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Growing Fruit Trees in Containers, Part 2

by Stark Bro's on 12/13/2012
Container Persimmon Tree

Caring for Potted Trees

In part one of our series on growing fruit trees in containers, we gave you some helpful tips for getting started. In this article, part two of the series, we focus on what you need to do to take proper care of your potted fruit trees, so they can stay healthy, grow and thrive.

Watering Potted Trees

One of the number-one threats to a young potted tree is overwatering. Once the tree is planted in the container, it is very important to keep a close eye on it and only water when needed. While you want to avoid letting the soil dry out completely, daily watering may not be necessary. You should water when the soil is dry to the touch a couple inches below the surface. The sun may play a part in drying it out, so be aware of exposure to the location of your tree. This can vary if the tree is moved at different times of year.

Note: Mature trees in containers outdoors, during the months where they are in full leaf (late spring, all through summer), use plenty of water. Your mature, leafed-out trees may benefit from daily watering, until the temperatures cool off and the trees begin to harden off for the winter again. Keep an especially watchful eye on your trees’ water needs during the growing season!

Fertilizing Fruit Trees in Containers

Many potting soil mixes come with fertilizer included. If you are using a mix like that, then you will not need to fertilize additionally at planting time. However, you may choose to fertilize during the growing season. If you do, be sure to use compost tea/manure tea, or a water-soluble fertilizer like Stark® Tre-Pep®, so that the roots are successful in absorbing the nutrients.

Winterizing Trees in Containers

Just like trees planted in your yard or anywhere outdoors, trees in containers benefit from winter care and protection. After your tree becomes dormant in the fall, there are a few important actions you should take:

  • Pruning will give you the chance to remove any damaged, dead or diseased limbs, and it plays a key role in the survival, stimulation, shaping and production of your tree.
  • Watering the soil around the roots will help to avoid freeze damage if you have not yet prepared to bring your container indoors, and the weather brings a cold snap.
  • Mulching over the surface of the soil helps to insulate the roots and protect them from the winter elements if your potted tree must remain outdoors for the winter. Try “planting” the container in the ground to help further insulate the roots!

For additional details or to learn more about winterizing, check out our article, Fruit Tree Care: Winterizing Your Plants. Be sure to check out winter-care information specifically for fig trees in our article, Growing Fig Trees in Containers.

When it comes down to it, growing fruit trees in containers can be just like growing them in a backyard. With the same attentive care, you can have your very own container orchard on your balcony, patio, sunroom or wherever you want!

Follow the link for an interview with Stark Bro’s and more helpful advice on growing fruit trees in containers from

Topics → Planting & Growing, Tips


  1. Andre permalink

    I was hoping the article would include more useful information particularly detailed instructions on root pruning – how and when to do it. I have 8 potted fruit trees on my roof in NYC and am eager for detailed care instructions.

    • In some cases, videos are more helpful than words. You can get an idea of scoring the roots (making vertical cuts to break up circling roots) in our video on planting a Stark® EZ Start® Potted Tree here:

      Every few years, after the tree has stopped growing taller in its container, it will become “rootbound”. This means the roots will continue to grow and could become densely tangled within the container walls, since it is not able to spread out like it would naturally. That is where root-pruning comes in.

      1a. Initially select a container that is NOT uniquely shaped, so that the tree may be removed to allow roots to be pruned.

      1b. If you already have a tree in an unusually-shaped container, (to avoid breaking the container to free your tree) simply and slowly hose away the soil so that the roots and the container remain intact and the tree is able to be removed.

      2. Remove the tree from the container and trim the ends of the roots back by a couple inches at the most.

      3. Take your knife and make vertical cuts around the circumference of the roots to break up any circling there.

      4. Shake the roots free of any loose soil, and take this time to refresh your potting mix (out with the old, in with the new) — this avoids replacing your tree in old potting mix that may be depleted of nutrients or saturated with salts from fertilizers.

      5. Re-pot your tree in the old container if you don’t want it to grow any more, or in a slightly larger container if you hope to encourage more growth.

      Hopefully this helps. :)

  2. Louis Wachsmuth permalink

    The two apple trees you sold me arrived good shape and have good roots and stock structure. Thanks, I will be back next year.

    • I am so glad to hear it, Louis! I can’t wait for your new apple trees to leaf out and develop (leaves, branches, grow taller, and thicker trunks!) for you this coming growing season. That’s when the real fun starts. :)

  3. David permalink

    Are dwarf peach trees conducive to growing in containers?

    • They are, David! Even standard sized peach trees may be planted in containers, as they will become “dwarfed” by the roots being restricted in the container. Depending on the size of the container you choose (7- or 10-gallon pots versus, say, a larger — but less mobile — half whiskey-barrel) will allow for a different sized tree, but the tree will still grow and produce when it’s mature enough to! :)

  4. penney kolb permalink

    I gave myself a meyer lemon tree in March, ept it outside all summer and moved it inside just before frost. It has been blooming profusely and developing what look to be lemons. Ho do I ensure the lemons make it to maturity?

