Best tropical fruits for container growing?

I would love to get people’s opinions and experience in growing tropical fruits in containers. In particular, what has been the most worthwhile? For context, I am in z8 in NC, so I get lots of heat and humidity and my season is fairly long. I don’t currently have a a greenhouse, but by the time I get to needing one, I probably will.

I personally have a few young plants, but have not gotten any fruit yet. I have:

Barbados cherry
Seems really easy to grow and precocious. The fruit might not be much to write home about, though, from what I have read.

Slow grower. I have heard it is important to get a selection as unimproved plants can have a disagreeable flavor.

Eugenia hybrid
I was told my plants are a hybrid of savanna cherry and cherry of the rio grande. Who knows if that is the case, but the plants have done very well for me, growing at a good pace all summer. These might be able to take a bit of cold so if my winter protection is not as good as it ought I might be alright. Supposedly tastes quite good–I really hope so, since I can’t easily grow real cherries here.

Strawberry/lemon guava
Psidium litorale or var litorale. Mine are just seedlings, so I expect it will be a while before I taste them. They are growing well, but seem a little more thirsty than the others listed. On the flip side, they are supposed to be the most hardy of the topicals I have. I really like Mexican cream guavas, so if these are anything like those, I’ll be pretty happy.

If others have grown these out to fruiting I’d love to know what you thought. Ease of care is probably just as high on my priorities as taste and yield.

Some that I don’t have but have some reason to believe could be viable are:

Other Eugenia sp.
There are so many of them, along with related plants in the syzygium genus. Many sound pretty bad, not gonna lie, but plant collectors seem to love collecting dozens of these things. Are there any good ones that are also pretty easy?

Just endless myrtles I guess. Seems like most Plinia species are a pain to take care of and take forever to fruit. The hybrid red jaboticaba is the one I have seen that seems the easiest to manage. But, if I live somewhere where I can grow muscadines, is growing a fussy tropical plant that tastes like muscadines worth it? Would love to get people’s feelings on this one.

Atemoya and cherimoya seem to be the ones people grow most often, and there are a lot of improved selections of these bad boiz. Sounds like the fruit is superlative, some even say that they are the best fruit in the world. But it also seems like the yield is low and inconsistent, and that they may be tougher to grow.

I realize there are literally hundreds of others that I did not list, so feel free to bring up other options. I’m not including figs or citrus here because, well, they are not tropical, or bananas because you’d have to be crazy to grow a banana in a pot. Ditto for mangos?

To recap: what are some tropical fruits that can easily be grown in a container, have good yield, and actually taste good?


I use to grow Sapodilla in my greenhouse along with mangos and a chocolate tree. It did well in a 5 gallon pot and fruited fairly well. Tastes like brown sugar and I have seen the fruit for sale in Whole Foods in Raleigh NC many years ago.

I got the variety Alano from Pine Island Nursery via mail order along with some mangos.

Sad story on my first crop. They keep a long time in the refrigerator so I had a container of them in the back of the refrigerator. My wife thought they were bad because they were brown and threw them out. She doesn’t care much for my fruit endeavors so paid no attention to what they really were.


I don’t grow anything in pots, but I tried my hand with some of the plants you mentioned above. Some comments below

Lemon guava is very good while I didn’t like Strawberry (or Strawberry lemon) guava. The latter is usually quite astringent until it is fully ripe and not great texture-wise at that point. Again, these are mostly propagated as seedlings, so YMMV. I have seen some really big lemon guava selections. I need to hunt for some cuttings.

People have figured out hand pollination to increase the yields of these fruits in their non-native locations. If you strip all the leaves at the right time, add bloom booster fertilizer and hand-pollinate, there is good evidence that the tree will overset. I haven’t been as successful as others in HP but I haven’t taken the time to learn more.


Ive tried a bunch of subtropicals here. At one point or another, I had grafted loquat and pitanga here (scions from ECHO in Ft. Myers),as well as seedling or cutting grown true guava, cattley guava, strawberry guava (Ugni), pineapple guava, cherimoya and some annona hybrids, star fruit, babaco, tamarillo, dwarf tamarillo, lemon, calamondin, kumquats, and of course figs. Of those, many went through periods of happiness followed but some degree of misery.- occasionally of the fatal sort. Tried and true stuff for me are the citrus, tamarillo, and figs.

In your shoes, Id consider the stuff that is more on the zone pushing end of things rather than something that is going to wig out from photoperiodism issues and generally not adapted to prolonged winter dormancy. Tried and true stuff here are figs, citrus, and tamarillo. All happy going dormant, tasty, and productive enough to be worthwhile. Stuff I would grow if I lived somewhere a little more conducive would be Ugni, pineapple guava, and loquat. All can take a reasonable degree of cold. Fruiting time is crucial too. Loquat flowers and fruits in the winter, so it never sized or flavored up well for me, even though the tree grew quite happily. Pitanga can be pretty tasty. The red ones taste sort of turpentine-ish, with the black ones being more pleasant in their resinousness. Despite grafting it, and the fact that it grew quite well as a house plant, it never flowered.


