Many horticultural and gardening innovations and techniques have been introduced in the 21st century. One of the best innovations for homeowners is how to make use of a small space to grow your own food. Today, homeowners can grow fruits in a small space by choosing dwarf cultivars of certain kinds of fruit trees. Some of the fruit trees listed here will even yield edible produce when grown in containers. Dwarf fruit trees also add interest to the landscape and often scent a yard with fragrant blooms.
Many dwarf variety fruits are self-fertile, which means that they don't rely on another tree to cross-pollinate with them in order to produce fruit. Before making a purchase, confirm with your grower or vendor if the tree or shrub is self-fertile. That is, does it require a second tree or shrub of the same variety or a different variety for cross-pollination to occur. A small garden might not have room for two fruit trees.
Whether you intend to plant your tree in the ground or in a container, be sure to choose a location with full sun and good drainage.
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The 'Cameron Select' dwarf apple tree is a popular choice for home gardeners and also is resistant to fire blight, one of the biggest scourges of apples. 'Cameron Select' is a dwarf variety of the popular Honeycrisp apple.
This small tree grows to eight to ten feet in USDA plant hardiness zones 3 to 6. Bright red fruits ripen in September with white flesh that is sweet, crispy, and juicy. 'Cameron Select' requires a second apple tree of a different variety to achieve pollination.
Apple trees are among the hardiest of fruit trees but, like most fruit trees, they are susceptible to insect pests and diseases. Look for a variety with some disease resistance.
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A good cherry tree (Prunus avium) for backyard growers is the semi-dwarf 'Stella' cherry tree that uses a Colt rootstock. The Stella series, unlike most cherry trees, is self-pollinating. Reaching ten feet at maturity, this small tree produces dark red, sweet fruit. Cherries grow best in USDA Zones 5 to 9.
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Nothing says summer like biting into a ripe juicy peach. 'Belle of Georgia' is an heirloom dwarf peach tree (Prunus persica) variety that does equally well in more northern zones producing heavy yields of white fruits that show a rose blush when ripe. 'Belle of Georgia' matures at eight to ten feet with fruit that is firm, sweet, and juicy. This variety is self-pollinating.
Peaches, apricots, cherries, peaches, and plums are called "stone fruits" because the edible flesh grows around a hard pit or seed.
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An example of a dwarf plum tree cultivar is the 'Johnson' plum (Prunus domestica). It is hardy in USDA zones 5 through 9 and typically reaches a height of 1ten feet. 'Johnson' has red skin and sweet red flesh. It requires a second plum tree of a different variety for pollination. If you have room for just one tree, grow an heirloom variety like 'Damson' (Prunus institia) which is a self-fertile plum tree.
Many varieties of dwarf plum trees, including shrubs, bear edible fruit. The Natal plum (Carissa macrocarpa), is a shrub that grows to up to eight feet tall and thrives best in the warmer climates of USDA zones 9 to 11.
In colder climates, grow the beach plum (Prunus maritima), which is hardy to zone 3. The beach plum is a six-foot bush that inhabits the sand dunes along the Atlantic Ocean.Continue to 5 of 11 below.
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Bananas do not actually grow on trees. The plants are herbaceous with a perennial rootstock, which means they are cut back to the ground each year after harvest then sprout again the following year. Bananas are the largest herbaceous plants in the world, but don't let that worry you if you're space-conscious. There are small banana plants (Musa spp.) suited to small yards.
The dwarf Cavendish banana (Musa acuminata) matures at eight to ten feet tall and grows best in USDA zones 9 to 10. The fruit is small at just three to six inches long but is sweet like its bigger cousins. The large tropical leaves lend interest to the landscape and can be grown in pots indoors. Banana plants are self-pollinating.
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The dwarf Meyer lemon tree is one of the best varieties you can grow to produce citrus fruit in a small space. The orangish-yellow fruits are rounder than other lemon varieties and the Meyer lemon produces a tart and slightly sweet flavor.
Meyer lemon trees grow four to six tall and are self-pollinating with fragrant white flowers. This tree is suited to USDA zones 9 to 10, but does very well as a potted plant in colder zones. However, move them indoors during the colder months.
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The dwarf Calamondin orange tree is another citrus variety that does well as a potted plant. Even though the plant is hardy only to USDA zones 9 and 10, northern gardeners can overwinter potted plants indoors. The Calamondin orange is self-pollinating and grows six to ten feet tall. Because the flesh is not as sweet as the flesh of full-size orange tree varieties, it is used most often to produce marmalade or in cooked recipes. Like the Meyer Lemon, the Calamondin Orange also produces fragrant white blooms and is worth growing for its ornamental value alone.
The orange tree citrus x sinensis is native to China. Many people wonder whether the fruit or the color first received the name, "orange." The fruit came first.
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If it's the sweet, orangey taste that you want from your citrus fruit, tangerines are a better bet than true oranges. Citrus reticulata is valued for flavorful fruit that is easier to peel and less messy to eat. Tangerine trees can grow up to 25 feet tall but can be kept pruned to ten feet and still produce fruit. Most tangerine trees are self-pollinating but verify with your vendor before purchasing to be sure you don't need another tree for pollination to produce fruit.Continue to 9 of 11 below.
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Fig trees are fairly easy to grow. They have attractive foliage and produce small green fruits that darken when ripe. 'Celestial' is a small to medium variety bearing small sweet fruits. This variety grows up to ten feet tall but responds well to pruning if a smaller plant is desired. Fig trees in the United States are self-pollinating and are best grown in pots where they can be moved to shelter during the colder months. They are hardy outdoors all year in USDA zones 8 through 11. The fig does have a chilling requirement, which means it must be exposed to temperatures of less than 45 degrees Fahrenheit for 300 hours in order to produce fruit.
Fig trees grow especially well in containers because the roots do best in a tight space. Keep this in mind if you think it's time to repot your fig tree.
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The pomegranate is a deciduous plant that can be referred to as being a tree or as a shrub because specimens range from three feet tall and bush-like to 20 to 30 feet tall and more tree-like. They are self-pollinating and are hardy in USDA hardiness zones 7 to 10. Dwarf varieties that reach eight to ten feet tall are available, but their fruit is smaller. Pomegranate seeds, which are the part of the fruit that is edible, are a bit crunchy with a distinctly sweet, tart flavor.
The word pomegranate means "seeded apple" in Latin. Early Romans observed that the fruit looked like an apple from the outside but had many seeds inside.
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Almond trees need a warm climate and even dwarf varieties don't often thrive well above USDA hardiness zone 8. One of these varieties is the 'Garden Prince' almond, a semi-dwarf tree maturing at 10 to 12 feet tall. The tree is self-fertile and with judicious pruning can be kept as small as eight feet. Almonds ripen in late September and early October.
Whether you decide to grow a small fruit tree for its foliage, fragrance, blooms, or edible fruit, do some upfront research and talk to your nursery grower. Consider your space both indoors and outdoors if you plan to grow your tree in a pot and overwinter it indoors. Regardless of your end goal, a fruit tree will always add beauty and interest to your landscape.