    • A Meyer lemon tree was wonderful gift to yourself, Penney, I hope you remembered to thank you. ;)

      What you should do is pinch off a few of the blossoms that grow in clusters as well as the blossoms that have formed on spindly branches that might not support the weight of a fruit. That will help to keep your tree’s energy going to supporting fewer fruit to maturity and avoid any limbs breaking once the fruit grows in size.

      Your tree may shed any fruit it is not able to support (fruit drop is not uncommon) but, other than that, make sure your lemon tree is getting enough sun or indoor light and doesn’t get too much (or too little) water, and you should expect to harvest your own Meyer lemons when they are ripe and yellow!

  5. Don Fraser permalink

    I have 4 apricot trees that I planted about 5 years ago; each tree is about 8+ feet high but has NEVER produced flowers. We live in Boerne, TX (area 8)…am afraid that the chill hours required (400 plus ?) are in excess of what our so-called South Texas winters have to offer. Any thoughts?

    • I shared your situation with our experts here, Don, and before I could mention your concern with chill hours, that is what they thought the issue might be. An apricot tree that has been with you in the ground for 5 years and is over 8 feet tall should have bloomed, even minimally, by its 3rd or 4th leaf. Chances are, these trees are not receiving the necessary cool temperatures (positive chill hours — below 45ºF) during the winter to contradict the warm winter days (negative chill hours — above 60ºF).

      Your local county extension service would be a good resource to check with on this. They will be able to tell you if apricot trees have issues blooming and fruiting due to the lack of chill hours in your area. They will also be able to help you figure out what else might be causing this, in the event it is something other than lack of adequate chill hours (too much nitrogen, for example). You can find your Extension Service here:

  6. Chuck permalink

    I would like to ask about overwintering a Meyer Lemon tree. It currently has fruit on it, (that is ripening from spring blossoms) and just before I brought it in for the winter it bloomed and has loads of fruit forming. Do I pluck off most or all of the fruit or can I let it form thru the winter and set it back out in the spring…around mid March? Also should I get a grow light for it and how should I fertilize it? During the summer I mulched it with horse manure and watered it monthly with manure tea. Your help would be appreciated.

    • It’s delightful that you’re one of the many people growing their own Meyer lemon trees, Chuck! I would recommend breaking up any fruit clusters (select and leave just one fruit to develop further) and remove the fruit that may be forming on spindly weak branches that may not be able to support the fruit as it matures. This will help your tree support a smaller crop to a ripened point and help avoid premature fruit-drop (not an uncommon occurrence). You can certainly allow the fruit to remain on the tree while it is indoors and set it back out when the outside temperatures warm up again.

      The grow light would definitely help keep your light-loving lemon tree happy, especially while it’s too cold outdoors to get direct sunlight. You should be able to continue using the manure tea as you have been to provide any soil nutrients while your tree is indoors. You can also choose to use a water-soluble fertilizer, or a slow-release fertilizer stake, if you would prefer.

      • Joe permalink

        How often should a lemon tree brought indoors (living in Canada) still bearing small green fruit (size of a golf balls) in December be fertilized? What type of fertilizer?

        • Hello Joe! Once the lemon tree is brought indoors for the winter, I have generally heard to “half” the fertilizing frequency that was maintained over spring/summer. Example: If you were fertilizing once a month, consider fertilizing once every two months instead.

          I tend to use a classic NPK fertilizer once a month in the spring/early summer and then Epsom salts instead, and about half as often, in the winter. My goal is to avoid fertilizing more than the lemon tree will take in, because otherwise it may be left with salty waste that needs to be flushed out to avoid buildup.

  7. Ted Wiedenman permalink

    I have a dwarf Contender peach (about two years in the ground) that is oozing sap at the base. What can or should I do about this, or is it fatal enough that I’m wasting time worrying about it?
    Also, I have a Honeycrisp and a Jonagold apple tree— are they self-pollinating or do I need a pollinator or two?

    • It sounds like your Contender peach might have a borer issue, Ted. These pests get into the trunks (sometimes branches and twigs) of trees like peaches and cherries and the oozing sap is your tree’s reaction to their presence. If you look at the trunk, behind where the ooze is, you may see holes where these grubs are residing.

      Borers can be manually removed — there are many methods, like poking a strong skinny wire into the holes and fish them out, for example — and we carry a preventative spray (Borer-Miner Killer) to avoid future infestations. You can also see if your local county extension service (find yours here: can help you with removal or offer any further advice in your situation.

  8. Thomas eddleman permalink

    I’m getting an Owari Satsuma tree for Christmas and plan on container growing it and would like any advice from you.

  9. Steve permalink

    I have three citrus trees (valencia orange, lime, tangerine) that are potted. They are in their second winter. I bring them in the house in the late fall and return them to the patio in the spring. They look like they are healthy. They have about doubled in size. Last summer they did have some yellowing of their leaves. Do citrus trees need be pruned? If so how much and when? The orange has had a couple of blooms. Should I defruit them the first time? And should they be fertilized each spring? I live in Missouri.