Jaboticaba, (alano) sapodilla, starfruit, miracle fruit, and citrus. These would be my top picks for in a pot in a greenhouse.


how big will a sapodilla get? I think one of my mystery seedlings (my partner keeps planting every seed from fruit they eat) is one. my sister sent me a bunch of fruit, she’s in a tropical place, and it was one of them so it is possible that’s what he planted. if so, I’ll bring it into the greenhouse, unless they get twenty feet tall.

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sapodilla seedling can get very large, well 20 foot easy… in maybe 40 years.

Alano is a dwarf sapodilla topping out around 6 feet usually.


I’ve seen old trees in Miami that are well over 40 ft tall, but I bet even non-dwarf seedlings in containers can be kept reasonably small with pruning, maybe root pruning occasionally. Don’t know how that would impact fruiting, though.


I had a Silas Woods Sapodilla,which is suppose to stay fairly small.Like most of the tropicals here,the plant didn’t last very long.
Reports say,the flavor is very good.


You mention several guavas, would you happen to know the species names? I have psidium cattleyanum v littora (potted), and for non true guavas I have ugni molinae (in ground–most died in the summer heat) and acca sellowania (in ground). I might be getting ahold of p. longipetiolatum and/or p. robustum in the future.

Hmm, sounds like a lot of work. Maybe it’s worthwhile for the really good annonas. IDK, for the time being I’m going to skip them. Maybe when I’m older and have more money, time, and purposelessness.

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You may have just sold me on dwarf sapodilla. I had thought I had tasted it before and didn’t like it, but in hindsight that was mammey sapote I had, not sapodilla.

It’ll probably be at least next year before I get one, if I do. I’d like to taste one before if possible, and there’s a decent chance one of the local Mexican grocery stores will have it at some point, they’re really good for rarer central American stuff. But, at the very least, you’ve put it on my radar.

And like, I’ll admit that it sounds kinda like it tastes like certain figs or some persimmons, but if it can manage either a somewhat unique flavor, texture, or just a different season, I’ll be happy enough, provided it’s not to much work to grow.

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Sapodilla can be very slow growing. I tried growing a few from seed. They grew about a foot after a couple of years. I’ve seen 10 year old grafted trees that were producing heavily in 10 gallon pots.

I do remember a massive tree where I was growing up in south India that I used to climb as a child. Very hard wood — like ebony. And very safe to climb. I wonder how it got so large.


I’ve never seen sapodilla actually mature/ready to ripen in grocery stores outside of south FL. Scratch the skin with your fingernail, and if it’s green it’ll never ripen right. You want it golden yellow under the skin.

And the flavor and texture vary enormously from tree to tree. Some are gritty, some are smooth, tastes range from brown sugar to caramel mostly. They are very good when properly ripened.


I definitely agree with a lot of this. I’ve no desire to try and grow mangos or those fussy, temperamental avocados, let alone silly things like cocoa or coffee (a fruit that’s hard to grow, and then I’ve got to work really hard to even eat it, and it might not be any better than store bought? No thanks.). But, with what conventional stuff I can grow, I’ve several gaps in seasons and, moreover, in flavors that I’d love to fill, and it looks like some tropicals might just do.

Most figs I can do in ground here without protection, it’s my summers that are more of a problem than my winters (too wet…). I’ve got a decent collection in ground, and will probably add to it to broaden the flavors I can get. I’ll also be doing a select few figs in contains later so I can get earlier harvests and maybe dabble in some of the really premier varieties.

As for zone pushing, I’m right there with ya.) I’ve got a handful of citrus in ground, most of which will need winter protection for the first few years anyway. Once I have a greenhouse put together, I’m going to expand my collection by quite a lot, as I’ve some ambitious breeding ideas and am young enough to have a realistic shot at pulling out off. In the next few years, I’m going to be adding a number of zone 9 plants in ground and just doing some winter protection. Star fruit, the nicer varieties of opuntia ficus-indica, and a few other edible cacti are on my list. A few of the guavas I’m interested in also fit the bill here, being from the comparatively temperate highlands of southern Brazil. I guess I could grow tea as well, and not even have to bother with winter protection, but I don’t know that it excites me enough to bother.

Tamarillo I have looked into in the past. I remember I ended up dismissing it, but I don’t remember why. It’s quite sour, yes? I think I remember not being very excited by the description of the taste or something. I do enjoy a lot of other minor solanums though. Pepino dulce is one that I really, really like, and I’ve grown fond of my “late summer decent blueberry substitute” litchi tomatoes (and of course physalis and yellow tomatillos). I think if I’d bother with one of the perennial solanums, I’d want it to be something I can eat out of hand, something sweet.

