While living in California for nearly 40 years, I grew a number of fruits of all kinds. Although most of my fruit trees were planted in the ground, that's not always practical if you want to cultivate and harvest fruit during the freezing winters I now experience. One solution we fresh fruit lovers have is growing dwarf or semi-dwarf fruit trees in containers that can be moved to a protected spot during cold weather.

There's no disputing the fact that fruit is loaded with vitamins and lots of other very healthy things. So what are some good choices for potted fruit trees? Below are some that can work well in containers.

Please take a few minutes to read the article a friend of mine wrote for Dave's Garden about his decades old Ponderosa lemon tree (Citrus x limon 'Ponderosa').

Although I've grown my fair share of fruit, none was ordered from a comic book six decades ago. And his tree is still alive and bearing lovely fruit like the lemon pictured below. Really gardeners, how cool is that?

1. Ponderosa Lemon

The average lifespan of lemon trees is over 50 years. With proper care and disease prevention practices, a vigorous tree can live more than 100 years.

large ponderosa lemon

My favorite lemon variety is the 'Meyer' (Citrus x meyeri). Meyer trees are smaller, reaching a dwarf size of 7 feet, and can be grown indoors or on your patio. They're thought to be a cross between a traditional lemon and an orange or tangerine, giving this variety a sweeter, less acidic flavor. Along with a distinctive flowery fragrance and taste, Meyer lemons have thin skins and lots of juice.

meyer lemon growing indoors

Spaghetti with Lemon, Parmesan and Cream (1)

Ingredients have been converted from metric to standard American measurements.

Serves 4

2 unwaxed lemons
Salt and black pepper
16 ounces spaghetti
2 ounces butter
4 ounces cream
1 small garlic clove, peeled and crushed but left whole
4 heaping tbsp grated Parmesan cheese

Bring a large pan of water to a boil. Using a vegetable peeler, pare the rind from one lemon, leaving as little pith as possible. Cut the pared strips into very thin slivers. Grate the rind from the other lemon, then squeeze out the juice.

Once the water boils, add salt and stir in the spaghetti. Set a timer for a minute less than the recommended cooking time.

While the pasta cooks, in a wide frying pan over medium-low heat, warm the butter with the garlic (peeled and crushed for a milder flavor, sliced for stronger flavor), lemon slivers, zest, and two tablespoons of lemon juice. Once the butter has melted, stir in the cream and two tablespoons of the Parmesan. Bring to a bubble. Turn heat to low and keep warm.

Once the pasta has cooked, drain, reserving some of the cooking water. Add the sauce and combine well. Add the rest of the Parmesan, a little black pepper, and toss again so the sauce clings to the spaghetti. If it's too stiff, add a little of the reserved water and stir again. Serve immediately.

2. Tangerine/Mandarin Orange

At 6 to 8 feet, the dwarf tangerine tree is much smaller than most other dwarf citrus trees. Tangerine fruit is also easier to peel than other citrus fruits, and is known in the fruit trade as an easy peeler. The name comes from the city of Tangier, Morocco, where they were first shipped to Europe. Kids of all ages enjoy them. I know I do. How about you?

tangerines for sale

Image courtesy of The Press of Atlantic City

Chocolate-dipped Mandarin Orange Slices (2)

Prep: 10 mins

Cook: 5 mins

Total Time: 15 mins

Yield: Approximately 48 wedges

Ingredients

45 peeled mandarin oranges

1/2 cup melted chocolate chips

1 teaspoon butter or coconut oil

12 tablespoons sea salt

Instructions

  1. Lay mandarin orange wedges out on wax paper. Melt chocolate chips and oil in microwave, stirring every 15 seconds.
  2. Dip wedges in melted chocolate and then lay on wax paper.
  3. Sprinkle sea salt on each wedge while the chocolate is still soft.
  4. Set aside to firm or chill slices, covered, in the refrigerator for a few minutes.
  5. For best results, prepare the same day they will be eaten and leave at room temperature.