    Thank you.

    • Your citrus trees sound pretty happy, Steve! Citrus trees are one of the few fruit trees that don’t really require regular pruning to encourage fruit production. The most you will need to prune off a citrus tree is damaged/dead/diseased limbs that are dead weight for the healthy parts of the tree to support. They should do well with a spring fertilizer application. Remember, since the trees are in pots, there isn’t anywhere for the salty remains of fertilizers to disperse to after the roots have taken in what they need, so it is in the benefit of the trees to receive some fresh potting mix every few years or so.

      If you pinch the flowers their first year blooming, your citrus trees will be able to reserve their energy and use it for growing (as a tree) rather than trying to reproduce (develop fruit). It’s not mandatory to remove these flowers, by any means, so it’s up to you! Remember that, if your trees are blooming while they’re indoors, you will need to help pollinate the flowers. All you will have to do in this case is use a small paintbrush or cotton swab and collect the pollen from one flower and dab it onto the next. It may seem silly at first, but it’s exciting when the fruit starts to develop! :)

  10. Theresa McCarthy permalink

    Wow, I’m so happy to have found these Q&A’s on container fruit trees and this has been very informative. I want a dwarf apricot tree since I’ve limited growing area but have plenty of sunny driveway. How do you know when you water too much? Do your trees come with a watering guide or is a moisture meter the best option?

    • I’m glad to hear this information has been helpful to you, Theresa! Since so many environmental factors need to be considered, the moisture meter would be a good way to stay on top of the moisture level of the soil around your apricot tree. As a general rule, young trees require about a gallon of water per week (this translates to about an inch of rainfall) during the growing season, as long as there hasn’t been any rainfall in that time. If your area receives adequate rain in that time, it wouldn’t be necessary for you to water your tree on top of that. It doesn’t have to be exact or perfect; trees are pretty forgiving — after all, they make it by themselves in nature!

      There are signs to look for if your tree is overwatered, like yellowed leaves or even leaf drop (defoliation). If your soil is heavy clay or the location doesn’t drain sufficiently, your tree may experience water stress as well.

      We highly recommended that you have your soil surveyed (by your local county extension service, or an affiliate they recommend) so that you know what to expect before you plant. They’re a great *local* connection to have as you grow your own fruit trees. :)

  11. Jack Sales permalink

    Dear sorry for my poor Ingles?
    I have two fig trees,in containers that I bring then in to garage,in winter, no heat what should i do to them? till I bring them out im Spring? thank you

    • Hello, Jack! I understand you perfectly. :) All you have to do is make sure the roots and soil don’t become dry (water them a little bit once in a while), and try to keep the trees away from any sunlight so they don’t wake up early. When it’s spring, bring the fig trees out of the garage so they can wake up and grow!

      • Jack Sales permalink

        Dear Sir its me again,the fig tree man, I took the fig tree out of the garage in late Spring, with lots of figs on it they stil look very good, but no new figs yet? thank you for the information ,

  12. Karen permalink

    I just purchased a lot of dwarf fruit trees for my indoor home. Do I need more than one tree to get fruit, if I am keeping them inside all the time and no one in my area has dwarf fruit trees?

    • Good question, Karen. The tree size is not important for fruit production, but pollination is. Unless your varieties are self-pollinating, you need *at least* two different varieties of each type of fruit tree to get fruit. As a general rule, you need to have pollinators of the same type to produce fruit; you can’t rely on an apple tree to pollinate your pear tree.

      • Types of fruit trees: Apple, Pear, Plum, etc.
      • Varieties of fruit trees: Granny Smith Apple, Golden Delicious Apple, Bartlett Pear, Moonglow Pear, Shiro Plum, Superior Plum.

      Self-pollinating or not, if your trees are being grown exclusively indoors, you will need to be in charge of their pollination taking place. Outdoors, this is taken care of by birds, bees, wind, and other things that move pollen from flower to flower between trees. Indoors, it will be you with a cotton swab or a small paint brush, collecting pollen and moving it from flower to flower. From apple tree to apple tree, pear tree to pear tree, and so on.

      To produce fruiting buds and quality fruit, you will also need lots of light (equivalent to 6 hours minimum daily sunlight that fruit trees need outdoors).

      If you are simply moving your trees indoors (to a cool, dark place to maintain dormancy) during the winter, and moving them outdoors during the growing season, they will be pollinated by nature instead.

      We have a blog post on fruit tree pollination, if you’d like to read more about it, here:

  13. Rodrigo permalink

    We have quite the big terrace in Brooklyn and we want to grow fruit trees in containers that can stay outside during the winter. There’s plentiful sun also. Which species do you recommend? Thanks!

