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How To Grow Tropical Fruits — Even In Cold Climates

Image source: insidebanabreadshead.com

Image source: insidebanabreadshead.com

If you have south-facing windows and extra space inside, growing tropical fruits in pots is a viable option for diversifying your food sources, even during the winter.

While some varieties have been developed to withstand winter outdoors as far north as zone six, most will require the protection and warmth of the indoors over winter. Some species, like avocado, will not withstand moderate wind, and must be protected indoors most of the time.

Establishing a potted orchard during the spring will beautify your surroundings, and is worth it if you plan to stay in your current home for the long-term. They are cumbersome to move, and some species will not survive, even if moved in a pot.

Starting From Scratch Versus Buying Trees

Purchasing fruit trees, their containers, and potting soil can be expensive, but if you have the money, it will spare you the years of effort. Trees do not produce fruit for several, or even many, years after starting from seeds or cuttings.

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On the other hand, learning to grow fruit trees from scratch is a valuable, long-term survival skill. If planting from seeds, start several in small pots to account for a low germination rate. Cuttings can be started in medium-sized pots, where they can live for one or several years, depending on the species.

Types Of Tropical Fruits To Try

Russian pomegranates that are hardy to zone six are widely offered, although most nurseries recommend no further north than zone seven. Plant these bushes out of the wind, and mulch heavily. Alternatively, bury it in a large pot, and move the pot indoors for the winter months.

Once the trees bloom, the fruit will ripen after seven months. Pomegranate doesn’t always ripen off the tree. If you pick it too early, place it in a sunny window to give it the best chance.

A seed from an avocado purchased at a grocery store will sprout and grow, but it is extremely unlikely to ever bear fruit. Avocados only bear fruit on trees that have been grafted. If you’re a beginner, it may be best to purchase this variety, in potted form, from a nursery. As stated before, avocado will not withstand wind, so find it a permanent place in your indoor orchard.

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Pineapples do not grow on trees, but on spiky plants that grow a few feet high. To propagate pineapple, slice the top from a whole fruit purchased at a grocery store. Remove as much excess fruit as possible, then strip several of the lower layers of leaves to expose the roots. The exposed area should be two or three inches tall.

The plant can be started by submerging the roots in water, or planting directly into a pot. The upper leaves die off slowly, and can be clipped as new leaves emerge. Within several weeks, you have an attractive house plant. It will mature in four years, and yield one fruit per year.

Valencia orange is a fast producer of the fruit world, maturing in about a year and half. Ripe fruits can be left on the tree for a few months, so they can be consumed at leisure. They also make a home smell wonderful.

Fertilize citrus with coffee grounds and Epsom salt. Place the mixture liberally on top of the soil. Place the pot in a bathtub, and water generously until liquid begins running out of the bottom. Alternatively, place the salts and grounds in a two-gallon container, and let it steep overnight before pouring it into the pot.

Grafting

To save space, consider grafting more than one type of fruit tree into a single plant. It’s a straight-forward, although precise, process. Novices can find several tutorials online. The whip graft and T-graft are considered beginning techniques.

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Trees within the same family can be grafted. Once your Valencia orange has been established, consider grafting lemons onto the tree.

Selling Potted Cuttings

When your trees become established, you can recoup the costs by potting and selling scions. A scion is a length of the previous year’s growth. Make a clean, angled cut, then remove most of the leaves.

I personally believe rooting hormone is unnecessary, but honey and crushed-up aspirin are alternatives to commercially made hormone. Dipping the cut end in cinnamon will help protect the plant from bacterial or fungal infection during the healing process.

Plant the cutting into a medium- or large-sized pot. Depending on your local laws, you should be able to sell the pots on a small scale. Research state codified law for the definition of a nursery and greenhouse, and zoning laws to determine your property classification. Many cities will turn a blind eye to a few potted trees being sold as a part of a garage sale.

Do you have experience growing tropical fruit? Share your tips in the section below:

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