Should I keep my new patio fruit trees indoors over winter?
I was wondering if it is better to move my fruit trees indoors over winter, they are currently growing in patio containers?
Neil from UK
None of the fruit tree we sell are suitable for growing indoors, and we do not advise this even if the weather is very bad. Even newly-delivered trees should never be kept indoors prior to planting.
Most fruit trees evolved in mountainous regions of central Asia and are therefore far more hardy than you might think. Related to this, most fruit trees expect - and in fact need - a period of cold weather during which they become dormant. When dormant, fruit trees are quite capable of surviving ice and snow and freezing conditions without difficulty.
Moving trees indoors over winter will lead to a number of problems which can be fatal to the tree or at the very least prevent it growing properly in the spring. The main problem is the un-seasonal heat and dry air of a heated house, which can cause shoots to emerge too early, only to dry out and die. Artificial light also confuses the tree into thinking that spring has arrived. If the heated indoor environment does not kill the tree over winter, moving it back outside in spring can also cause a serious check to growth. Ironically therefore, moving a young fruit tree indoors to safeguard it from bad winter weather is one of the surest ways to kill it.
Trees growing in patio-containers are obviously more at risk in very cold weather than trees planted in open ground, because cold air can get around and possibly underneath them. If very cold weather is forecast it therefore makes sense to consider moving them into shelter - but not indoors. A well ventilated cold un-heated greenhouse is a good choice, as it will provide shelter without causing the trees to come out of dormancy. An un-heated garage or shed is also worth considering - even if there is no natural light. Once conditions have returned to normal in early spring, you can move the trees back outside so that they come out of dormancy as naturally as possible.
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