    • Hi Rodrigo! Most fruit trees adapt well to being grown in a container, so it’s really up to you which fruit trees you hope to plant there. If they’re going to need to survive winters outdoors on your terrace in Brooklyn, just be sure that you’re selecting trees that are recommended for your zone. This is as simple as going to and entering your zip code where it asks for one. That way, a check-mark symbol will appear on the varieties that are recommended to be grown in your zone there.

      If you’re going to move the fruit trees indoors during the colder times of year, you can even consider growing your own dwarf citrus trees (lemon, key lime, orange, tangerine, etc.). :)

      Keep in mind, while there are self-pollinating varieties, most fruit trees need another variety (examples: Granny Smith, Fuji, Honeycrisp) within the same type of tree (example: apple tree) for pollination to eventually produce fruit.

  14. Penney permalink

    My meyer lemon seems to be quite happy in my sunny window except for having scale that I’m keeping after. I’ve had lots of blooms and it’s producing a goodly number of lemons (I’ve been taking some off). here is my question: when do the lemons actually turn yellow? A couple of the lemons have been on the tree for a couple months now, but are a lovely bright green. This is my first citrus tree hence my somewhat silly questions. Thanks for your help.

    • Your question is completely understandable, Penney! I had the same concern when I saw my first fruit on my Meyer lemon tree. It turns out, citrus can be very slow to ripen, sometimes taking up to 18 months (from initial fruit set to ripening) to reach that ideal yellow-ripe state. They can also develop new fruiting buds and bloom while the last set of fruit is still ripening on the tree.

      Light exposure definitely helps with fruit development. My tree had its first fruit indoors during the winter here in Missouri, but as soon as it got some actual sunlight, development really started picking up. :)

  15. Sarah permalink

    I live in Alaska where we are plagued by awful commercial fruit during the winter months. I’m wondering if there is any way to have fruit trees indoors (a heated garage with grow lamps or a greenhouse) that will produce during the winter to offset our lack of decent fruit at local grocery stores. Thanks in advance!

    • Most fruit trees require a dormancy period for fruit production, which is triggered by cold (winter) temperatures, so it wouldn’t really be beneficial to try to keep fruit trees awake to cover fresh-fruit gaps. Here’s the good news, Sarah: many types of fruit, like apples, pears, peaches, etc. are able to be harvested at their proper times of year and stored for use later. You may can them, turn them into sauces and preserves, pickle them… there are many options (and many resources online how to do these things, easily)! You may also choose to slice and freeze them if you are hoping to enjoy the fresh, homegrown, taste even in the off season.

      I was able to enjoy slices of peach in the winter time from my aunt’s white peach tree that happened to overproduce the summer before. It was a delightful treat! All we did was slice the extra fruit and store those slices in vacuum-sealed bags in the freezer (with the date written on them of course!). We allowed them to thaw before eating and they were delightful! :)

  16. Perla V. Santos permalink

    I purchased 2 plum trees from you and 1 pollinator 3 years ago. I planted it during fall. The plum pollinator on the 2nd spring year blooms a lot of flower but it fell off. This year it has lots of flowers and it seems half of it develop to plums. it is about 1 inch in diameter. My problem was, there are a lot of worms which i think are borers coz white clear sap oozing out then fall. How can I prevent the borers infested the fruits?

    The others 2 trees, it has lots of flowers but all of it fell. At this time no fruits develop to plums. The trees are full of leaves. How can I push the flowers to develop into plums? Thanks.

    • Hi Perla!

      There is a notorious fruit pest called the “plum curculio” that may be the problem here. The curculio beetles attack young developing fruit very early on in the development process. Timing is the best method of control for this pest. If you are spraying your plum trees with a pest/disease control spray, be sure to 1. follow the label and 2. make your earliest application after the petals fall from the blooms and before the fruit starts to grow in size.

      Some plum trees are also known for overbearing, especially when they are still young trees, and they have a tendency toward fruit drop. You can help avoid fruit drop by thinning the developing fruit before the tree decides to drop them. Simply break up any clusters/groups of fruit that are developing, and leave about 4-6 inches between remaining fruit so that they have room to mature.

      You can’t really force a fruit tree’s flowers to develop into fruit. Your trees are still quite immature, so only time will encourage them to be more fruitful. :)

  17. Perla V. Santos permalink

    I have another question, I have parsimmon tree. Last year it bears a lot of fruits. This year I notice there are 2 plants coming out that it seems coming from the root. I cut it. but after a month there are more plants coming out from the ground close to the tree trunk and 1 from the lower part of the trunk ( about 1.5 inches from the ground). Is that normal? If it isn’t what will I do with it. Though this tree seems to be dying. The leaves fell off.

    • If there is growth developing from the roots, these are called “suckers” and they need to be removed whenever they appear. Suckers are fast-growing and they will leech energy away from the rest of the tree as they grow. This may be why your tree isn’t doing as well, but it could also be due to the weather or other environmental factors.

