Patio fruit trees, fruiting canes, fruiting vines and fruit bushes can provide abundant yields for a small space gardener.
If you want to grow at least some of your own food this year, dwarf fruit trees or other fruiting plants that can be grown in containers on a patio are a great place to start. Growing these perennial options often involves a lot less work than tending an annual vegetable garden. And once the trees are established, you should get a reliable yield not just for one season but over a number of years.
Many fruit trees are easy and relatively trouble-free to grow in the UK. And when they are grown on dwarfing rootstocks, they can take up a lot less space than you might imagine. When you plan and make the right choices, you can grow an abundant fruit-producing garden in a surprisingly small amount of space.
Read on to get a few tips to help you choose the right patio fruit trees and fruiting plants for your situation, then read our list of 20 of the best patio fruit trees and other fruiting plants to grow in containers here in the UK.
Choosing Patio Fruit Trees & Fruiting Plants
Before you decide which patio fruit trees and other fruiting plants to buy, there are a number of things to consider. You need to think about:
- The climate in your area and general weather conditions.
- Whether your patio area is sunny or rather shaded throughout each day and throughout the year. How much rain it receives, and how windy or sheltered the location is. (The micro-climate in your particular garden.)
- How much care and attention you are willing/able to give your new trees/ plants.
- Which fruits you and your family actually enjoy eating.
- Whether the fruit trees you are considering need a pollination partner. (Some trees can self-pollinate while others will need to be purchased along with another tree in order to produce fruit.)
- The eventual size of the patio fruit tree or other fruiting plant you are growing.
It is also worth thinking about whether or not growing in containers is the right thing for your space. In certain cases, in ground growing may be a better option. In some small gardens, fruit trees can be grown in the ground and trained against a wall or fence to make the most of the space, for example.
Step-over apple trees, pleached trees and other small fruiting plants can also be squeezed in as bed or path edging, as a type of fencing, or between other elements in your garden. So this could be another way to make the most of your place.
Remember, trees and other plants grown in containers will typically need more watering than those grown in the ground. The most common reason why these trees are lost is due to issues in this regard. Fertility is also something that will have to be more closely monitored when plants are being grown in pots or containers. So if you are looking for a low-maintenance scheme, then container growing may not always be the best option for you.
10 Best Patio Fruit Trees For The UK
Fruit trees are typically bought as either bare-root or pot grown examples. As you can do doubt guess from the name, pot grown examples come in containers. Bare-root trees are, as the name suggests, delivered out of pots, with their roots bare.
Patio fruit trees (along with many fruit trees commonly purchased for gardens) are usually grafted trees. This means that they are ‘Frankenstein’ trees, made up of a root stock (the base section with root system) and a scion (the top section). The rootstock typically determines the size, vigour, disease resistance and hardiness of the tree, while the scion determines the abundance, characteristics and taste of the fruit.
Understanding this can help you to make the best choices when it comes to choosing patio fruit trees for you.
Rootstocks are typically categorised in reference to the size of tree they make. You can find:
- Standard (full size)
- Semi-dwarfing (somewhat smaller, often ideal for mid-sized gardens)
- Dwarfing (suitable for step-overs and trees grown in pots, for example).
Of course, it is the last of these three, the dwarfing rootstocks that are usually used on trees marketed and sold as ‘patio trees’.
When choosing a fruit tree, try not to just go for the varieties that are commercially grown in your area. Consider also the wider range of interesting heritage varieties that will do well where you live. Heritage varieties can taste a lot better than ordinary store bought fruits. They may just have not been suitable for large-scale commercial use due to their being bruised easy, or not storing well, for example. It is very important that we retain as much diversity as possible in our food, and keeping heritage fruit tree varieties alive is one great way to play your part in your garden.
Below, you will find a list of fruit trees that can potentially make great patio fruit trees in the UK. But remember, the type of fruit is just one of the things to think about. You also need to think about the variety, and the rootstock on which it is grown, in order to make the right decision for you. A few tips in these regards are included below.
Apples are definitely one of the most popular choices for temperate climate gardens. They need fertile soil or growing media which is neither prone to waterlogging nor particularly free draining. Dessert apples need full sun, ideally, while cooking/cider or crab apples can cope with less sun and can often cope well in a more shaded spot. Apple trees (depending on variety) fruit within a few years.
When growing apples as patio fruit trees, often, extreme dwarfing rootstocks are used. One example in the UK is called M27. Dwarfing rootstocks called M9 and M26 are also commonly utilised. So these are the ones to look out for.
Pear trees can be great trees to plant in many regions of the UK. Pear trees will do well in sheltered and sunny spots that are not prone to frost and do well as individual specimen trees or as part of a larger garden system. Depending on the variety, the tree you plant as a sapling in the dormant season will fruit within a few years and can continue to fruit reliably, in the right conditions, for many years.
One interesting thing to note about patio pear trees is that they often come on rootstocks that are not even from a pear. They are frequently grafted onto quince rootstocks (such as Quince C) to keep them small. Sometimes an additional third section of a pear variety that works well with the rootstock from the quince is spliced in. Quince C is also used for a number of other fruit trees to be grown in containers.
Plum trees are also an excellent and popular choice for UK gardens. They will tend to fruit prolifically in fertile and moist yet free draining growing conditions. Some varieties can be grown in containers, while others will grow much larger. You must check whether the plum you buy is self-fertile as sometimes you will need more than one plum tree to get fruits. Related damsons and gages are also worth considering.
