Best fruit trees for small gardens

Fig 'Little Miss Figgy' from Thompson & Morgan

Plant your dwarf fruit trees in containers outdoors
Image: Fig 'Little Miss Figgy' from Thompson & Morgan

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.

Best fruit trees to grow in patio containers

Apricot 'Aprigold' from Thompson & Morgan

Apricots can be grown in patio containers in the UK
Image: Apricot 'Aprigold' from Thompson & Morgan

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:

  • Use a large, heavy bottomed container, with a diameter of at least 60cm. The container needs to restrict the roots to keep the tree compact, but still provide space for a healthy root ball to develop.
  • Water your fruit trees regularly, keeping the soil moist. 
  • Feed your fruit trees in the spring using a balanced fertiliser. 
  • Mulch the surface of the soil with leaf mould or strulch to aid with water retention. 
  • Freshen the compost in the pot by top dressing with fresh compost every year or so.
  • Place your trees in the sunniest position you can.

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. 

Best small fruit trees to grow in the ground

Apple Family Tree from Thompson & Morgan

Family trees provide multiple varieties on one stem which is ideal for small gardens
Image: Apple Family Tree from Thompson & Morgan

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. 

Best fruit trees for a small vegetable garden or micro-orchard

Apple 'Braeburn' from Thompson & Morgan

Apple trees are ideal for training in a small garden
Image: Apple 'Braeburn' from Thompson & Morgan

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'

Best fruit trees for indoors or conservatories 

Lemon 'Eureka' from Thompson & Morgan

Fruit trees grow well indoors with the right care
Image: Lemon 'Eureka' from Thompson & Morgan

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.

Top tips for growing fruit trees in a small garden

Peach 'Crimson Bonfire' from Thompson & Morgan

Container fruit trees look great in a small garden
Image: Peach 'Crimson Bonfire' from Thompson & Morgan

Here are a few other things to bear in mind when selecting fruit trees for your small garden:

  • Pollination. Choose a self-pollinating tree if you’re only thinking of planting one. If you go for a variety that isn’t self-pollinating, remember that pollination groups are fertile at different times so choose a couple of trees in the same group to pollinate each other.
  • Container type. Use a large and heavy-bottomed container for your fruit trees. This will prevent a top heavy fruiting tree tipping over in windy conditions.
  • Support. Your fruit trees may benefit from support, especially when bearing heavy fruits.

Follow this advice and you’ll be harvesting juicy apples, figs, pears, cherries and more in no time! Head over to our hub page for more 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!


Sign up for exclusive offers!