If you don’t have a garden or yard, or maybe you’re struggling with illness or disability and can’t get outside as often as you’d like, you might wonder if you can still grow your own fruit. The answer is yes, sort of.
Growing fruit trees indoors can be possible, assuming that you choose your tree carefully and make sure that your home environment meets the tree’s needs, but it will take work. And like with so many things, there are no guarantees!
Most trees can’t be grown inside. Whether it’s due to their size and height (some can grow to 380 feet tall or more) or due to the fact that certain trees need the seasonal variation in temperature that it’s not possible to achieve in a house (at least, not if you don’t want to be really cold), trees are generally happiest and healthiest outside in the ground.
However, there are certain varieties of certain trees that have been adapted for indoor growing or can cope with it well enough. We’ll give you our list below, but first, there are a few things to know about growing fruit trees indoors.
What Indoor Fruit Trees Need
Fruit trees grown indoors need more care and attention than those planted outside. To keep them healthy and to give them the best chance of producing lots of tasty fruit, you need not only to take into the account the individual preferences of each tree, but to bear in mind the following general points.
There is nothing you can do to make a tree fruit, indoors or out. Don’t think of it as buying a fruit tree, think of it as buying a tree that might fruit if you’re lucky.
All plants needs some amount of light. Fruit trees tend to need direct sunlight for at least part of the day — generally about 6 hours at least — and bright light during the rest of the daylight hours. If you don’t have a big, south-facing window in the Northern Hemisphere, or a north-facing window in the Southern Hemisphere, growing fruit trees indoors will be an even bigger challenge.
(If you don’t have any windows that get a decent amount of sun, it may be possible to set up grow lights. Have a look into what your artificial light options are. It might be expensive, and I’m not sure how successful it would be, but it might be worth investigating.)
Back to the subject of natural light (which is always better for trees), you need to take care to make sure that, if you have very strong sun during the summer months, your tree’s leaves don’t get scorched through the glass.
Sunlight coming through a window can be extremely strong, so do check leaves for signs of damage, and move the tree a little further away during those exceptionally hot and sunny periods.
In that same vein, the area around windows tends to get colder in winter as glass lets more heat escape from your home than solid walls do.
If you’re growing a tree that loves the heat, make sure that it doesn’t get too cold. This will be less of a problem if you live in a warmer climate or have a house with double-glazed windows, but as I’ve lived for much of my life in houses that get thick ice on the insides of the windows during the depths of winter, I thought I’d mention it.
If you are likely to have to move your tree around, it would be worth investing either in a pot with built-in rollers on the bottom or a wheeled plant stand / tray. These mean that, instead of ruining your back try to drag a heavy plant pot from here to there, you can just wheel it to its new location. Much easier for everyone!
Fruiting trees can have significant water requirements, but it’s also important not to let them get too soggy. Each type of tree will have different needs. Some may even require misting if the air in your home is very dry.
While almost all of the trees we’ll be mentioning are dwarf varieties, so will never get as large as their full-size relatives outdoors, some of them still require trimming and maintenance to stop them getting bigger than would reasonably fit in your front room.
Exact pruning instructions tend to be specific to the type of tree in question, so once you’ve chosen your indoor fruit tree, it would be worth looking up a pruning guide for it.
Unless you’ve gone for a hydroponic set up, your fruit tree will need soil. Although some experts recommend changing your tree’s soil every year, this can get difficult, messy, and very unwieldy as trees get bigger. An alternative is just to replace the top 2 inches of soil with fresh potting compost each year until the plant has grown large enough that it needs to be repotted into a larger container.
You can also consider adding some sort of plant food / fertilizer, although I would only ever recommend completely natural products. Personally, I’ve had great success using seaweed extract with many different types of plants and trees; the dried seaweed pellets are totally mess-free and can be mixed in when you replace your 2 inches of soil.
That said, my experience is only that, so always read the labels and do your research to make sure any product you choose is compatible with your plants and trees.
The trees we’ll mention here are mostly self-fertile. This means that they have both male and female parts on each plant, and you don’t need two trees for pollination to occur. However, even self-fertile trees need insects!
Outside, pollination is achieved by bees and other pollinating insects or sometimes by the wind. Indoors, you’re unlikely to have any of those. So while it’s easy to grow fruit trees indoors, growing fruit indoors may be a little more challenging.
