Container growing apple trees and overpotting?

Hi all and merry christmas,

After i graft some apple trees in the spring coming i am thinking of growing 4 in fairly large containers (half whisky barrels). My plan is to buy 4 different rootstocks from dwarfing to vigorous and use the same variety just to see how each root performs in a container.

My question is, would it be a problem if i overpot them and put tjem straight into thr large whisky barrel? Would i be better growing them in a smaller pot for a year and then moving up to a larger container? It will definitely be more hassle if i do it that way as opposed to just going straight for the big container.

Any advice would be great.

Thank you,


I personally would put in final resting place right off the bat.


orange pippin says it’s ok to go straight to your final pot size:

“However you do not have to re-pot each year, you can use a large container straight away.”

I haven’t seen any evidence like a multi year side by side test of this though. just claims that smaller pots help develop denser roots


I think you will want to limit yourself to dwarfing rootstocks for containers. M27 and Bud 9 would be good and low vigor. Both would be ideal for containers. G 11 and M 9 would work as well. What rootstocks do you have available to you in Scotland?


Thanks all, really appreciate the help.

It’s looking like ill put them straight in place.

As for rootstocks available, i can get:


M25 being the most vigorous there. I know they wouldn’t normally go in pots but i have read sources suggesting that a more vigorous tree will act like a dwarf when restricted in a container so i was looking to experiment with that idea?


I can speak to m26 in halved whiskey barrels. I have tried Alkmene, Honeycrisp, Ashmead’s Kernal, Karmijn de Sonnaville, Smokehouse, Holstein and Black Twig Mammoth all successfully in them, some for ten+ years. I was told that the pot would limited the size and it definitely has. I would curious how the largest rootstocks do, especially if you try a high vigor variety.


Thanks quill. I’m not sure what variety ill choose. I guess a triploid would be considered one of the more vigorous?


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What sort of size did your M26 Ashmeads end up?


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what’s your watering and fertilizing program? I’m trying to do essentially the same thing with m26 in 25gal nursery pots but I’m just starting this season

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zor made a point worth the time to think about it before doing something.

Why would you consider it a hassle to plant in a one, two or three gallon nursery pot, and then move it to your barrel in one to three years?

Maybe hire a kid in the neighborhood if you’re not able to lift a pot with a tree in it a couple years from now?

Not intending to give you a difficult time, but if growing things is fun…then why put a baby plant in a giant container all at once?

And if growing things isn’t fun…let the fanciest garden center in your area deliver and set up the heavy potted plant, and get the desired plant right away…with no effort. (except for spending money).

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My Ashmead’s on m28 is tall and narrow, about 7 ft tall or @ 2 1/4 meters. It’s healthy but not too productive. I’d love to hear how to make them more productive. It really has some of the nicest strong sweet/tart flavor profiles of all.

I’m going straight into 25gal pots. a couple reasons. anything I’ve seen from a nursery is going into a 10gal at least, as soon as I get it, then 15 gal in a year, and 25gal a couple years later. so I figured I’d skip that. I got a bare root genetic dwarf peach last week that I actually had to root prune to get centered in a 25gal, so 10gal wouldn’t have even been right for that, maybe 15 could have worked.

I welded a special dolly for 25gal pots so moving them around is no problem. the weed growers here buy them in massive quantities so there’s a guy who sells them new for $9, very thick ones that reportedly last 10-20 years in our climate. the 10/15gal aren’t much cheaper, I think because the weed growers have standardized somewhat on 25gal. I can get high quality potting soil by the yard so that’s no problem

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I don’t suppose it would be a hassle to pot up gradually. Just means the pots i have sitting would need to be stored! Serves me right for not asking this question first!

I’m not sure what to do but i guess whatever i do it will be an interesting experiment!


If I wasn’t preparing for the big exodus, I would give a good handful of organic 5-5-5 (once or twice a year), with a little lime, trace mineral mix from a Skagit Valley Co. topped with good compost, shredded leaves and worm bin soil ( though I will melt this in water in the future) . I also hand water with fish hydrosylate once a month in early to late Spring. Use neem oil x2 for dormant oil and or actively aerated compost tea. I have far too many trees to test so I can’t honestly recommend my methods. I’m on a very small lot so I link 1/4" drip tubing to all the pots in Spring and remove late Fall. With that I save a ton of time and water daily but must keep an eye out for underwatered trees. Beware of 90+f degree days. I liked to put cardboard in front of the dark pots for root protection and a shade cloth in front of the trees. Most pots here are between 2-10 gallons. I am a crazed hobbyist not a commercial grower. Many of them will have gone through two household moves before getting into the earth. Alan is right when he says trees are happiest in the ground.


I think each repotting is a stress for a tree. Don’t see any reason why planting a tree in a large container at once would create any problem.



So somewhere m27 and m9. Apart from a smaller tree (achievable by using m27 ) are you seeing other benefits/ advantages to having potted m26 rather than m27?

I don’t agree.
(Unless you’re not keeping the dirt intact on the rootball when you move a tree to a bigger pot, you are actually stimulating it to grow more, not stressing a tree.)

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Thanks for commenting. I’m not doubting you in any way but just wondering if you have any sources i could read perhaps, about moving a tree stimulating it?
Thank you


I haven’t written the book yet. :slight_smile:

But I suspect you can find sources.
Everyone that’s been in the nursery trade awhile knows the dangers of roots circling around and around in a container…and there is even a pot called ‘rootmaker’ that has been developed just for this reason.
Not that I have used that pot much.

I don’t have a ready reference for you.
But I’d much rather buy a plant that started as a plug
moved to a gallon sized pot, then to 3 gallon sized pot…
than a cutting rooted directly into a 3 gallon pot…

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Wow Quill! no wonder your trees do so well in pots! It would be an upgrade for my trees if I treated even half as kindly! I going to save your post as a guide for things I could/should do. Thank you. mary

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