tangerines

I should also mention kumquats, another great citrus that's fun to grow in containers and one of my favorites. The fruit can be eaten whole. No peeling, no muss, no fuss. Grow them in grow bags so they're easier to move.

kumquats in grow bags

With an especially compact shape and smaller size, kumquat trees make ideal container plants, and they're much hardier than oranges. 'Nagami' requires hot summers from 77 °F-100°F but can withstand frost down to about 14°F without injury. Meiwa kumquats grow best in hotter locations. Their small round fruits are sweeter than other kumquats.

kumquats on tree

3. Pears and Apples

Some things you might not know about the pear:

Worldwide, there are over 3000 varieties.

Pears mature on the tree, but ripen best off the tree.

Every pear in the United States is hand-picked.

The majority of pears sold in the U.S. are grown on the West Coast, primarily Oregon and Washington.

The United States is one of the largest producers of pears in the world.

A medium pear has about 100 calories.

Pears are one of the few fruits that have an extensive history, dating back as early as 1000 B.C.

They used to be called butter fruit because of their soft, butter-like texture.

They belong to the rose family.

Pear tree wood is often used to construct musical instruments, furniture, and other décor.

pears growing on tree

Archaeologists have found evidence that people have been eating apples since 6,500 B.C. Today, there are more than 7,500 apple varieties in the world. Approximately 2,500 of these are grown in the United States. Around 100 are sold commercially.

Apples are the second most valuable fruit crop grown in the U.S. The science of growing apples is called pomology.

4. Plums

plums on tree

Plums grown on the same tree can be as large as a baseball or as small as a cherry when ripe. Dried plums are called prunes.

When a labor shortage hit California in 1905, a farmer used 500 monkeys to harvest the prune plums. The monkeys were organized into groups of 50 with a human foreman. They were reportedly outstanding at picking the plums but, unfortunately, ended up eating all of them. Today machines do the work without consuming the fruit.

Plums are popular worldwide, and the trees are grown on every continent except Antarctica.

plums on a tree

Carole's plums and potted lemon tree

(Above: my plum-laden 'Santa Rosa' tree in California and the potted Meyer lemon on the patio, far right)

The color plum gets its name from the fruit. Plum-colored plums are called purple plums and are a deep purple color. However, there are also reddish-purple, yellow, red, white, and green plums.

Some varieties are specifically bred to retain their sweetness when dried. These plums, famous for their laxative effect, are used for prunes.

Plums are members of the rose (Rosaceae) family, along with peaches and apricots. Most commercial plums grown in the United States are hybrids of the Japanese plum and are grown in California.

5. Peach/Apricots

peach tree

Peach trees live about 15 years. They begin bearing fruit the third year, but produce the most peaches in years 4-15.

Georgia grows 130 million pounds of peaches each year; California and South Carolina produce even more.

The United States grows 978,260 tons of peaches each year, or 1.7 billion pounds!

donut peaches

Peaches get their flavor from their variety, not their color. Freestone is the most common peach variety. Other varieties are semi-freestone, white, clingstone and donut (above).

They're chock-full of several major nutrients, including vitamin A, vitamin C, and potassium. And more good news: one medium peach contains only about 38 calories, plus they're an excellent fiber source, naturally fat-free, and studies indicate they may help lower blood sugar levels and reduce insulin resistance.

Making your own cocktails at home is another bonus of growing winter fruit. Click the link to learn about other plants you can cultivate to add to your at-home cocktails.

person slicing citrus

(1https://www.theguardian.com/food/2021/jan/18/rachel-roddy-recipe-for-spaghetti-with-lemon-parmesan-and-cream; 2https://www.spiritedandthensome.com/salted-chocolate-dipped-mandarin-orange-slices-recipe/; Other sources: https://www.thatsitfruit.com/blogs/default-blog/blogpears-10-interesting-facts-about-the-fruit; https://craves.everybodyshops.com/25-fascinating-facts-you-never-knew-about-apples/; https://www.onehundreddollarsamonth.com/10-fun-facts-about-plums/)