The way around the lack of natural pollinators is to become one yourself, a practice called hand pollination. You can do this with your finger, but it’s probably easier with a tool like a soft, small paintbrush. Cotton swabs are sometimes recommended, but because of their environmental implications and the dangers of single-use plastics, my advice would be to avoid them wherever possible!
Take your tool and brush it very gently on the stamen of a flower. The stamen is usually the long stalk-like thing sticking out of the center of a flower. You should be able to see some pollen come off onto whatever you’ve chosen to use. Then, brush that pollen gently onto a different flower. Repeat the same process as you move from flower to flower, touching all of the flowers on your tree. You can carry out this process each week while your tree is in flower.
Trees need fresh air just like we do. An environment that’s too damp, too dry, or where the air becomes stagnant is no good for anyone. An open window when the weather allows or maybe a fan from time to time will help you and your tree.
Cleaning and Care
Without rain or wind to clean away dust, leaves can get very dirty. This impedes their ability to breathe and photosynthesize. Wipe your tree’s leaves regularly with a clean, damp cloth. Only use water; leaves don’t need soap.
At least, they usually don’t need soap. Another part of keeping trees indoors is monitoring them for pests and diseases. Even houseplants (and trees) can fall victim to an attack, so it’s very important to check regularly, with a magnifying lens if you have one, to make sure nothing is amiss. This is especially important if you have other plants in the house, as certain insects can spread rapidly and be almost impossible to eradicate (I’m looking at you, scales).
If you do find anything untoward, first look it up to be sure what it is you’re dealing with. Then, look for the most effective natural options. A homemade insecticidal soap often works wonders, but you always need to know what you’re fighting before you arm yourself.
Depending on how old your tree is when you first buy it, it could be a while — even multiple years — before it fruits. And if you’re growing from seed, it’s going to take a very long time. It’s possible to buy trees from nurseries and garden centers that are already old enough to fruit, but these cost a bit more.
Even if your tree is fruiting when you buy it, that’s no guarantee that it will fruit again immediately. Be patient, understand that it’s a living being, and enjoy it for what it is. If it fruits, great. If it doesn’t, it’s still a beautiful tree making your living spacer greener and healthier.
The Best Indoor Fruit Trees
I’ve covered the general information that you need to bear in mind when you’re considering growing fruit trees indoors. Now you need to know which trees to grow. The following list is not exhaustive, but these are the most popular fruit trees for indoor cultivation. Good luck!
1. Citrus (Lemon, Lime, Orange, Tangerine, etc.)
Probably the most well-known indoor fruit trees are citrus trees. Often grown in conservatories or sunrooms, citrus trees can thrive indoors under the right conditions.
They enjoy temperatures of around 65°F (18°C) during the day and like a drop of 5-10°F (3-6°C) at night. They need direct sun during the day and can go outside during the warmer months if they’re acclimatized slowly to the change of conditions at both ends: when you take them out and when you bring them back in again in the autumn.
Citrus trees tend to prefer acid growing conditions, so they should be planted in ericaceous compost or a mix of ericaceous and normal soil; they also prefer 20% sharp sand or grit added in. This helps with their requirements for excellent drainage in their pots; citrus trees in general can suffer from root rot. They are said to be very nutrient-hungry, so consider that they may need extra feeding.
There are a few species of citrus tree that are particularly suited to indoor growing.
- Lemon: Meyer and Ponderosa
- Calamondin orange (Citrofortunella minis): With small and sour fruit, this orange is best used in marmalade or as a garnish.
- Otaheite orange (Citrus limonia): A cross between a tangerine and a lemon.
- Kumquat: These lovely oblong orange fruits can be eaten whole, peel and all! The Fortunella species and Citrus japonica are both recommended for indoor growing.
- Tangerine (Citrus reticulata)
- Lime: Although they’re not all self-fertile, most dwarf lime varieties can also be grown indoors. This includes dwarf Key limes and dwarf Kaffir limes.
Mulberries grow very fast even when they’re dwarf varieties, so an indoor-grown mulberry tree will require pruning.
The variety “Dwarf Everbearing” (Morus nigra) is a great choice for indoor growing or cultivation in a pot outdoors. The fruits are small, sweet, and dark; when fully ripe, they look a bit like long, thin blackberries.