      In grafted trees, the growth from the rootstock is often not the variety you selected for certain fruit and flavor characteristics, so it’s not beneficial to allow suckers to remain.

  18. Billie permalink

    I would like to plant a few fruit trees in whiskey barrels on my patio. I am just outside Philadelphia in NJ. I’m looking a 1-apple, 1-pear & 1-orange. Which would you suggest. I would like to order by end of the week. I see your potted Valencia is available, also LindaMac & Bartlett. Let me know if these are appropriate for containers. Also, how big to expect them to get. Thanks.

    • Semi-dwarf sized trees — when planted in the ground — will grow 12-15 feet tall and dwarf trees grow 8-10 feet tall, but in containers, they will be dwarfed by the limited growing space. The trees will most likely end up in the 6-8 foot height range, but they can be pruned to a more manageable height if you wish.

      Most dwarf/semi-dwarf sized fruit trees are appropriate for containers. If you’re going to grow in whiskey barrels, keep in mind that these containers are typically quite heavy even without the added weight of soil, water, or a tree planted in them. The Valencia Orange tree will need protection from cool temperatures in New Jersey. Citrus trees don’t like temperatures below 55-60ºF and need to be brought indoors whenever cool weather threatens. You might want to consider a more light-weight container for the orange tree so that you can move it more easily, or (depending on the height of your doors) consider putting the whiskey barrel on a wheeled stand for mobility.

      Self-pollination is another thing to consider. Unless you have room for ~5 trees on your patio, you should look into planting self-pollinating apple and pear trees. The Valencia Orange tree is self-pollinating, so you only need one tree of its type to get fruit.

      The only self-pollinating classic pear tree we offer is the Stark® Honeysweet Pear, which still happens to be available to ship this spring. The Bartlett Pear tree will need another different variety of pear for pollination and fruit production to take place.

      The same goes for the LindaMac® Apple. It needs another variety of apple tree as a pollinator, for cross-pollination, in order to produce fruit. The self-pollinating apple trees we have, like Stark® Golden Delicious Apple/Starkspur® Golden Delicious Apple, Stark® Jon-A-Red® Jonathan Apple, and Starkspur® Red Rome Beauty Apple, are already sold out for the spring season, but they will be available again this fall to ship to you in November. You may enter your email address on the sold-out product page to be notified when they are available again.

  19. Peter permalink


    I’m currently growing 2 dwarf fruit trees that i received from Stark Bros. this spring. Both trees are grows very well in the containers. My been noticing that the leaves are getting eaten up by something. there are holes and and some of the leaf edges are eaten too. Is there something i can use to prevent the leaves from being eaten?

    Thank you.

    • Fruit tree leaves are a food source for a lot of bugs and animals. Have you seen any pests (caterpillars, Japanese beetles, etc.) on your trees, Peter? It might help give you an idea of what you need to do to control the problem.

      For larger bugs, like the size of wasps and cicadas, we have a “big bug netting” that will help. Smaller bugs may still be able to get to your trees’ leaves through a net, though, so you might want to consider using a pesticide.

      Browse our pest control sprays and, if you have any questions on what sprays to use, let me know what types of fruit trees you are growing and what you think the pest might be — I’ll help you out! :)

  20. FRANK P permalink

    I always thought I knew what I was doing! had 15 foot high fig trees on long island, ny every oct. overrun with fruit! I retired and moved upstate ny near Canada, took cutting from tree 6yrs ago tree is now 5 feet high plenty of leaves but no fruit yet, im desperate ! any ideas? tree is in container and I bring it in every fall,but I keep it in den near sunny window all winter has this been a mistake? thank you so much. Frank

    • I’ve taken care of my fig trees the same way, Frank. I didn’t start mine from cuttings, though. I have them planted in containers, which I bring indoors in the fall through the winter until they can stand the temperatures the following spring.

      It’s difficult to say why your fig tree hasn’t fruited yet. I’m wondering how big the container is that it’s planted in. If it allows a lot of extra room for the roots to grow, your fig tree may still be trying to grow as a tree and not show as much interest in bearing fruit in the meantime. My local garden center told me this was the case with some of my other container-grown fruit trees.

  21. Debbie permalink

    I live in the Denver area and have apple and peach trees in containers. I plan to move them indoors for the winter, but my garage has no windows. Can I use an artificial light source and, if so, how many hours a day will they require. The trees are 2 years old and really thriving.

    • Actually, you should be storing your trees in a cool *dark* place so that they will maintain their dormancy even while indoors. The window-less garage won’t be a problem, but you will have to remember to set your trees back outside when things start warming up in the spring — so they know to wake up with everything else. :)

  22. Peter permalink


    I have a 2 dwarf fruit trees from Stark Bros. that I planted in containers (5gal.) They have grown out nicely this year.(Peach and nectarine) Thank you for the healthy trees.
    My question is: I’m in zone 6A, can i leave the containers outside during the winter or do i need to bring them into the garage. What temp. do they need and also the chill hours they require. Thanks.

