Growing a Potted Apple Tree

Did you know that you can grow your own fruit trees, regardless of whether you live in a small apartment or townhouse or a home that you rent?

Anyone can grow fruit trees in containers, and it's just another way that we can frugally produce more of our own food, and as a huge bonus, it can be done organically!

Just a few weeks ago, I brought home this beauty:


Freshly inspired by the book The Backyard Homestead, I decided to take the leap and get my very first fruit tree.

There were a few important considerations in my decision:

  • We live in a rental and are not sure when we will buy, so the tree needed to be small enough to survive in a container for several years and possibly indefinitely.
  • I was only prepared to buy one tree right now, so it needed to be self-pollinating, rather than requiring a second tree to cross-pollinate with
  • We're apple snobs and we're ok with it. We like the fancier brands (Gala, Ambrosia, Pink Lady, Fuji, Honeycrisp), rather than Macintosh, Granny Smith, Golden Delicious, etc. I wanted to find a more unique brand with a fantastic taste.
  • I'm not an incredibly patient person. I wanted apples now. This year. A girl needs at least a little bit of instant gratification when she's learning to grow her own food! 🙂 I determined to find a tree mature enough to produce at least a little bit by this fall.

Here's what I chose:


It's a Cox Orange Pippin Apple, a really lovely but somewhat rare (at least, in North America) variety that comes originally from the UK. Not only is this an incredibly delicious eating and dessert apple, but it also bears the distinction of being self-pollinating! I chose a Semi Dwarf version, which should only grow 7-10 feet tall (the way that I prune it will also play a role in how it grows). As a slightly smaller tree, it will do well in large containers for at least several years and longer if I keep it well pruned.

I purchased mine from my new, favorite local nursery, Arts Nursery. They carry more heirloom and rare types of plants, trees, seedlings and seeds than any other local nursery, in addition to more conventional varieties. My only admonitions to those going out to buy a tree would be to do your research before you go (I was so glad that I had done this!), take your time and make sure you've thought of how you're going to get your tree home! It took me longer than I thought it would to select a tree, and I hadn't considered how tall it might be. Fitting it in our little car was quite a feat!


And look! I know you can't see it very well, but towards the center and slightly to the right, you can see the teensy tiny beginnings of an apple! I examined the tree today, and found quite a few little apples like this and I expect more will develop since the blossom petals have only just started falling off this past week.

For those interested in trying to grow your own fruit trees in containers, here are a few links I've found so far:

Fruit Tree Varieties: Includes common and antique/heirloom varieties and tells you whether they are early/mid/late season as well as whether they need a pollinator. Look on the left sidebar for other kinds of fruit trees, such as plums, peaches or cherries.

Orange Pippin: A site with extensive apple tree variety information, as well as links for where to buy them in the UK, France, Canada, USA and Australia.

Growing An Apple Tree in a Container: This is an excellent, in-depth article about growing container apple trees, with much helpful information for both before and after your buy your tree. This site, Life on the Balcony, also looks like it would be a great reference for anyone who is seeking to grow their foods through container gardening.

Growing Apple Trees as Container Plants: A succinct article that gives you the basics you need to know if you're considering getting a container apple tree.

Apple Trees in Containers: A short video on how apples are grown in pots.

Dwarf Fruit Trees: A good overview of information on a variety of fruit trees (pear, cherry, apple, peach, nectarine, plum, apricot) that may be grown in containers.

Growing Organic Apples: Some tips for growing your apples organically. I expect I will do a lot more research on this during the summer!

I look forward to showing you the progress of my little apple tree this summer, and especially to taking my very first bite of an apple that I grew! 🙂

Have you tried to grow your own fruit trees? In containers? Would you like to? 

This post is part of Frugal Fridays!

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  1. Your post is inspiring! I’d love to have fruit trees, but–for a number of reasons–we don’t want to plant them in the ground. Growing in containers would solve some of those problems. Do they survive the winters?

