1. Containing the spread
If you’ve ever planted something that didn’t stay where it belonged, you’ll know the pain of weighing up a plant's pros and cons. Fortunately, plants such as strawberries and raspberries that spread vegetatively (through runners) are easily controlled by growing them in pots. This way, you still reap the rewards of their harvest, but without chasing them all around the garden.
2. Finding the right aspect
Sometimes you just have to try to grow that tree or fruit, even though you’re told it’s not right for your climate. The easiest way around these climatic issues is to grow these exotic plants in pots. If you’re willing to move your potted plants around to protect them or increase sunlight at different times of the year, then you have more chance of success.
3. Basking in the seasons
At different times of the year, some plants will look amazing while others are knocking on death’s door. Growing these seasonal crops in pots allows you to proudly display them while they’re at their best, and hide them when they’re not.
4. Creating the ideal conditions
There are a few plants that can be picky about their soil. These need either highly alkaline or highly acidic soil to thrive. It can be difficult to provide this in the garden where so many plants share the same soil and conditions. Growing them in pots allows you to give each plant the ideal growing medium it needs.
Potted plants take up far less space than garden-grown ones as they don’t compete for resources. They have their own potting mix, they get their own water and fertiliser and they’re positioned to maximise their available sunlight.
Fruit perfect for growing in pots
Botanical name: Rubus idaeus
Contrary to popular belief, raspberries are not just suited to large gardens; they’re also perfect for pots. Plant virus-free crowns now to enjoy fruit next summer. Train developing canes up a climbing frame or obelisk to maximise your vertical harvest. Known to spread and become a little weedy, planting in pots helps contain their rampant growth. Easy to maintain, remove dead canes after harvest. Thornless varieties are available and are a good choice where space is limited. Net the entire pot in summer to protect your crop from birds.
Recommended varieties: Willamette, Heritage and the thornless Skeena.
Pot size: 30cm, or plant three to four crowns in a 60cm pot.
Botanical name: Ananas comosus
Most people don’t realise how easy it is to grow pineapples in pots.
A member of the bromeliad family, they have a small root system and will grow in all areas of Australia as long as they’re protected from frost. Each plant bears one pineapple, which can take one to two years to harvest. If growing your pineapple from the top of a store-bought fruit, you’ll wait longer to harvest than if you buy a plant online or from the nursery. The amount of sunlight they need depends on your climate; pineapples are more shade-tolerant in the tropics. They also make a lovely indoor plant.
Recommended varieties: Pure Gold, Queen Pineapple, Smooth Cayenne, Mareeba Sweet and Paci c Gold.
Pot size: 50cm
Botanical name: Ficus carica
You may be surprised to discover that fruiting figs do well in pots. Although figs are traditionally large plants with vigorous root systems, growing figs in pots limits their roots and helps dwarf the overall tree. Pruning is key to growing potted figs. Start by cutting off the main trunk at around 45cm; this limits its height, making it easier to net in summer. Prune in winter to encourage compact growth and in summer when branches reach around 15 to 20cm. This helps to minimise lateral growth, which can take up valuable space in your garden or balcony.
Recommended varieties: Most figs can be grown in pots, including Preston Proli c, Brown Turkey, Black Genoa, White Genoa and White Adriatic.
Pot size: 50-60cm
Botanical name: Physalis ixocarpa
Popular in Mexico, the tomatillo tastes like tomato with a hint of citrus and is used throughout the world. Ideal in pots, this otherwise sprawling shrub can be easily staked to control its spread. Grow in full sun or partial shade. Harvest when the fruit splits the papery cocoon. Keep the husk on harvested fruit until you’re ready to serve. Store in the fridge for up to a month. Plant at least two for adequate cross-pollination.
Recommended varieties: Green varieties include Toma Verde and Verde Puebla or try the purple varieties of Michoacan Purple and De Milpa.
Pot size: 30-40cm
Botanical name: Vaccinium corymbosum
Blueberries can be tricky to grow in the garden as they need highly acidic soil (a pH between 4 and 5.5). By growing them in pots, it’s easy to create optimal soil conditions required for these antioxidant-rich berries to thrive. Use a potting mix suited to rhododendrons or azaleas (other acid-loving plants), and mulch with pine needles to maintain soil acidity. Place the pot in full sun and water regularly. Fruit develops slowly so be patient; it can take several years to get a good crop and you will need at least two plants for adequate cross-pollination.
Recommended varieties: Rabbiteye varieties grow well in most areas. Southern Highbush varieties can be successfully grown throughout NSW and southern Queensland. Northern Highbush varieties have high chill requirements and are only suitable to areas with long, cold winters.
Pot size: 30cm
Botanical name: Citrullus vulgaris
Watermelons also take up a lot of valuable space. Grown in pots, they still produce their delicious fruit, but without taking over the entire garden. Sow three or four seeds in the centre of a pot. Place in full sun and allow ample space for the vine to spread and fruit to mature. Vines produce four to six melons each. Water regularly but avoid wetting the foliage.
Recommended varieties: Small Shining Light, Moon and Stars and Sugar Baby.
Pot size: 30cm
Botanical name: Fragaria spp.
An easy-to-grow favourite, strawberries have been grown in pots for centuries. Try growing your own in pots, hanging baskets or towers. Perennial plants, strawberries produce their best harvest in the first year, producing runners that can be transplanted for further harvests. Pick daily when in season to prevent birds from stealing your delicious crop.
Recommended varieties: In cool climates, try Alinta and Red Gauntlet. In temperate areas, grow Torrey and Tioga, and in northern climates try QHI Sugarbaby and Redland Joy. Always select virus-free crowns and runners.
Pot size: Strawberry pot, hanging basket or 15 to 20cm pot
Botanical name: Musa spp.
Bananas prefer a subtropical climate with protection from the wind. In warm, temperate areas, place in full sun, but in tropical areas, provide potted plants with part shade. They will grow and fruit in cooler climates, but you may need to ripen fruit indoors if the weather cools before the fruit has a chance to ripen on the stem. Keep plants well-watered and, if possible, group a few pots together to create a favourable micro-climate. Growing bananas is restricted in some areas, so be sure to check with your council prior to buying your plants.
Recommended varieties: Look for dwarf varieties when growing bananas in pots. In cooler climates, try Rajapuri, Dwarf Ducca and Dwarf Cavendish. Lady Fingers is versatile and does well in most areas. All grow well in tropical and subtropical areas.
Pot size: 30-40cm