It’s easy to grow tropical fruits in containers. Way easier than you think.
If you live in a climate where temperatures dip below freezing during the winter months, growing tropical fruit in containers probably sounds like a fantasy. But garden experts say virtually anyone can do it.
“If you want to grow tropical fruits, I have good news for you,” said Byron Martin, co-owner of Logee’s Tropical Plants. “You can grow tropical fruits in containers in most climates.”
According to Martin, all you have to do is follow these three tips.
Tips to Grow Tropical Fruit in Containers
The first tip is to choose the right plant varieties. The key is to choose dwarf varieties of plants that have been bred to produce fruit on smaller plants. Varieties such as Changshou Kumquat and Super Dwarf Cavendish Banana are perfect for growing in pots or containers.
Tip number two, according to Byron Martin, is to move your potted tropical plants as the seasons change. “To grow tropical fruits in containers, put the plants outdoors in the summer,” said Martin. “Then, when colder weather approaches, move the plants indoors near a sunny window.” That way, the fruit trees and plants can still get plenty of light and be protected against cool temperatures.
The third tip: fertilize container-grown tropical plants. A premium tropical plant fertilizer such as Dr. Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer will give tropical fruiting plants the nutrients they need for plant growth and fruit production. This natural fertilizer is OMRI listed for organic use.
Martin says the plant varieties described below are great choices to grow tropical fruits in containers. You can read more about these plants (and many more tropical fruiting plants) in the book Growing Tasty Tropical Plants in Any Home, Anywhere by Byron Martin and Laurelynn Martin.
Yes, You Can Grow Bananas
Believe it or not, you can grow bananas at home! Banana ‘Super Dwarf Cavendish’ (Musa acuminata) is a wonderful strain of the Cavendish banana that will produce edible fruit when the tree is only 3 feet tall. The bananas will appear often after just one year.
Although the fruit is smaller than commercial bananas, these bananas are perfect for little hands or small appetites. Banana plants do best in full sun. Keep your plant’s soil moist, keep the temperatures warm, and fertilize regularly for best growth and fruit production. Super Dwarf Cavendish plants are easy to grow, and they grow amazingly fast.
Your potted banana tree will grow to a height of about 3-4 feet tall. A plant in a four-inch pot sells for $24.95 from Logees.com.
Grow Tropical Fruits in Containers: Exotic kumquats
Kumquats are an unusual and delightful fruit for home growing. The Changshou Kumquat (Fortunella obovata ‘Fukushu’) is rare and hard to find in local garden centers. But this variety, known for its large juicy fruit, is available online.
The fragrant white flowers of Changshou Kumquat bloom from May to September, and the fruit ripens year-round. Changshou’s pear-shaped fruit is larger than other kumquat varieties, and it usually has five or six segments of fruit inside the sweet, thin skin.
Logee’s Tropical Plants has worked for years to bring the Changshou (also known as ‘Fukushu’) kumquat to the US gardening marketplace. “I think it’s the best kumquat we’ve ever grown in the Logee’s greenhouses, and it makes a perfect potted specimen plant,” says Byron Martin.
Kumquats are among the hardiest citrus trees. They tolerate short bursts of cold temperatures below 30°F. This variety is also self-fertile. In China and Japan, the Changshou Kumquat is used as an ornamental container plant. It becomes a lovely small decorative tree with the added appeal of healthy fresh fruit. The most delectable flavor comes from eating the whole fruit, peel and all.
Changshou Kumquat will reach a height of 3-5 feet tall, and it prefers full sun. Grow this plant in a clay pot to keep the root system healthy and active. A period of dryness helps stimulate flowers and fruiting. Mimic Florida’s climate–wet summers and a drier fall and winter. A grafted plant in a 4-inch pot (that blooms and fruits sooner than a non-grafted plant) sells for $34.95 at Logees.com.
Grow Your Own Coffee Beans
Coffee might just be the world’s favorite beverage. Now you can grow your own coffee beans no matter where you live.
Coffee Arabica (pictured above) is the most popular coffee variety, and this plant produces red, pulpy berries on an upright shrub. The berries alone are enough reason to grow this plant. But then there are the fragrant white blooms nestled among shiny green leaves. Many people grow a coffee tree as a beautiful indoor foliage plant that scents the room with sweet fragrance.
