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I have three apple trees in pots, dwarf root stock.  My DD got me them for Mothers Day about three years ago so they are special to me, plus I adore apple trees as I grew up with one in my garden smile  We have a smallish front garden and too many shrubs and trees already, so have had them in pots, and a small back garden with nothing as yet planted.  I have little idea on pruning etc so they have grown and grown.  I can’t bear to give them away and want to plant them in the back garden.  I think they should not get bigger than 8/10 feet tall.  My question is how much space do they need?  At a pinch I could put one in the front at the corner to screen the garden from the street, and two in the back.  There will be about 20 square metres of ground, is that enough to have two small apple trees and still a bit of lawn and patio space?  Alo, how and when do I prune, do I need to prune if they are planted in the ground?  TIA xx


Without seeing your yard I couldn’t really say, but yes, they shouldn’t grow more than 8 - 10ft, but bear in mind they will likely need some form of pruning to stay in good condition, not necessarily to maintain their size.
Get a good book on pruning to show you when to prune, but most apples need a very minor clip in August just at the tips to ensure that their energy goes to producing the fruit, and again after the harvest when the tree becomes dormant so to speak.
You need to make sure that you plant them at least 2.5m apart from each other and they will have access to sun.
Roots from apples do spread, but dwarf apples not as much as full grown, obviously.

I’d say they’d be fine, but like I said, without actually seeing them or your yard, it’s hard to make full assessment wink

I was having a chat about dwarf fruit trees to a gardener the other week - what timing! He said *don’t* plant them out, or even repot them - They are meant to have a small root ball, and it can kill them to give the roots extra space. Maybe best to get some decorative pots for the original ones to go inside?

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Dwarf stock fruit trees are absolutely fine in the ground. The stock they are grown/grafted onto means that they remain small in the root ball growth and the only consideration you need to give to this when planting in the ground is to make sure the soil it goes into is good soil. They should be about 8 foot apart if they are the dwarf varieties - these are the ones often used to create stepover edging to borders and are planted that far apart like you might see in Victorian walled gardens.

I’ve seen this before as an example of spacing with apple trees -

Generally dwarf rooted apple trees don’t need pruning every year like other apple trees, but some pruning can be done to shape it or to thin out some of the branches, and allowing circulation of air. As you say these have grown and grown, maybe some pruning will help - to be honest it would be easier to google pruning or check a fruit book in the library as trying to explain it in a post is not easy. But yes you can prune them to get the shape back - I would try not to prune too much in one go as the tree will respond by trying to grow more branches rather than putting it’s energy into the next fruit crop. Prune say a third of the branches you want to when you plant them out and then a third in the winter and the rest next Summer.

They will be fine in the space you say you have, just remember some decent soil for them and a stake. We have a small garden and have an already established smallish apple tree (60+yrs from when the house was built) and have 3 additional apple trees (one a 3-in-1), a pear tree (3-in-1) and an almond and they are all thriving.

Thanks everyone, very useful info.  I’m so chuffed that I can keep my apple trees.  We have no plans to move from here any time soon!  Eden, am I OK to plant them out now or is there a better time of year? smile


LesleyA - 06 August 2013 08:50 AM

Eden, am I OK to plant them out now or is there a better time of year? smile

Are they fruiting this year? If they are then I would wait until after you have picked the apples and the tree is in the dormant phase, so in the Autumn/Winter.
If they are not fruiting you could do it now, just give the plant pot a thorough soaking before transplanting and water in well into the soil. The leaves may wilt a little, but giving it a regular drink will help it recover if they do.

One is not fruiting, and the other two have like one tiny apple each?!  This is why I think they are not thriving in the pots.


They’ve probably become pot-bound and used up all the nutrients in the pots. Although they can be grown in pots, container fruit growing needs extra care and attention, they’ll do much better in the ground.

I would personally just transplant them, I would remove the apples that are there and prune a little after transplanting. If you can give the soil they are going into some nutrients (see below) and that will help replenish the tree, and a good organic mulch like leaf mould would be great. When we’ve moved fruit trees, the next year is usually not so good for fruiting but then they come back wonderfully after that, just takes a little time for them to adjust.

What we have used to great success and totally natural is some Mycorrhizal Fungi additive - it’s great for trees and shrubs, but also other plants. It’s a symbiotic fungus that is naturally found in the ground but not usually in high enough quantities and in gardens can be lacking due to working of the ground so buying some to add to the soil will be beneficial in promoting the roots to grow and encourage a healthy tree. It also helps plants recover from the shock of transplanting. Well worth it, and a little goes a long way. More info on this fab stuff here -  (Rootgrow is even endorsed by the RHS, which is a rare thing for them to do!). Oh and I don’t have any links with them, just a happy user/consumer of the stuff!

You should be able to pick it up at any good nursery or online at all the gardening/seed merchants - e.g.  or even Amazon - (don’t they sell everything these days!)

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