container fruits for the summer

stropharia(8b louisiana)January 8, 2011

I posted something very similar to this in the Southern forum (no replies yet), before realizing that the Container forum existed (which seems more pertinent to my question), and it seems more active in here.

With the new year underway, I've (of course) been thinking about spring and summer gardening. I have very little in-ground space that gets good sun, and my residence is temporary, so I use ground for annuals; I've actually only just recently gotten into gardening, so the vast majority of my experience involves annual veggies and herbs. The best sun is on my large deck. It is south-facing and gets full sun most of the day. I received a 'Meiwa' kumquat and have been learning about caring for it here on the forums (first step: gritty mix transplant). This has gotten me pretty excited about growing more perennial plants (particularly edibles, a category which I guess is dominated by fruits) in containers.

My reading indicates that there are a LOT of fruit tree/shrub varieties that can be grown in pots. I've been looking at Raintree Nursery, Almost Eden, Pine Island, and some others, and everything looks so great, I want it all! But it's expensive, and I'm quite the novice, so I must be wise in my purchases. I'm interested in blueberries, raspberries (really any berry, I'd guess), as well as various apples and citrus (meyer lemon looks promising, and 'Moro' blood orange!), not to mention the much smaller strawberries. Unique things like avocados, pomegranates and honeysuckle (apparently some have edible fruits?) are also exciting to me. Some of these listed take years to start fruiting, though, and that's not ideal for me yet. I'm just having a hard time figuring out which plants take how long to mature, not to mention how old the plant will be when I purchase it...

All of the available information is overwhelming, much of it seems conflicting, and I don't know which fruits would actually be best for my situation. For instance, I plan to move away from here (Louisiana, zone 8b) in August, which is kind of prime time for fruiting for lots of plants (very frustrating!); therefore, I would much prefer fruits that will produce this year, and the earlier, the better (May-July harvest would be beautiful). The smaller, the better, too, since I'd like to bring most of my perennials with me when I move. However, smaller means less fruit, so I guess I mean 15 gallon pots are really pushing it. Also, I'll probably move somewhere slightly cooler than here, but only zone 7ish coastal areas, and I'm willing to bring any containers inside for winter months as necessary. I'd like to eventually grow plants that may require a few years of growth before production, but not until after moving.

So, with all of this in mind....

What fruits/food do you grow in containers? What are your favorites, and why? Any suggestions for my situation? (extra points for tastiness, bounty, and hardiness). 
Any other advice you'd give a novice gardener, like other (cheaper, but reputable?!) online nurseries, what NOT to plant, whatever?

I'm interested in other beautiful plants, but would like to keep this thread limited to food, please.

Thanks in advance for your help!

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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you have the patience, you need to learn some propagation techniques that will allow you to clone those trees you like. I have 4 raised beds filled mostly with material growing on for bonsai that I started as cuttings from my own plants, or cuttings from other people's plants that were taken after securing permission. This doesn't have to be limited to trees, either. Most vegetables and garden annuals/perennials are easily propagated, too.

Every spring when I establish some 30 mixed display plantings of showy stuff, I often start as many as 5-6 extra plants from what I might be using, often sticking the cuttings at the edges of my containers, which REALLY fills them out after a few weeks. Sorry ..... I'm off the food topic, but as I mentioned, it's all applicable to plants that lend themselves to easy propagation.


    Bookmark   January 8, 2011 at 10:25PM
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stropharia(8b louisiana)

That's a good point, and I do know a bit about asexual propagation. But I've only taken woody cuttings from a couple plants (figs and apples, IIRC), and it's been a few years. I think I have some rooting hormone around here somewhere.

However, I don't exactly have ready access to others' plants. I know no other people who grow plants that I want. All I can think of is loquat, which is everywhere around here...

Also, I'm looking for something that would fruit this season at least a little (if that's even possible). Due to the difficulty entailed in moving cross-country with huge potted plants, I'd prefer to obtain the long-term plants I want this coming winter/spring, when I live in a new house, and be selective about which I choose to raise this summer.

    Bookmark   January 9, 2011 at 4:13AM
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stropharia(8b louisiana)

So I've been doing some more research on mail-ordering fruit trees, and it seems that most people would have ordered theirs last year, to be shipped out either before or right after winter. I guess I'm a little late, huh?

Perhaps I should just go around to local nurseries and check if they have any fruit trees, then research the varieties they have...