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I’ll ask the store managers if they even get sapodilla in. The Mexican grocery stores are the only place I’ve ever seen carry a bunch of tropical fruits and certainly the only ones who consistently have actually ripe papaya and good bananas other then Cavendish.

Good to know about the scratching trick. I’ll be sure to remember that.

Sounds very good, almost like the happy marriage of a pear and one of the better “sugar” type figs.

Curious which jabo you’d recommend? Most commonly I see people growing red hybrid, which seems to be a lot easier than most of the others. But, again, does it actually taste all that different from a muscadine?

Though, I’ll give it fair consideration even if so, since it sounds like I’d get to have it outside of the normal muscadine season, provided it’s easy enough to grow.

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Sapodilla season in Florida is from February to June. I bought some freshly picked fruit at Robert is Here fruit stand in Homestead back in 2000. Liked them so much I called them when I got back to Virginia to send me a 10 lb box of them. Nowadays it would be pretty expensive but it was reasonably priced back then. I also ordered some from a Houston based grower the next year.
As for growing them, I made a custom mix that was very well drained using chicken grit, perlite, peat and screened pine bark. I wanted something that wouldn’t stay too soggy for a long time during extended overcast days during the winter. I was watering greenhouse daily most of year since it was mainly used for orchids.
I shut down my greenhouse many years ago due to taking a new job that kept me on the road. When I retire I will get back to growing fun things like Sapodilla.


For container growing (i.e., this thread topic), that’s very true. In-ground in my slightly heated greenhouse they are the only thing that seems pretty consistently healthy and vigorous. Much less fussy than my citrus, which seem to turn yellow over the winter and keep getting spider mites. Banana died from root rot over the winter. Dragonfruit keep dying in winter, I’ve only got one sad one left.

Only been a few years for the avocados and still no fruit, though, but I’m hoping next year will be the year because this year the biggest ones are getting 8+ ft tall and almost as wide. Hardy ones could probably do fine in-ground in a high tunnel for you if you could add heaters during those occasional arctic blasts. But not in containers.


I need to refresh my mind on the topic as it has been about 4 years since ive been in the tropics. I think red are generally the safest bet as they precocious and can produce a few times a year. They will produce more often with temperature or some stress, they will fruit more with plenty of water and fertility. They are basically like a muscadine grape, but can fruit 4-6 times a year with the right cultivar and climate.

For both sapodilla and jaboticaba I would buy them from a south Florida nursery in a larger size, mail order.

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Finally a thread where I can answer questions rather than ask them!

I live in the Boston area so any tropical fruit I grow have to be in containers as patio plants (outdoors in summer, indoors over winter).

My journey started with a Meyer lemon, which successfully fruited relatively quickly as an entirely indoor plant in a window with extremely high amounts of sunlight. It died from root rot earlier this spring but I plan to replace it soon.

Since then, I’ve added:

  • Ponderosa lemon (bloomed, but hasn’t held blossoms yet in year one)
  • Nagami kumquat (bloomed, small fruit in first year, we’ll see if they stay)
  • Owari frost mandarin (not yet bloomed in first year)
  • Nam doc mai mango (bloomed vigorously in first year on a foot tall plant, thinned to two mangos even though I’m supposed to remove them all I couldn’t bear to do it, these mangos are now each 2 inches long, we’ll see what happens)
  • Guava ruby supreme (half a dozen small fruit on the second year, we’ll see if they hold)
  • Cattley lemon guava (half a dozen small fruit, the largest the size of golf balls, on the second year)
  • Papaya (unknown variety, picked up from a wild seedling growing in a backyard in Puerto Rico and brought back, about three feet high, who knows if it will ever fruit)
  • Dragonfruit American Beauty (second year, now six feet high, haven’t gotten it to blossom yet but hopeful for next year after vigorous vegetative growth this summer)
  • Pineapple (grown from a store cutting top, now about a foot tall in a tiny pot, we’ll see)

I also grow various tomatoes and peppers in containers as annuals (with 1-2 ornamental favorites in smaller pots as perennials that I move indoor and out)

I recommend as a book and Logees in general as a reference, since growing fruiting plants in containers is their store’s specialty.

“You’d have to be crazy to grow a banana in a pot” — there are indeed many of us all nuts! has an entire subforum just for growing bananas in containers (

I have half a dozen bananas in various size pots. The oldest is a three year old sold to me as an ice cream banana but likely a namwah; it is about six feet high and has mostly lived as an indoor plant with not as much light as you would think it needs. I doubt this will ever fruit but it’s survived as a big pretty house plant. I have a few dwarf or super dwarf cavendish plants that I bring inside and out; these might fruit one day, but mostly I grow them for the tropical foliage, and they produce lots of babies I give away. This year I started a Veinte Cohol short season bananas that has grown very vigorously in a five gallon bucket and I hope this will fruit next year if I really baby it over the winter in as much sunlight as possible.