Dwarf fruit trees are incredibly fun to grow. And despite their small compact size, it’s amazing how much fruit they produce. It can however, be a challenge to grow these trees in the colder climates such as Colorado, but it is possible to have a high-yielding fruit tree without a whole lot of hassle.
From the late Spring to late Fall, I leave my dwarf lemon and lime trees outside, and they do extremely well. For the colder months when the temperatures start to drop below freezing, I have to move them inside and set them in our southern facing breakfast nook area which gets quite a bit of direct and indirect sunlight. As you can see from the picture to the left, they are producing a lot of fruit, even when grown inside for half the year.
I’ve managed to keep my dwarf fruit trees alive and thriving for over three years in the extreme Colorado climate. They’ve even survived a couple small hail storms and a covering in snow by an early blizzard. Here are a few tips for successfully growing hybrid fruit trees in the colder climates.
The trees are going to need a lot of direct sunlight. Finding a window that gets a bare minimum 6 hours of direct sunlight will be tough for most people, but that’s what the dwarf fruit tree will need. It’ll be especially hard to get the sunlight in the northern climates when the days are shorter and the sun angle is lower. Other houses and outside trees can block the light, making it very difficult to get the full 6 hours or more.
My lemon and lime trees get just about 7 hours of direct sunlight while inside, but they tend to shade each other. Therefore, I’ve added a couple grow lights on a 12-hour timer. I have two wavelengths of light. The lighter blue light encourages leafing while the warmer wavelength encourages fruiting. This has helped a lot. Without the lights, the trees lost a lot of their leaves by the time Spring rolled around.
All fruit trees need a lot of water, and the dwarf fruit tree is no exception. Especially when outside. On the really hot days, I’ve put as much as a gallon a day on each plant.
When inside, the air inside tends to be a bit more humid and the evaporation rates are much less. I’m finding that I only need to apply about 1/2 gallon of water every 3 days. Don’t just poor the water all at once. Slowly water the tree so a larger area of the soil gets adequate water uptake.
In both cases, make sure the container has holes for water drainage. I know this is pain, especially inside when you accidentally over-water, but soggy roots will kill the tree. I have over-size drain pots at the base of each container which gives me a buffer if I over-water.
Fertilizer and Pollination
I sprinkle about 1 tablespoon of organic fertilizer on top of the tree soil every three months. The plants will get stressed inside since they won’t have an abundance of sunlight. Ensuring they have the nutrients they need will help them fight through these tougher months.
When outside, insects and the wind will pollinate the new flowering buds. But when inside, you’ll have to do it manually. I just use my finger and gently rub the blooms, moving the pollen between flowers and fruit trees.
Be careful when touching the blooms as they can be fragile and easily get knocked off. Especially if you accidentally bump some of the blooms that have small fruit on them.
Both my fruit trees are in plastic containers. This makes them a little lighter when moving from inside to outside, and vice-versa. The clay or terracotta pots just get too heavy and I fear they may scratch or mark the flooring inside.
Since I presume you’ll be eating the fruit, make sure you get the right kind of plastic container. Some plastics are not suitable for growing food.
Again, make sure the pots have at least one hole at the bottom for draining water.
Now, don’t be surprised if by the end of winter the trees are starting to look a little frail. That’s just what happens when they don’t get a enough sunlight. But they quickly bounce back once they get outside under 10 hours of direct sunlight.