I'm really new to this, so any advice would be greatly appreciated.

    Bookmark   January 10, 2011 at 8:54PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

It sorta depends on where the nurseries are located if you order over the net. I've received tree liners in mid-may that were bare-rooted & buds still tight, which means they were prolly lifted and kept in cold storage until time to ship. I've also received tubes & #1 containerized trees from a number of sellers that arrived in May in full leaf & took right off after only a brief pout. Most reputable nurseries don't want to be replacing dead trees, so they'll tell you if they think there is a problem shipping to your area.


    Bookmark   January 10, 2011 at 10:17PM
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stropharia(8b louisiana)

Thanks for your advice, Al. I'll have to contact a few online nurseries and see what they say.

Does anyone have any suggestions on what sort of fruit plants might suit my situation?

    Bookmark   January 10, 2011 at 11:04PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Figs, for one. I'll call on a friend from LA (Viv) and see if she has any suggestions. Give it a little time though, she's prolly still adding up her husband's score. If you want to know what that means, you'll have to email me for the funny. ;o)


    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 6:00PM
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stropharia(8b louisiana)

Figs are a good idea, I think I could even get a couple free from the university's horticulture department, though they'd be ~6" cuttings.
As mentioned in my other thread, I purchased a 'Moro' Blood Orange and a 'Meyer' Lemon today, even though they won't fruit this summer. I just coulnd't resist!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 6:52PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Congrats on the Moro Blood Orange....I bought one last Spring.
It's my first citrus, and it hasn't bloomed or fruited yet, but I think it'll do well this Summer.
I've heard good things about Meyer Lemons, and I intend to plant one in-ground this year, too.

There's a Citrus Forum at GardenWeb, which is handy...but, as you've noted, the Container Forum
is nice and active. Here's a Thread on my Blood Orange if you'd like some visuals.


Here is a link that might be useful: Moro Blood Orange - finally got one....!

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 8:24PM
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stropharia(8b louisiana)

Josh, I've actually read that thread, your Moro is beautiful! In fact, that thread made me look into Four Winds; they have some great plants.

I'd love to see how your Moro is doing now, after 10 months. Do you have any recent pictures? Feel free to post them in this thread.

    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 9:26PM
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red_chucks(5 (Chicago))


Figs and pomegranates grow well in Chicago, so they should thrive in Louisiana and bear well. My pomegranates set a lot of fruit here that don't ripen. Citrus has been fun, too. Looks like you have a good start on container gardening.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 9:50PM
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greenman28 NorCal 7b/8a

Ah, yes, gladly!
Thanks for checking out the Moro Thread!
Here's my little tree, hangin' out in the cold-frame:


    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 11:03PM
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jojosplants(9/ Tucson, Az.)

Now you went and did it.. Got Josh on a roll with pics. ;-)
You'll learn he loves pictures, and we love seeing them.
(Josh, just giving you a bad time buddy; ;-) )
The tree looks great, all nice and cozy in the pop up.

I'm getting antsy to get out to our large nursery and see what they have!

Last spring our Home Depot and Lowes had 5' fig tree's so you may want to check them soon if you have them in your area.

I have 3 now, and all are in need of potting up soon!
Spring comes pretty early for us.


    Bookmark   January 11, 2011 at 11:57PM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Hi Al! Hi Stropharia! I'm not quite sure what I could suggest about the fruit plants. Yes, we have Loquat trees coming out our ears around here! My neighbor has a good-sized Loquat tree that just appeared in her yard years ago and has done beautifully.

Where do you live, Stropharia? I live in Lafayette. I'm having trouble getting my head around what you would like to know. Just about figs? Or other fruits, as well?

I ordered three Sunshine Blue blueberry plants last fall and they are container blueberries. They have a low number of freeze hours to produce and do well in cooler zones. I hope they live and do well this next season.

If you're looking for fig trees, why bother with trees that will be only tiny things through this coming season?

What kinds of figs do you like?

We have Durio Nursery and a man named, James Robin, in Opelousas and they have many varieties for sale between the two of them. James might have some larger young trees and his prices are very good. Durio's prices are around $20 for a 1 gallon tree, which is a yearling and $35 for a two-year plant. I got a Scott's Black tree from Mr. Robin last summer that had 10 figs on it. It's a later-bearing tree, though. A young Improved Celeste might bear in the first year. Mine got figs on it and it was just a twig when I bought it from a local man. It's more of an everbearing fig tree. Due to my own ignorance, the Improved Celeste tree dropped most of its figs, but I don't think it would have had it not been repotted THREE times after I got it. It's a wonder I didn't kill it and a testimony to how tough fig trees are. If it hadn't been for Al sticking with me through my self-induced crisis, my trees might have died. (+ an infintesimal number of points!)

