella’ (late)
Good in high-rainfall areas, because the fruit can tolerate heavy rain. The large glossy berries have an excellent, distinctive sweet flavour and are mildly aromatic. Good resistance to verticillium wilt and crown rot.

Everbearers or perpetual strawberry varieties

Perpetual everbearing strawberries deliver a succession of narrower, deeper red fruits over months, have alpine-strawberry in their blood. Their fruit is sweet, but doesn’t pack the same strawberry punch. However, the picking season lasts for many weeks and modern everbearers produce large fruit. These are sometimes sold as perpetual strawberries, although the biggest yields come in flushes between summer and autumn. They can be grown in hanging baskets, but not in south-facing positions, and they follow on from summer-fruiting varieties.

Bred at East Malling Research, the glossy bright orange-red fruits have a deliciously sweet flavour, are uniform and conical in appearance and the fruit is well-displayed on the plant, making picking easy. Tough and reliable with good disease resistance and ideal for growing in pots and hanging baskets.

Toscana F1
This pink-flowered strawberry, a recipient of the prestigious FleuroStar award for its performance, taste and decorative appeal, has sweet, bright red, cone-shaped fruit.

A new perpetual from East Malling Research, who are developing varieties able to withstand hot summers. ‘Buddy’ fruits between June and October and the dark-red, large fruits are very sweet.

This heavy-cropping Californian variety is said to be the tastiest everbearing strawberry. It crops between June and October in several flushes.

Soft fruit bushes for the patio or balcony

Raspberry ‘Yummy’

A new dwarf raspberry with a primocane habit, so it fruits on this year’s growth, reaching a maximum height of only 45cm (18in0. It’s perfect in a pot on the patio or amongst other plants in an ornamental border or vegetable patch. The canes are virtually spine-free and therefore easy to pick for fruit lovers of all ages.

Find out more about growing raspberries

Trailing blackberry ‘Black Cascade’

This cascading blackberry is suitable for growing in a container or hanging basket and it’s the first cascading blackberry – hence the name ‘Black Cascade’. It fruits of new growth and the arching stems are thornless. Use one plant in one 35-40cm (14-16in) basket.

Read our guide to growing blackberries

Gooseberry 'Hinnonmaki Red'

The prettiest gooseberries bear pinkish-red fruits and this one bears heavy crops of medium-sized berries that darken to maroon-red as they mature. This one can be grown as a standard, or as a bush, but standards – with a tall stem topped by a bush – make picking far easier. This mildew resistant gooseberry can be cooked or eaten fresh, when fully ripe.

Read more about growing gooseberries

Patio fruit trees

Fruit specialist Will Sibley has been developing self-fertile dwarf fruit trees for many years, especially for the home gardener. They make ideal patio plants and here are just three of these widely available plants. Other dwarf trees have been raised in America. They are all self-fertile, so they will fruit on their own and they need no pruning.

Sibley’s Patio Quince

This disease resistant quince tree has been grafted onto a dwarfing rootstock and will thrive in a container for many years to come. It produces pale-pink flowers, rather like huge apple blossom, and large and round fruits follow. These are sweetly flavoured and make superb jelly. The tree is very disease resistant and will produce up to 50 fruits within 3 years. Can be kept restricted to a height of 1.2m (4ft). Self-fertile.

Sibley's Patio Cherry 'Stella'

A sumptuous black-fruited cherry to eat fresh, grafted onto Gisela 5 dwarfing rootstock using special grafting techniques to keep the tree even more compact. The tree has good resistance to bacterial canker and is reliable and heavy cropping. It can be kept restricted to a height of 1.2m (4ft). Self-fertile.

Find out more about growing cherry trees

Sibley's Patio Apricot 'Flavorcot'

This Canadian-bred apricot variety, suited to our cooler climate, has been grafted onto a dwarfing selection of seedling peach ‘Montclair’ using special grafting techniques to keep the tree even more compact. 'Flavorcot' produces very large and juicy egg-shaped fruits with an aromatic flavour and succulent, sweet orange flesh. It can be kept restricted to a height of 1.2m (4ft). Self-fertile.

Read our guide to growing apricots

Dwarf peach ‘Crimson Bonfire’

This compact peach from California has very decorative burgundy-purple foliage that slants downwards. The pale-pink blossom is followed by sweet, orange-red fruits with yellow flesh. Reaching a maximum height of just 1.2m (4ft) after 10 years, it’s ideal for a container and will make an attractive feature on the patio. Self-fertile.

Dwarf nectarine ‘Snow Baby’

Pretty deep-pink blossom early in the year, is followed by shiny-skinned red fruit with white flesh. Fleece the blossom on cold April nights, to protect from frost, and give all peaches and nectarines a warm sunny position. Self-fertile.

Dwarf peach ‘Diamond’

The stems are clothed in mid-pink blossom and this mini-peach remains very compact. During first five years it remains under 1m high and after approx. 8-10 years it still only reaches a height of approx. 1.5 m. The full size white-fleshed fruits have an orange downy skin. Thin the fruits when they’re thumb-sized if needed. Self-fertile.

Find out more about growing fruit and vegetables, including growing vegetables in pots and choosing the best patio fruit trees


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.