    • Hi Peter! It should be no problem leaving your container-grown fruit trees outdoors in zone 6A. What you’ll need to do is monitor how dry the soil gets in the containers, especially if the weather forecasts any hard freezes there, so that you can keep the soil moist (not soaked) to prevent freeze damage to the roots. This sort of injury occurs more easily around dry soil/roots than what is moist. You can also mulch over the top of the soil in the containers to help insulate the roots. This will help protect them in the winter. If you have any deer or rabbit issues, you’ll also need to be sure they can’t get to your young trees.

      The trees don’t have to come inside just because they’re not planted in the ground. They can stand the winter there if they are recommended for your zone! You don’t have to try moving the trees inside or into a greenhouse where it’s warm or anything like that, but be sure they’re not in danger of being knocked around or damaged during any storms.

      Peach and nectarine trees tend to have a low chill requirement (around 250-300 chill hours on average), which they should easily achieve in zone 6A.

  23. Lyn permalink

    Hi, I live around napa california. I
    Got this citrus tree about 4 feet tall with
    Tangerine size fruit in a clay pot.
    I got it at a garage sale, full of leaves
    And some flowers but now it lost almost
    All of its leaves. Is this a dying tree?
    Is that normal or I just don’t have the
    Greenest hands?

    Thanks for hearing my frustration.

    • It sounds like a stressed tree, not necessarily a dying one. If there’s one thing I know about citrus, it’s that it likes to drop its leaves at the first sign of stress. If flowers or fruit are present, they’ll drop, too.

      Common causes of stress:
      • Change in temperature (warm to cool, cool to warm, indoors to outdoors, outdoors to indoors, etc.) – if you think this is the case, just give the citrus tree time to adjust to its new location; ideally one with a consistent ~65-70ºF temperature, 6+ hours of sunlight, and some humidity in the air. If it’s indoors, you can mimic humidity by misting the leaves with a clean spray bottle of water (and don’t run a dehumidifier at the same time). ;)
      • Changes in watering – the best thing to do is only water when the soil appears dry; more accurately, when the soil is dry to the touch below the top couple of inches. Any more water than that and it could be too much for the tree, especially if the soil it’s planted in doesn’t drain properly, which can be common in containers. Any less water than that and the tree will suffer from drought-like conditions. This also happens if the soil it’s planted in is very sandy and porous; the water just runs right through before the roots can absorb most of it.

  24. Sarah permalink

    I have my blueberries planted in containers, and I think they need more soil. What is the best way to add more soil? Should I pull them out of the pot and add more soil to the bottom of the pot? What else should I tend to while I am refreshing the soil? Thank you in advance!

    • If your blueberry plants need more soil in the containers (soil settling, roots exposed, etc.), and the blueberry plants have been growing in the same soil/containers for a few years, then you can take this opportunity to refresh the entire container. All you would need to do is…

      1. wait for the blueberry plants to be dormant (losing all their leaves in the fall is a good sign)
      2. gently remove the plants from the soil, keeping the roots intact, and carefully remove the soil from the root ball (rinsing with water helps)
      3. have a fresh soil mixture ready* to put into the containers and replant your blueberry plants

      *have the new soil ready (low soil pH for blueberries, etc.) before removing your plants from their current soil so that they spend as little time with their roots exposed as possible

      If the current soil is still technically “fresh”, being there a year or less, you can just add some soil to the top to cover any exposed roots or anything like that and refresh the whole lot in about a year or so.

  25. Grace permalink

    Hello, Stark Bros!
    I ordered a Chicago Hardy Fig tree for a Christmas present, and it just arrived (thank you for your prompt shipping!). Can I keep it in a sheltered, cool place until Christmas without taking it out of the box? How soon do I have to plant it (zone 6 a or b)? I think I can wait, but I’m not sure…

    • Since the Chicago Hardy Fig tree ships in our EZ Start® temporary pots, you can keep it in a cool, dark place until Christmas – just make sure the soil doesn’t dry out in that time. You don’t have to keep the soil soaked, but give it a drink of water if the top couple inches of soil are dry to the touch.

      Once it comes time to plant, you might want to consider planting the tree in a container, especially if your ground is prone to being frozen solid after Christmas. You can either keep it in a container or plant it in the ground when the soil is workable again (usually in early spring). :)

      We also have a blog post about “delaying planting” that may help answer any other questions you have, here:

  26. Benneth Cachila permalink

    Hi Sarah, I have a variety of fruit trees from Stark, in my backyard orchard and mostly grown in espaliere style. I am hoping to add a persimmon tree this spring. Would you recommend one that will do well in my area zone 5b. There are so many conflicting info in the web that confuse me about growing persimmon. Thank you.

    • Hi Benneth! I am also in a zone 5b, and I have an Ichi Persimmon tree growing here, but it’s in a container because I don’t trust it to survive a harsh winter in the ground in northern Missouri. I bring it into my unheated porch through winter.

