Dwarf fruit trees are deliberately kept smaller than standard fruit trees by pruning, limiting root space and fertilizer or grafting onto the rootstock of a smaller tree. Gardeners grow these trees in limited space as ornamental plants or for fruit production in miniature gardens. In Japanese culture, you'll often see these trees grown in bonsai pots.
The dwarf fruit tree can grow in space with 8 feet all around and it doesn't live as long as larger trees. The semi-dwarf fruit tree is a little larger and needs 15 feet in diameter in which to grow. You must prune it every year to prevent it from over- balancing or growing too tall.
The smaller trees are easier to grow, maintain and harvest while still producing a good amount of fruit. You can plant multiple trees within a small space, if you keep each tree small. Your orchard can grow several trees with each bearing a different type of fruit, too.
The dwarf tree produces standard-sized fruit within five years but the amount is less than larger trees. The semi-dwarf will make hundreds of pieces of fruit per year, with the occasional year off after a heavy yield. The larger dwarf tree produces fruit for up to 20 years and is the most widely planted type of fruit tree among gardeners today.
A dwarf tree in a container is easier to handle and will produce fruit faster than their outdoor counterparts. Use a plastic, clay, wood, ceramic or metal pot with drainage holes. If you purchase a miniature fruit tree from a nursery, then the container you choose should also measure half a foot wider than the tree's pot at the nursery.
Some small fruit trees can grow in partial sun but most prefer full sunlight. Plant your miniature tree in well-drained, non-compact soil and allow the surface of the soil to dry out before applying water. Feed it approximately every month or month and a half during the growing season. Prune regularly to keep the tree's shape, particularly during the dormancy season. Re-pot the dwarf fruit tree every two years.