Think your garden’s too small for a fruit tree? Think again! Dwarf fruit trees are designed specially for compact container growing in courtyards, on patios, and even on balconies. And if you dream of variety but have limited space, grafted family fruit trees can produce up to three different types of apples or pears on one stem! Here are our top tips for growing fruit trees in small gardens.
Dwarf fruit trees are created to grow well in containers so they’re perfect for smaller gardens. Most dwarf fruit trees are grafted onto a specific rootstock which limits them to about 2m in height. Many benefit from increased vigour and improved disease resistance too.
Different rootstocks are used to control the mature tree’s height and spread. ‘Extreme dwarfing’ produces the smallest trees, while the tallest ‘vigorous’ rootstock allows them to reach an ultimate height of around 6 metres. See our rootstock guide for more information.
To grow your fruit trees in containers, make sure you choose a dwarf variety, and:
Choose specific varieties to fill your containers or order a dwarf fruit tree collection including apples, pears, plums and cherries to start your own mini-orchard on the patio.
If there is space for one full-sized specimen in your garden, make the most of the opportunity and plant a ‘family fruit tree’. Grafted to support several varieties on one main stem, our family apple tree grows three different types of apples that all ripen at different times, extending the harvest season and preventing gluts. Or you can choose a family pear tree if you prefer.
A traditional way to grow fruit trees like apples, pears and peaches in a small space is to train them against a sunny wall. By using the espalier or fan method, your tree takes up much less space while benefiting from the warmth of the supporting wall. Training a fruit tree takes time, but the final result looks beautiful and makes excellent use of limited space.
If your small garden is enclosed and receives low levels of light, you could try growing sour cherries or plums. Morello cherries are self-fertile and tolerate shady conditions, so train them up a north-facing wall and enjoy their bright spring blossoms. Plum ‘Czar’ is frost-resistant, tasty and crops well in partial shade too.
If your small garden acts like a suntrap, you’re in luck! A south-facing wall or warm enclosed outdoor space provides the ideal conditions for ripening tropical fruit. Exotic fruits benefit from longer daylight hours and warmer temperatures. In addition to trees, you could try vines like kiwi ‘Jenny’, passionfruit, or grape ‘Phoenix’ and train them up a warm courtyard wall using a trellis.
If you want to keep your fruit trees free-standing, but still control the height through training, try making them into cordons. Cordon training produces attractive short trees that make great boundaries in the vegetable patch. Create a fantastic micro-orchard in the allotment too, by planting a few trees in a row and training at a 45 degree angle. For more information about pruning and training methods, see our article: 'How to grow fruit trees'.
Even if you don’t have any outdoor space, you can still grow a fruit tree indoors. Dwarf fruit trees are quite happy growing in a conservatory or a bright, unheated spot in your home. Follow the same guidance as for outdoor container grown trees, making sure you choose a variety with an extreme dwarfing rootstock that won’t outgrow the space over time.
Citrus trees are ideal for indoor growing - try lemon ‘Eureka’ which produces highly-scented flowers and thick skinned lemons. Just remember that fruit trees grown inside may require more frequent watering.
Here are a few other things to bear in mind when selecting fruit trees for your small garden:
Follow this advice and you’ll be harvesting juicy apples, figs, pears, cherries and more in no time! Head over to our fruit tree hub page for more dedicated fruit tree articles full of top tips and growing advice. Share your stories with us via our social channels or send us an email - we’d love to see how you get on!