      Asian Persimmon Trees, like the Ichi-Ki-Kei-Jiro I mentioned, are more suitable for warm climates, like zones 6-9 or 7-10. There are also American Persimmon Trees that are native to places like Indiana, which are more cold-hardy than the Asian varieties — recommended for hardiness in zones 4 and 5.

      Note: Most persimmon trees grow to be quite large, except for Ichi (it stays in the dwarf, 8-10 foot range), so you might have to keep it pruned to a manageable height in your yard if you don’t have space to allow a persimmon tree to reach 15+ feet tall (at minimum). You can also plant a persimmon tree in a container, like the photo for this blog article, which will help restrict the mature size of the tree.

      • voxleo permalink

        How big a container should a persimmon tree have?

        I have a Fuyu tree that I stuck in an old laundry tub with holes in the bottom because I wasn’t sure where to plant the bare root tree when I got it (after killing the previous one confirmed that they don’t like to be moved much.) Unlike it’s predecessor, it leafed out almost immediately and has produced a lovely crop of fruit in only the third year, (surprisingly, as I thought I might have to wait about 5 or 6 from what I had read.) I had intended for that to be a temporary situation, but now I am wondering if it might be okay to keep it permanently in a container so that I can take it with me should I end up moving or something.

        It is very skinny though, and I am concerned about whether it is strong enough to support itself in a pot, as I had to thin the fruit production by about half due to the weight on the branches! I still got about 20 nice persimmons even so. but is there a way I can encourage it to thicken up a bit rather than grow taller?

        How many gallons should be enough to give it plenty of space for the roots? I don’t mind a really huge container since it probably won’t move throughout the year at all. but I would like to be able to keep it if I ever leave this house and digging it up may prove too traumatic for it. Would it be happier in the ground and maybe get stronger than in a pot? And if so, could it survive a transplant if I ever needed to move?

        Any advice on this would be appreciated, as it is my favorite addition to the garden ever and I want to keep it happy and healthy.


        • It’s dependent on your space and everything how large the container should be, but I know we have our persimmon trees in varying containers from 7- and 10-gallons to 30-gallons like a half-whiskey barrel. You should only have to increase the container size when the roots have filled the container it is currently in. Half whiskey-barrels are heavy even on their own so just know it’s even heavier with soil, water, and a tree inside!

          It sounds like your Fuyu persimmon tree is doing well in your makeshift pot — a lot of credit goes to you and the inclusion of drainage holes. Keep in mind, any container you move your persimmon tree into will need adequate drainage to remove any water not being absorbed by the roots. This will avoid root rot, which is a common killer of container-grown fruit trees.

          The best time to transplant any fruit tree if you have to do it is when the tree is dormant. This is generally in the winter or early spring when the leaves have fallen and before new leaves start to grow. While a tree is dormant, it is less susceptible to stress-related shock from being disturbed. Also, keep most if not all of the roots intact when you move the tree. The fine, hairlike feeder roots are essential for nutrient intake.

          My persimmon tree, like yours, is tall and spindly and whips around in the wind. I’ve had to stake it within the pot to keep it from whipping around. Mine hasn’t produced fruit yet, but it is still young and I think if it tried to fruit, it would bend (and probably break) under the weight. I think the best way to keep the top at a manageable height and in balance with the tree’s trunk is to selectively prune the top. That way it won’t just keep getting taller while the trunk is still thin. The trunk will continue to grow in thickness as the tree gets older.

  27. David Roland permalink

    I have 21 apple trees growing from seed, the seed came from an heirloom tree, so they say. Question since I am growing the trees indoors in containers and it is now almost winter should I stop watering all together & place them in the garage for a cold period. the trees are 6 month old and they are starting to drop leafs. I certainly don’t want to fight the natural dormancy period of apples. each plant is 6-8 inches tall. can I pop them out of the soil and bare root store them in the fridge? till spring time then replant them they are currently growing in an meg-shift greenhouse aquarium.

    • Hi David! Two big things contribute to a tree’s dormancy: low light levels and cold temperatures. If your container-grown apple trees are currently indoors in a location that is well-lit and heated, it will fight their natural tendency to go dormant and stay dormant. An unheated garage will be more of an ideal environment that is protected from harsh winter elements, but also allows the trees to go (and stay) asleep through the winter. You don’t need to water as often, but if the soil is dry to the touch an inch or two beneath the surface, you should give them some water to keep the soil moist. You don’t want the soil to be super saturated and dripping, but it’s dangerous to have completely dry soil in the winter. Roots of plants and trees, especially in containers, are prone to injury this way.

      I wouldn’t recommend uprooting the trees if you don’t have to, since that process is stressful on trees that are not already dormant. The garage option should work out for you!

      • David Roland permalink

        Thank you I took your advise and the trees are happy asleep waiting for spring. Will most likely bring them in after 300 hours of cold storage and give them a shot 6 weeks before spring to help them bounce back to vitality.