You need to be careful with potted figs down here. The sun hitting the pots is really hard on the roots. I'm wondering if the pots were protected by frames of wood shielding them, if that might help protect the roots.

I'd like to help any way I can, but I'm not sure what you would like to know exactly, but let me know and let's see what happens.

Viv a.k.a. noss

PS--Al--It took me a while, but Mike's points added up to about +5,000, give or take a few each way, depending..... ;) I should give him about +1,000,000 for putting up with me for all these years and tolerating me with baby fig trees all over the yard, carport and house!

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 12:50AM
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stropharia(8b louisiana)

red_chucks, thanks for the info. I'd especially like to grow a pomegranate or two.

Josh, your orange looks great, I love the cold frame!

JoJo, that's a good suggestion. I'll have to check out a few different stores around here periodically. I'm tempted to buy every plant I want, but I don't have unlimited money, and the more plants I get now, the more I have to move with me in the fall...

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 1:03AM
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stropharia(8b louisiana)

Hey viv, sorry didn't see you there.

I don't really know anything about figs, to be honest. I've only eaten one a couple times, and have never considered growing them.

I'm actually just looking for suggestions in what sorts of perennial fruit/food plants I can grow in containers smaller than 15 gallons than I would be able to bring with me when I move to a coast, probably in zone 7 or warmer, this fall/winter. I'm especially interested in things that will potentially produce this summer, but understand that this is unlikely and it is not required for the discussion.

Feel free to tell me more about fig varieties that might fit the bill. Pretend I don't know anything about them (because I really don't! :-D )

    Bookmark   January 12, 2011 at 1:14AM
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noss(Zone 9a Lafayette, LA)

Hi Stropharia,

I only know about figs and not a whole lot, except it's pretty hard to kill them unless you drown them, or let them dry out all the way if they're in containers.

I would get a Violette de Bordeaux for starters. They evidently do well everywhere are are delicious, as per everyone. I've got a Negronne baby and those are supposed to be the same as VdB. It hasn't produced anything for me, as it's just a baby.

You need to talk to Dalton Durio and let him tell you what fig trees do well in containers. You can google Durio Nursery and get the phone number, or email him.

I'm sorry I can't be of more service to you.


    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 7:00PM
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stropharia(8b louisiana)

No Viv, thank you, that's great. I seriously didn't consider figs and know nothing about them, so that's a really good starting point. That's the kind of info I'm looking for.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2011 at 7:49PM
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Not to derail your thread, but I was wondering where you got your materials for the gritty mix. I'm in New Orleans and so far have only succeeded in finding sources for Turface (Ewing in Mandeville and John Deer Landscapes in Baton Rouge). I can't seem to track down Gran-I-Grit or similar product, nor pine bark fines. I thought for sure the feed stores around would have chicken grit, but I have not found any (I haven't yet checked the feed stores on the north shore though).

We seem to be in the same boat. I'm also new to growing perennials in containers and find myself wanting every fruit tree I see! But I may be moving in the next year also, so thanks for posting this!

    Bookmark   January 14, 2011 at 10:43PM
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stropharia(8b louisiana)

Hey LaCygne, I am using a modified gritty mix due to already having a lot of perlite, and not wanting to use granite because of its heaviness:

-4 parts perlite
-3 parts pine bark
-2 parts Turface

So I can't help you with the Gran-I-Grit. I got my Turface from Ewing in BR (down the street from John Deere, actually); their price was $9 per 50 lb bag, vs John Deere's $15. And a surly man even got down a new pallet with a forklift for me! So I'd call Ewing in Mandeville unless you're gonna drive here anyway.

Check out the link below. In post #8, Al details the reasoning behind the above gritty mix, you can decide if that's worthwhile to you. Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: my other thread on gritty/repotting/life

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 4:16AM
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Thanks so much! That link was just what I needed, and it's good to know there's such a price difference between Ewing and JD. Now I just have to scale down my Very Long List of things I want to grow into something manageable. =)

    Bookmark   January 15, 2011 at 8:06PM
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