Whether you're short on space or looking to grow fruits that don't fare well in your hardiness zone, container fruit trees offer flexibility and compact size that standard sized trees lack. Many types of tropical and temperate fruits grow well in containers. Gardeners should always place container fruit trees in full sun when outside, since fruit requires sunlight to ripen.
Growing a fig tree in a container allows you to keep the tree from sprawling and to accent your garden with its showy foliage. Since fig trees need winter protection in temperatures below 30 degrees F (or 15 degrees F if the tree is dormant), keeping a container fig allows you to easily move the tree indoors during cold spells. While any type of fig is suitable for container gardening, avoid getting those that require fig wasps for pollination, such as Smyrna or Calimyrna.
Dwarf and columnar apple trees grow well in containers. They don't grow taller than 10 feet and can be kept shorter with careful pruning. Dwarf apple trees bear fruit earlier than standard-sized trees and are easily maintained. Since apples are cold hardy, container apple trees won't need to be moved inside during the winter. You can find dwarf apple trees available in a large number of varieties. Columnar apple trees bear fruit off a single stem and are suitable for small containers.
A cross between a true lemon and an orange, the Meyer lemon has aromatic flesh and a vibrant yellow rind that make it well suited for desserts. Dwarf Meyer lemon trees grow well in containers both in temperate areas suited for citrus crops and colder areas, where the container can be brought indoors during winter. Oregon State University estimates that gardeners can keep dwarf Meyer lemons at a height of 5 to 6 feet with regular pruning. This tree is a good beginner citrus tree for gardeners because it has no thorns.
Kumquats resemble small oranges and can be eaten whole--seeds, skin and all. The fruits work well in savory salads or candied and used in desserts. Kumquat trees average 8 to 15 feet in height and are ideal container trees. Gardeners in cold climates can keep the trees indoors in winter and outdoors in summer. Native to China, kumquats have been grown in North America for ornamental or culinary use since the 19th century, notes Purdue University.