  28. Tanya permalink

    I Live in CT. I have a neighbor who has been growing a lemon tree in a very large pot for the last 4 years. When she received the plant it was just a dying branch. With proper care, it has gotten quite tall, and the leaves are abundant and healthy. However, my neighbor is wondering why she has yet to see lemons? She was wondering if maybe she was doing something wrong or if she has to wait longer before she sees lemons? Another site I visited, said you could grow a non-producing lemon LEAF plant…I’m curious is it possible that that’s all she grew? Just a non-producing leaf plant?

    • Productivity in your neighbor’s lemon tree may depend on the variety and how it was started. Most plants started from seed take quite a long time to mature, which is why people prefer planting grafted varieties. In most cases, a healthy fruit tree that has not yet fruited may simply need more time to reach fruit-bearing maturity.

      Another thing that may discourage flowering and fruiting in a container-grown lemon plant is too much nitrogen. Fertilizer high in nitrogen content encourages green, leafy growth but can often discourage the development of flowers and fruit. If your neighbor fertilizes her lemon tree regularly or frequently, she might consider giving it a break from fertilizer or find a fertilizer that is specialized for bloom/blossoms and fruit development instead.

      Fruit trees growing in containers tend to want to spread out their roots before they try to fruit. If your neighbor’s lemon tree is in a container that is a lot larger than the tree, it may be waiting for its roots to reach the inside edge of its container before it is encouraged to fruit.

      I hope this information is useful to help you determine what may be going on with your neighbor’s lemon tree! :)

  29. Justin Wittock permalink

    Hi! I recently purchased several fruit/citrus trees from here. I loved the “supreme” dwarf options and went with those where available. A couple of them are growing at an angle (~45 degrees), because I decided to plant the trunk straight up. I wasn’t sure if I should have planted the trunk at an angle to try and compensate for the branch or not. I can’t really bend the branch much without risk of breaking it, and the roots are not yet secure. Any idea if and how I can train these trees to grow upward so they can support fruit better in the future? Thanks!

    • The trunk should always be straight up when you plant. You shouldn’t try to compensate for the angle of branches at planting time.

      I guess I’m a little confused, since, from what I’m reading, you’re saying your trunks are straight but the branches are at a 45º angle. This sounds nice and normal to me, so I fear that I am missing something. It would be easier to see photos if you have them. If you can’t post a link to photos of your trees here, feel free to share any photos with us on Facebook:

      Thanks Justin!

      • Justin Wittock permalink

        Thanks for the input Sarah. Sorry I do not have the means of providing pictures, but here is a reference:

        • If the it’s the trunk that isn’t completely straight, you can train it to grow straight during the growing season if you use stakes guy-lines to correct its bent growth. If the TRUNK is really that bent (I mean, 45º is pretty extreme), you may be better off replacing those bent trees with new straight ones, especially since your trees are new and not yet established.

          But, if it really is just a branch that is growing off at a 45º angle on one side, you can prune it back some to keep the tree more balanced. It will eventually send out new growth from buds on the other side of the trunk, and it won’t seem so lop-sided.

  30. Ralph permalink

    Hi, I am new at this tree growing stuff. I have a few apple trees I am growing in containers inside my home in PA. I started the trees from apples that were eaten by my family. The talest one I have is over 2 ft tall, and very healthy looking . My question is, do I let it die for the winter, like it would outdoors? Or do I continue to water it, and keep it green? Any help would be great. Thanks in advance B-)

    • Apple trees, even young seedlings, would naturally “sleep” for the winter if they were growing outdoors. The environment indoors is comparatively mild to what the tree would experience normally (light is different, watering is different, air is drier, etc.). When we grow fruit trees in containers, it’s best for the tree to try to mimic the outdoor environment it’s used to.

      Since your trees have been growing indoors, you might need to slowly introduce them to the outdoor environment so that they “know” fall is here and winter is coming. Just a couple of hours a day for a week or so should be fine – but don’t leave them out overnight during this time. After that time has passed, and you aren’t expecting harsh freezes or weather, they can be left outdoors on a porch or balcony until they are dormant and drop their leaves. Low light and cool temperatures are natural triggers to put plants and trees into a dormant state.

      Once they are fully dormant (usually detectable by losing their leaves), you can move the trees into a cool, dark, unheated area – usually a garage, shed, or basement if possible. As long as the temperature averages between 32-45ºF – which is difficult to achieve indoors, so a garage or cellar is ideal – and as long as there isn’t much light available, the trees will maintain their dormancy. This will help them be healthy and fruitful as they mature. :)

      Going forward, if you can keep your trees on a well-lit porch or balcony outdoors during the growing season (late spring, summer, and early fall), they will grow and harden off naturally with light and temperature signals from nature as the seasons change. All you would need to do is keep the soil healthy, water when the top couple of inches of soil is dry to the touch, and bring the container-grown trees in for protection from severe storms and late/early frost.

  31. Ralph permalink

    This was VERY helpful… Thank you very much B-)

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