How to Grow Tropical Fruits in Containers
You probably don’t know how easy it is to grow tropical fruits in containers. If you live in a climate where temperatures dip below freezing in the cold months, growing tropical fruit probably sounds like a fantasy.
“If you have always wanted 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. The key is to choose dwarf varieties of plants that have been bred to produce fruit even on a smaller plant.”
The other key, according to Martin, is to move your potted tropical plants as the seasons change. To grow tropical fruits in containers, move the plants outdoors in the summer. When colder weather approaches, move the plants indoors near a sunny window where they can get plenty of light and be protected against cool temperatures.
Martin says the five 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, they’re 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 mango fruit in containers
Looking for the perfect mango to grow in a pot that will fruit at an early age? Then Mango ‘Pickering’ (Mangifera indica hybrid) is an ideal choice. This mango variety fruits easily in an 8- to 10-inch pot. ‘Pickering’ has a compact growth habit. Plus, it is a strong grower and is not as susceptible to diseases like some other mango varieties that are commonly available.
The mangoes from a ‘Pickering’ tree are flavorful and delicious, and they are less fibrous than other mango varieties. Flowers appear late winter to spring and the fruits follow in the summer. The trick to fruiting a ‘Pickering’ plant is to give it a bit of a chill in the late fall or winter, which stimulates flowering.
Byron Martin, co-owner of Logee’s Tropical Plants, recommends allowing this grafted plant to grow for a couple of years before fruiting. This will enable the tree to develop a sturdy trunk and branches to hold the weight of the mangos in future years.
Mango ‘Pickering’ makes it easy to grow tropical fruits in containers. This variety will reach a height of 4-5 feet tall, and it needs full sun to be most fruitful. A plant in a 6-inch pot sells for $49.95.
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 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. What an amazing plant! Byron Martin of Logee’s loves to grow a coffee tree as a beautiful 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. This 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 $18.95 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 ‘Petite Negra’ (Ficus carica) is an amazing fruiting fig plant that produces medium-sized plump black figs at a young age. This impressive fig is perfect for the indoor or patio gardener since it starts fruiting when plants are less than 12” tall.
Grow ‘Petite Negra’ fig in full sun on a windowsill or outside in warm temperatures. If growing conditions are kept warm, the plant will hold its foliage year-round. Under cool temperatures, the plant will drop its leaves and go dormant until temperatures warm up.
This plant is cold hardy to USDA Zone 8, so gardeners in the southern-most climates in the USA can grow ‘Petite Negra’ outdoors. The rest of us can grow it in a pot and move the plant indoors and outdoors with the seasons. It stays small at 2-3 feet tall, blooms in summer and prefers full sun. A plant in a four-inch pot sells for $18.95.
Grow tropical fruits in containers: Exotic kumquats
Kumquats are an unusual and delightful fruit for home growing. Rare and hard-to-find, the Changshou Kumquat (Fortunella obovata ‘Fukushu’) is grown for its large juicy fruit. Fragrant white flowers bloom from May to September with the fruit ripening 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 been working for the past five years to bring the Changshou (also known as ‘Fukushu’) kumquat to the US market. “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 into the 20s°. They are also self-fertile. In China and Japan, the Changshou Kumquat is used as an ornamental container plant because it creates a lovely small decorative tree with the added appeal of healthy fresh fruit. Remember, 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 $29.95 at Logees.com.