Place a Coffee Arabica plant in a bright window, and soon you will be harvesting your own coffee beans. (The coffee beans grow inside the plant’s coffee cherries, which are pictured above.) A Coffee Arabica plant loves humid growing conditions—50% humidity or higher. Your potted coffee tree will grow to a height of 3-5 feet tall in sun or partial sun. A plant in a four-inch pot sells for $19.95 from Logees.com.
Grow Sweet Egyptian Yellow Guava
Guavas are a sweet tropical fruit that’s packed with nutrients. Most guava trees are native to Central America, South America and the Carribean islands. But Egyptian Yellow Guava (Psidium guajava hybrid) is a very productive hybrid from Egypt that produces medium-sized fruit.
Egyptian Yellow Guava bears oblong, yellow fruit that are about 4 inches long. The white inner flesh is sweet and juicy, and it’s ideal for eating fresh or preserving. The plant flowers in recurring cycles in spring and summer. It takes between 60 and 90 days for the flowers to turn into ripe fruit. Egyptian Yellow Guava has fruited abundantly in the Logee’s trial gardens. This small tree grows 4-6 feet tall, and it makes a wonderful addition to any tropical fruiting plant collection. It grows best in full sun or partial sun. Plants in a 4-inch pot sell for $24.95 from Logees.com.
Figs, Glorious (and Juicy) Figs!
If your only experience eating figs is in a Fig Newton cookie, you’re missing the treat of eating a fresh fig. Fig ‘Fignomenal’ (Ficus carica hybrid) is an phenomenal fruiting fig plant that produces fruit all year long. The medium-sized figs are deep brown in color. Inside, the sweet fruit is reddish in color. Best of all, ‘Fignomenal’ produces an impressive harvest of fruit for its compact size.
This impressive fig is perfect for the indoor or patio gardener. This dwarf variety has a low-mounding habit and only grows 28” tall. Its small size and prolific fruit production makes it an ideal choice for container growing. Similar to Fig ‘Petite Negra’, ‘Fignomenal’ will fruit indoors in northern zones. Grows best in full sun. This is one of the very best new fig varieties on the market and Logee’s Tropical Plants highly recommends it. A plant in a four-inch pot sells for $19.95.
Grow Tropical Fruits: Lemon Trees in Containers
Lemons are one of the most popular tropical (or subtropical) fruits. They are grown around the world, but as a commercial crop they are primarily grown in warmer climates. Two varieties of lemon trees make great container plants for home gardeners: Meyer Lemon and Ponderosa Lemon.
Of these two varieties, Meyer Lemon is the best known. It was brought into the U.S. at the turn of the century from China. Meyer Lemon is believed to be a hybrid between a lemon and an orange. As a result, the lemon has a slightly sweeter taste than a traditional Lisbon lemon.
An heirloom dwarf lemon with delicious golden-yellow fruit, Meyer Lemon makes a fine potted plant because it only grows 2-3 feet tall in a container. Meyer Lemon is also the hardiest lemon variety for cool temperatures. The fruit is prized by professional chefs because the lemons more flavorful than common store-bought lemons. A Meyer Lemon tree bears heavily at a young age, and it flowers and fruits all year-round. A plant in a 4-inch pot sells for $29.95.
American Wonder Lemon
The American Wonder Lemon or Ponderosa Lemon is a variety made famous by Logee’s Plants. In the year 1900, a Ponderosa Lemon tree growing in a Logee’s greenhouse outgrew its pot and “planted itself” in the dirt floor of the greenhouse. Today, that plant is 122 years old–and it still produces lemons. The Ponderosa Lemon trees that Logee’s sells are tissue cuttings from that original tree.
The fun in growing a Ponderosa/American Wonder Lemon plant (pictured above next to a ripe American Wonder lemon picked from a larger tree) begins with a heavy surge of fragrant white flowers each spring. Then, tiny lemons begin to appear. American Wonder Lemons have the reputation for not knowing when “enough is enough.” These lemons continue to grow to enormous proportions (often up to 5 pounds each) even though the plant remains an easily manageable size. An American Wonder Lemon plant in a 4-inch pot sells for $29.95.
All of these plants are available at www.logees.com.