You should note that there are no extreme dwarfing rootstocks for plum as there are for apples. But semi dwarfing rootstocks (Plumina, Pixy and VVA-1 for example) are available. These help limit the size of the trees where this is required. And their growth will be further restricted when they are grown in containers.
With beautiful blossom and lovely fruits, cherry trees are also popular and good choices for UK gardeners. There are two main types – sweet cherries and sour cherries. Sweet cherries sometimes require a companion for fertilisation, while sour cherries are typically self fertile. Sweet cherries require a sunny spot, while sour cherries are more tolerant of shade.
Cherry trees can be kept smaller through the use of the Gisela 5 rootstock. And again, their growth can be restricted by growing them in containers, and through careful summer pruning.
Quinces are a more unusual option to consider. They have a high level of pectin which makes them ideal for making a range of jams and jellies and other preserves. Quince can be grown in many UK gardens, even in northern areas when placed in a sheltered and sunny position – against a south facing wall for example.
As mentioned above, you can get dwarfing rootstock for quince, which is used not only on these trees but on pears and other patio fruit trees too.
Mulberries are already small trees, and you can restrict their growth further by growing them in containers. Growing these fruits can be a great option because the fruits are difficult to source in stores, and also because mulberry leaves are also an additional edible yield.
Apricots thrive in a moist and fertile soil, though it must bewell-drained and ideally slightly alkaline. They will not tend to thrive in colder regions or in locations where the soil is shallowor lacking in nutrients. In the right conditions, however, they can be grown in the ground or in containers, which, as with peaches, can allow them to be grown where the season in shorter and temperatures lower. Hand pollination may be necessary for successful fruit formation.
Wavit, a plum rootstock, is sometimes also used for apricots.
Peach trees will need protection from frost in cooler climes but will do well in a sunny, sheltered spot and can be grown in containers which would allow them to be brought inside in the winter. Make sure containers are of sufficient size – at least 45cm across, and you must choose a dwarfing variety. In more southerly, sunny and sheltered gardens, peaches can thrive when trained against a wall. Hand pollination may be necessary for fruit to form.
Peach patio fruit trees are also sometimes also grown on ‘Wavit’ rootstock.
Fig trees also need warmth and plenty of sunlight. In more northerly and chillier climes, certain hardy fig varieties can be grown outdoors in a suitable spot. In some colder areas, even less hardy figs can be grown in containers, as long as they brought inside or given protection in the winter months.
Figs will actually fruit better if grown in containers. Since this will help to restrict foliage and root growth and encourage the trees to focus on fruit production.
Citrus fruit is mostly grown in warmer climes. Though things like oranges, limes and lemons can grown in containers in the UK as long as they are brought into in a heated greenhouse or indoors over the winter months.
No matter what type of citrus tree you would like to grow, it is possible to find examples of almost all varieties suitable for container growing.
10 Other Fruiting Perennial Plants For Your Patio
In addition to considering the trees mentioned above, there are other fruiting perennial shrubs and canes to consider growing on your patio. These include:
The best way to grow raspberries and other cane fruits in containers is to choose (or make) a container of at least 75-litre capacity. Then create a wigwam with 3-5 supports and plant one bare root plant per support in winter. Be sure to tie in the canes as they grow, and prune over time to maintain fertility.
Choose a container of at least 57-litre capacity and you should also be able to successfully grow a grape wine in a small garden or on a patio. Just remember that the vine will need support and something to climb as it grows. So place the container against a trellis or fence.
Kiwi fruits need a sheltered sunny position, ideally against a south- or west-facing wall or fence. They can be grown in containers of at least 60-litre capacity. But note that you will need a male and a female unless you choose a self-fertile variety.
Gooseberries are an excellent choice for growing in pots, and will do well even on a more shaded patio, as these are one of the more shade-tolerant fruits. Unlike many other fruiting plants, they will usually fruit well even without full sun.
Blackcurrants are also a little more tolerant of light shade than other fruits, and can also do very well in containers. Choose a container at least 45-50cm in diameter and repot in late winter every 2-3 years.
A similar container can also be used to grow redcurrants. These too will tolerate some shade, but will fruit better, with sweeter currants, if planted in the sun.
Blueberries are another great choice for pots. Since blueberries need acidic conditions, growing in containers is the best way to grow them if you do not have acidic soil where you live. Remember to use ericaceous compost to fill your containers.
Grow cranberries in pots that are at least 35cm in diameter. Though since they have shallow roots, that extend typically no more than 15cm into the growing medium, depth is not as important. Remember, however, that these are bog plants, so the growing medium must be kept moist. A self-watering container could therefore work well.
Honeyberries are another more unusual fruit to grow on your patio. This is an edible member of the honeysuckle family. They are a ‘super food’, rich in vitamins, antioxidants and minerals. And taste like a mix between a blueberry, a grape and a plum. Simply plant up in a container 4cm in diameter wider than the pot it came in, then pot up as required.
Of course, last but not least, you could go for this tried and trusted favourite. Strawberries are, of course, another fruit that is very easy to grow on your patio in pots or other containers.
These are not the only choices, of course. But they should give you a place to start when trying to choose the right, fruitful options for you, your family, and where you live.
A permaculture garden designer, sustainability consultant and freelance writer, Elizabeth works as an advocate for positive change. She aims to inspire others to reconnect with nature and live in a more eco-friendly way. She also tries to practice what she preaches as she tends her own forest garden, polyculture beds and polytunnel. See her personal website here.