A number of fruit trees can be grown in containers, including apple trees. But, they typically don’t produce the same quality of fruit as trees grown in the ground. If you don’t have the space, the right soil or the ideal climate for apple trees, raise them in pots as ornamentals, not for a good harvest. The California Rare Fruit Growers, Inc. recommends dwarf apple trees for planters. Although these types of trees grow 10 feet outdoors, expect them to be shorter in a container.
Locate an area of full light and place a 15-gallon planter there while it’s still empty and easy to move.
Add a 2-inch layer of gravel to the planter to help with water drainage.
Measure the depth of the rootball on the apple tree. Fill the pot with enough potting mix to allow you to plant it at the same depth, leaving 4 inches of space between the soil surface and the pot’s rim.
Loosen the roots on the dwarf apple tree. Slash the roots vertically with a sharp knife, if they’re rootbound, and spread them out. Trim any roots significantly longer than the others.
Put the tree in the planter and fill it with potting soil to within 4 inches of the rim. Firm the soil surface with the palms of your hands to remove air pockets. Soak the plant with water.
Feed your apple tree a water-soluble 5-10-10 fertiliser when new growth appears. Fertilise with this low-nitrogen formula to discourage vigorous growth and keep the tree comfortable within the restraints of a pot. Fertilise it once a month during the growing season. Read and follow the label instructions.
Water the tree only when the soil surface feels dry. Irrigate less frequently during the cold months.
Prune the apple tree to control its size and to encourage bushy growth. Trim off branches that break or become diseased immediately.