  2. On your recomendation, I asked for and received The Backyard Homestead for Mother’s day. It’s just packed with info, thanks so much for the idea!

    Good luck with your apple tree. I read somewhere that crab apples (which are everywhere) will cross-pollinate with apple trees so you don’t always need to worry about having two trees.

    I look forward to checking out your links. We moved a couple years ago and our new home has several fruit trees, including 2 apples. Last year only one fruited and the apples were very small and very “imperfect.” You’d only want to make apple sauce from them. Maybe this year I can help the tree along and have a better crop.

  3. We were inspired to grow fruit on our patio this year too. We’re putting strawberries and blueberries for the kids to pick at as they ripen. Apparently there are a few varieties of blueberries that are dwarf, compact bushes instead of 6+ ft. tall. Unfortunately my inspiration came late, everyone is sold out for the year. 🙁

  4. Fun post! I have never heard of growing apple trees in pots before. We have our own home with some land so we have apple trees (and strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, rhubarb and logan berries) planted but this year I ordered mini orange and banana trees to try growing inside (or on the deck in the summer). Our weather is too cold for them otherwise. I am excited to see how well they will do.
    I hope your apple tree does well too.

  5. Cox’s Orange are the best apples. So much flavor! They are THE baking apple in the UK, or so I am told. It is too bad that the stores only sell “shiny” apples, not to mention the same boring varieties.

  6. I had never thought about growing fruit trees in containers! I’ll have to keep this in mind for next year. Thanks for the links.

  7. It is a neat idea! We own a house, and we have 3 apple trees in the backyard…but so far (only one summer yet, this will be our second) we haven’t had any success with them at all. We didn’t plant them, they were already here… and all I know is that they are dwarfs, and that they had some fruit on them when we moved in that fall, that was perfectly formed etc. last summer we had about 1.5 bushels off the only tree that flowered and set fruit, but it was ALL WORMS. Like no apple to cut out…all worms. I have to learn more about it, but I have no idea what to do…however I know other people around here who grow apple trees without ever doing anything and they don’t have this issue. I thought it would be easier than it was, and the tree is in flower again so we shall see, I don’t have time to figure it out yet.

  8. I grew up in Southern California and I loved the fresh lemon, limes, oranges and avocados of my youth but the weather up here in the NW [Portland, Oregon to be extact] doesn’t have the trees I mentioned do well here so I have been thinking of getting a couple of potted fruit minatures that can live in my garage or green house if I ever make a small one [I am trying to decide between a chicken coop or a small green house since I only have X amount of space]. I know for sure I want two lemons so I’ll start next year with those. This year I got a drafted apple tree- 6 different apples and it goes outwards on two sides and loves hanging out on my fence so I only needed one tree instead of two to pollinate each other. But after reading your post on the cox orange apple- I think *ahem* will have room for one potted cox orange apple tree next year. Thanks for the post and inspiration!

  9. My mackintosh apple trees are 6″ to 8″ tall and are in pots, looking very healthy
    My Question is they are flowering, 1. Do I cut the flowers off?
    2. I would like to keep them in the house for the winter and plant them is the spring, What is the best way to do that? Leave the in the sun lite? or not?

  10. I have had this post of yours bookmarked since you first published it last year, and as I was sitting here thinking about the spring and gardening, I remembered this. How is your apple tree doing? I would love to hear how it did this past year, what you do with it in the winter when it freezes, etc.

    Love your blog!!

  11. Was looking for a website to show my husband that fruit trees in fact can be grown in a container. Came across your blog and we seem to be like minded, at lest that we have one apple tree in container and that we are sisters in Christ. Will look around more on your blog, Much success in your harvest.

  12. The timing of when I came across this was perfect! I just planted some herbs and I have extra soil so we started talking about what we wanted to plant…but now I know I definitely want to purchase a small apple tree to grow on my patio this summer! Thanks for the great idea!

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