Mulberries aren’t as demanding as some of the other plants in this list; they’ll grow happily in normal potting compost / soil, and they don’t mind having room to grow in their pots.
But only Brown Turkey figs. The Brown Turkey is a dwarf variety of fig tree that can tolerate indoor growing. However, it’s said to prefer humid conditions, so it may not be the best choice if you live in an extremely dry climate. Even though it’s a dwarf variety, it can still reach 20 feet in height, so you’ll definitely need to learn how to prune it.
The Moorpark or Goldcot varieties of apricot tree are a good choice for growing indoors. They might even fruit in the first year if bought from a nursery.
Apricots like to be snug in their pots, so don’t repot them before they actually need it. Like almost all fruit trees, they love nutrient-rich soil and good drainage. A loamy soil with its mix of clay and sand is apparently best, but do check the precise requirements for your chosen tree.
If you make sure to get a fruiting variety like the Arbequina (black olives) or Picholine (green olives), you can grow olives indoors. Olive trees grow naturally in dry, warm, Mediterranean climates, so they prefer well-drained soil and a lot of sunlight.
They can’t tolerate freezing temperatures for long, but they do need two-three months of the year with cold temperatures: usually below 50°F (10°C). If you’re growing your olive tree indoors and want it to fruit, you’ll probably have to move it outside during the winter. This will only be possible though if you live somewhere that doesn’t get long, very cold spells, and it will need acclimatisation periods at both ends to get it used to the cold and then back to your home again.
Do not, as has been suggested elsewhere, put it in your garage or in a shed for the winter unless your garage or shed has a lot of windows and doesn’t get below freezing.
And a note: some websites claim that the Arbequina olive tree “weeps” water through its leaves. This is not true. Someone, somewhere, got confused when reading that the tree has a weeping habit, and everybody else copied that mistake. What it actually means is that the tree’s branches bend down toward the ground when they’re fully laden with fruit. So the Arbequina has a shape a bit like a weeping willow. It doesn’t actually weep.
Full-grown banana plants (they’re not actually trees) can reach enormous heights, but there are dwarf varieties available. The Lady Finger variety is often recommended, but as with all bananas, it needs a lot of heat and sun for its fruits to ripen.
If you live in a place where it’s sunny and warm enough to grow bananas outside, you might manage it indoors; otherwise, you’ll be unlikely to get fruit.
And the Rest
There’s information on the internet about growing a selection of other fruit trees indoors; avocado and peach are among the most-frequently mentioned. But avocado trees are renowned for being extremely fussy, and while they will grow well enough indoors, they almost never fruit. As for peaches (and nectarines), they’re also quite sensitive to light, moisture, everything really.
By all means, try growing them indoors — in dwarf varieties — if you’d like to experiment, but don’t be too disappointed if you don’t get any fruit. If you have outside space, you can always move your tree outside (after an appropriate period of acclimatization) if it still hasn’t fruited indoors after a few years.
The Most Successful Indoor Fruit Trees
Citrus trees, as mentioned at the top of our list, are probably going to be your best chance for indoor fruit trees that actually produce fruit. Many people grow citrus successfully indoors, but they have a lot of glass: a lot of windows and a lot of light.
Think carefully about your situation before you rush out to buy something, and (as always) do your research. On reputable sites! (Or even in books.)
When you do decide on a particular tree, learn all you can about it: what kind of soil it likes, how much water and humidity, the optimum pH, how much light.
Do your best for your tree, and you’ll have the most chance of a delicious harvest. Have fun with your project if you choose to try growing fruit trees indoors, and enjoy whatever results you get.
- 11 Trees For Acid Soils (That Will Thrive)
- Are There Any Fire-Resistant Tree Species?
- How Long Do Fruit Trees Live?
- 6 Indoor Fruit Trees & Tips to Successfully Growing Them
- Trees With Deep Roots (Including Invasive Varieties)
Kira Nash lives with her family in the sunny French countryside amidst bees and swallows. A writer, editor, and artist by trade, she also teaches creative meditation. She’s passionate about nature and ecology and tries to live as green a life as possible. In her spare time, she surfs, reads, and plays with her cats, although not usually all at once. She loves tea a little too much.