How to Grow Fruit Indoors
Growing a fruit tree has some nice perks over traditional house plants – their flowers have a delightful aroma and the fruits add a splash of color. They need lots of sun and space, and the total amount of fruit you get is pretty modest, so if your goal is in lots of food, you’re better off with Herbs, Lettuce or Vegetables. If you’d like to invest in these long-lived edible plants, this blog we’ll help you pick the right plant for your space and cover what you need to keep it growing for years to come.
What fruit trees can you grow indoors?
While these fruit trees grow very large outdoors, you can find dwarf and low-lying varieties that are manageable as houseplants. From a gardening perspective, they fall into three categories. The easiest fruit trees to grow are Tropical and Subtropical. Temperate fruit trees are also possible, but need to experience a “Winter Chill” every year inorder to set fruit. This overview will help you decide which sounds better to you – based on your light, humidity, and gardening experience.
Growing tropical fruits: banana, coffee, and pineapple plants
These plants are native to areas around the equator – and thrive in a tropical climate of long consistent light, high humidity and warmth. They naturally grow in dense areas so don’t need quite as much light as the other fruit trees. You may need to increase the humidity by placing plants together or using a humidifier, especially if your building has dry hot air in the winter.
Growing subtropical fruits: lemon, orange, lime and avocados
These trees are some of the most popular indoor fruit trees. As a group these need the most light with a minimum of 8 hours (but appreciate up to 12). Not all citrus plants are the same the ones that do best in more modest light are Thai Limes, Finger Limes, and Thornless Key Limes, Owari Satsuma Tangerine, Bumper Satsuma Mandarin, Meiwa kumquat, ponderosa lemons, washington naval, ‘Flying dragon’ Bitter Orange or most Calamondins.
Growing temperate fruits: figs, olives, strawberries, and peaches
These are a little bit trickier to grow indoors because they’re native to more seasonal climates, and use the winter to get set-up for the next growing season. This need is often overlooked, but their longevity and ability to set fruit is hurt without a “Winter Chill.” The temperatures are pretty low (32 to 45 F), so you’ll need to put these plants outside when it gets cold (check the variety specific info for duration and this calculator for your zipcode). We like to pick plants that only need a short chill period and put them on our fire escape for a few weeks in the fall. If this sounds OK to you – you can explore:
This category also has some that we don’t recommend for indoor gardening, like apples, pears, or almonds.
Setup & supplies for growing fruit trees
Purchasing live fruit plants
We recommend starting with live plants for a couple reasons. First, the dwarf varieties can’t actually be grown from seed (they’re what are known as grafts, where the top of the fruit tree is fused with the roots of a shorter variety). Second, it can take years to bear a crop so if you’re after fruit, it’s best to start with the most mature tree you can find.
|Plant||Variety||Tops out at:||Get fruit in:||Cost:|
|tropical||Coffee||Arabica||6 ft||1 – 2 years||$50|
|Banana||Dwarf Cavendish||10 ft||2 – 3 years||$40|
|Pineapple||Sugar Loaf||3 ft||2 – 3 years||$50|
|temperate||Fig||Italian Everbearing||4-5 ft||1 year||$40|
|Peach||Bonanza||4-5 ft||1 year||$130|
|Strawberry||Everbearing||1 ft||1 year||$20|
|subtropical||Avocado||Hass||7 ft||2-3 years||$80|
|Olive||Arbequina||10+ ft||1-2 years||$100|
|Lemon||Pondorosa||10+ ft||1-2 years||$60|
|Lime||Thornless Key||8 ft||3 – 5 years||$44|
|Orange||Flying Dragon||6 ft||3 – 5 years||$9|
What’s the ideal light to grow fruit trees?
Fruit trees need lots of light – even the most shade tolerant Banana tree won’t produce fruit unless it gets the equivalent of 6+ hours of direct sunlight. So if you want fruit, you’ll eventually need very bright light. This can sometimes be provided by a large, unobstructed southern window, but more often than not you’ll need it even brighter. This can be accomplished in a couple ways — you can bring your plants outside in the summer or use a grow light for year-round growth. We can’t over stress how critical it is to get enough light is critical, so be sure to have a good lighting setup for fruit trees.
What type of planters & soil should you use?
In the ground trees will spread their roots deep and wide in search of ideal nutrients and water. In a container, they are given a much smaller space so it’s important to take care of the roots so they can provide the plants all they need. The general strategy is to use a large free-draining pot, filled with potting mix, and add plant-specific fertilizer on a regular schedule (See size and fertilizer recommendations for each plant). For all, the soil should be kept moist, so wicking-based self-watering planters should be avoided, as they make the soil a bit soggy. If you are worried about over or underwatering your trees, there are some automatic watering solutions that work with a regular pot.
Growing & harvesting your indoor fruit trees
Growing fruit trees is a bit different than other indoor edible plants – they’re much bigger, slower growing, and longer lived. From potting your plant at setup (either from a nursery pot or bare root) to root pruning after your first year of growth, there are a few special skills to master this category. Our complete guide to caring for healthy indoor fruit trees will help you breeze through and make sure you’re checking off all the boxes for a healthy plant.