Fruiting indoor decorative tree or shrub

Oscarmatic(CA z10/23)December 7, 2013

Hello. I'm looking for recommendations for a tree or shrub that can be grown indoors full-time and will produce fruit. This is not overwintering; I am looking for a plant that can thrive and fruit without being outside. If anyone has successfully grown a fruiting houseplant, I would love to hear about it.

I have a south-facing patio window with lots of sun, and I hope to place a decorative and productive plant just inside. See below for a photo of the cache pot in place.

I'm looking for something house-friendly -- no thorns, spikes, or irritants. It would be a bonus if the plant has lovely bark or foliage too. I understand that without access to insect pollinators, my plant may need some assistance with a paintbrush to set fruit.

Here's a few links from my further research about growing fruit trees indoors:

I look forward to your recommendations!

(I posted this question in the Houseplants forum, but I'm also interested in the expertise of the Fruit & Orchards folks.)

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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

"no thorns, spikes"

Well rule out citrus then!

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 1:32PM
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floral_uk z.8/9 SW UK

I grew a Meyer lemon for many years. It had no thorns.

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 1:54PM
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I have one Meyer Lemon with thorns and the older one does not have them. The thorns on my Key Lime are nasty. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   December 7, 2013 at 10:18PM
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I picked up a Calamondin for a coworker,about a year ago at One Green World.He is from the Philippines and had an older one that wasn't producing as well as it had been.They like to use them as a seasoning.
As far as I know,they keep it inside and said the younger one has flowers and fruit.No thorns when I saw it.
There is also a dwarf Mulberry I saw online at Logee's. Brady

Here is a link that might be useful: Mulberry âÂÂIssaiâ (Morus alba) at Logee's

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 1:25AM
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Growing dwarf citrus indoors and out has many pluses. Since I live in zone 7A my citrus spends the summer outdoors and the winter in the southern exposure of my dining room. By the first of the year the lemon trees are usually loaded with blossoms that mostly fall, however, the fragrance is overwhelmingly delicious! My key lime has never bloomed yet but I cannot wait for that to happen. Citrus (in non-citrus growing areas) is a bit tricky. They have to aclimate to sun exposure and temperature and can lose their leaves in the process, making your shrub, quite unattractive. But just wait a bit and the leaves return along with blooms that will produce fruit. What I have found most important, and rewarding is 'Al's Gritty Mix' which you can find the recipe for on the Citrus Forum. Nothing like Lemon pie with your own lemons! Meyers have a unique flavor and are far sweeter (a bit more golden in color) than your supermarket lemon. Mrs. G

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 9:59AM
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Oscarmatic(CA z10/23)

Thanks for the tip about the Calamondin, Brady. I hadn't heard of them before your recommendation and another from summersunshine in the houseplants thread. I'll look into that some more, and see if I can find something to taste at this morning's farmer's market.

Meyer lemon seems to be the most popular indoor citrus, from my browsing around the web. I hadn't yet considered the benefit of the delicious-smelling leaves and blossoms! It sounds like it would be lovely to have in the house, even if I don't get it to set fruit. I'm glad to know there are varieties without thorns, floral_uk and MrsG. I'll be selecting my tree carefully at the nursery to find the most attractive one, and now I know to triple-check for no thorns.

I mixed my first batch of 5-1-1 potting mix this weekend, and I just need to get the granite to have what I need for the Gritty Mix. For a larger pot like this tree will need, I'm considering whether to use perlite in place of some or all of the granite, to reduce the weight of the pot to manageable. I'm still reading and researching, so no decision yet.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 11:52AM
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shazaam(NC 7B)

If you're concerned about the weight of gritty mix, the 5-1-1 mix works quite well for citrus in my experience.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 1:46PM
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I have done calamondin indoors. The floral aroma can be intense at times.

Citrus season is nearing and calamondins for sampling can sometimes be found at upscale grocers in January.

A houseplant could be expected to yield a few ounces of juice a couple of times a year, unless you are wildly successful. Calamondins are used as an ingredient rather than eaten whole when freshly picked.

    Bookmark   December 8, 2013 at 10:28PM
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I can relate my experience growing the following in my sunroom in winter/outside in summer:
- citrus (blood orange, lemon, lime, kumquat, mandarin)
- guava
- feijoa
- mango
- passion fruit
- white sapote
- fruiting cacti (garambullo, tuna)
- pomegranate
- peppers (seriously, these are nice fruiting perennials)

Overall, you need to set your priorities right away, since growing actual food (ie. more than a few little tastes from each plant per year) this way is very time consuming.

Most fruiting plants cannot withstand the conditions that houseplants can, without loss of vigor and disease/insect problems. From the above list, all of the citrus were the most prone to insect pests, by far. The limes and blood orange never fruited over the course of 3 or 4 years.

Only the kumquat and lemon produced any significant amount of fruit each year. I would have to vote for the kumquat as the best indoor citrus. If you get one without diseases/pests and keep it away from other plants, you could have an easy-care beautiful fruiting houseplant.

Possibly guava and definitely fruiting cacti probably best all around in this category. Pomegranate is another great one but is deciduous.

    Bookmark   December 9, 2013 at 4:09PM
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I have been growing citrus (meyers lemons, key lime, orange) indoors (winter) and outside (summer) for a few years now. My observations are:

One can grow them and get fruit without too much trouble, but you need to be aware of a few things and do it right. I found Meyers Lemons to be the easiest to grow and the most productive, although my key lime is just fruiting for the first time, so we will see. I typically get 10-15# of lemons per tree/bush per harvest (one or two harvests per year).

Several key things to be aware of are, citrus are very susceptible to leaf drop when changing climates. It is directly related to their ability to bring water up from the roots to the leaves, which only happens at soil temps >50F or so. Many folks see leaf drop when bringing their citrus in during the fall, and it is due to the soil temps falling Also citrus require a large amount of light. They may live with less but won't produce much fruit or grow well. My key lime did not flower until this year I suspect because this was the first year that I got it outside, in full sun. If you are after fruit, not much point in growing them unless you have a spot that will give them enough light and decent temps for them to thrive.

    Bookmark   December 10, 2013 at 11:11PM
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