overwintering potted fruit trees

sobrown(7)August 7, 2013

Hello, I have some apple trees in pots that a friend grafted for me. I am going to be moving so I don't want to plant them in the ground, and they are still very small anyway. I know they need winter chilling to follow their natural cycle of dormancy. Would they be ok to keep them growing in the warm house over the winter and not go dormant for just one winter? How many years could one do this? I imagine eventually the lack of dormancy would stunt or kill the plant since that is what they naturally would do? If this is not recommended, what would be the best way for me to keep these potted trees over winter? (I am located in northern Alabama if that makes a difference). Thanks.

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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

In zone 7 northern Alabama apples are very hardy. They'd probably survive fine outdoors with minimal or no protection. Burying the pots in the ground would be superb. Covering them with leaves would work as long as mice or voles aren't an issue. Holding them in an unheated shed would work. But keep it as cold as possible during the day.

    Bookmark   August 7, 2013 at 1:03PM
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Thanks! I may keep them outside and buried in mulch or straw. I was just concerned with the pot/roots freezing. I have a garage but it gets warm during sunny days and warm spells.

This got me to thinking though, just out of curiosity, what would happen if one was to try to grow a temperate fruit tree like an apple that requires winter chilling indoors or in a greenhouse? Would the plant die eventually from not being able to enter dormancy, or would it just not flower and fruit?

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 2:39PM
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franktank232(z5 WI)


I grow pluots, peaches, and Japanese plums in containers here in Wisconsin. We usually see between -10 and -20F every winter. My garage is unheated and only the walls are insulated (its attached)... My containers freeze solid in there...they feel like frozen ice cubes when i move them around in the winter (which i try not to do, because plastic is so brittle)... I imagine my trees have been around 0F or maybe colder... No issues whatsoever... Once a tree becomes dormant and stays roughly the same temp and doesn't get hit with any sun (to warm the tree), they stay very very dormant... I bring them out when the threat of cold is done.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 3:05PM
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fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

Apples might get by skipping one winter. I don't know haven't tried it. Even my greenhouse is cold at night for 6 months. Now in the house where nights are warm all winter is another matter. I guess you'll have to try and see. Outdoors is safer, we know that works. Just be careful about varmints if you carry them outside under insulation of any kind. They'll chew the bark off.

Pots buried outside are about as safe as it gets. Cover with wire if deer or rabbits might visit.

    Bookmark   August 8, 2013 at 3:06PM
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