Medlars are a great addition to any garden, especially for those with limited space, as they are smaller fruit trees belonging to the same family as apples and quinces, which are in the Hawthorne and rose family. They have many attractive qualities and are visually appealing with lovely white blossoms, stunning autumn foliage, and unique edible fruit. Native to Europe and Asia they can be grown in temperate regions around the world. As it is not possible for everyone to grow a medlar tree in their garden, we will be looking at how you can grow a medlar tree in a pot.
What You'll Learn Today
What Is A Medlar Tree?
Medlar trees are a type of fruit tree that is closely related to apples and pears and are known for their bushy, spreading growth habit and unique, contorted branches that add interest to any landscape.
The leaves, produced in early spring from late March onwards, are a rich dark green, and the bark has a grayish hue. However, the blossom doesn’t appear until late May, after the tree is already in full leaf.
The flowers are quite large and resemble pear blossoms, with star-shaped, long, pointed white petals and prominent yellow anthers.
Medlar trees bear fruit at the tips of short branches, rather than in clusters, creating a scattered appearance throughout the canopy.
These trees boast stunning autumn colors, with bright yellow and red leaves on display.
The tree’s ultimate size depends on various factors such as the rootstock used, growing conditions, and pruning and training techniques. Most medlar trees are grafted onto rootstocks, with traditional choices being hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna) or quince.
While hawthorn rootstocks are prone to suckering, quince rootstocks or even seedling medlar Mespilus germanica rootstocks, provide better compatibility and produce semi-dwarfing trees.
Depending on the rootstock used, medlar trees can potentially grow up to 12ft (4m) tall and 15ft (5m) wide on semi-dwarfing Quince A rootstocks and up to 10ft (3m) tall and 12ft (4m) wide on dwarfing Quince C rootstocks.
These trees can start bearing fruit at a young age, sometimes as early as 3 years old, depending on the variety and rootstock used.
In this video, you can see some of the funny things that medlar fruit is known for:
Can You Get Dwarf Medlar Trees?
Although even standard medlar trees don’t grow all that big, 13 to 20 feet (4 to 6 meters), there are dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties available that are more suitable for growing in pots or containers.
These varieties are smaller in size and are more compact than standard medlar trees, making them easier to manage in small spaces.
- Nottingham Medlar – One example of a dwarf medlar tree is the Nottingham variety. With its compact growth habit, it grows to a height of around 5 to 6 ½ feet (1.5 to 2 meters), making it ideal for growing in a pot or container.
- Royal Medlar – Another dwarf variety is the Royal Medlar. This also grows to a height of around 5 to 6 ½ feet (1.5 to 2 meters) and has a compact growth habit. The Royal Medlar is known for its high-quality fruit, which is sweet and juicy.
- Semi-dwarf varieties – of medlar trees are also available, such as the Dutch medlar and the Breda Giant medlar.
These varieties are larger than dwarf trees, but they still have a more compact growth habit than the standard trees, making them suitable for growing in pots or containers provided they are kept well-pruned.
When selecting a dwarf or semi-dwarf medlar tree, choose a variety that’s compatible with your climate and growing conditions. Some medlar varieties may be better suited to certain climates or soil types, so be sure to do your research before selecting a tree to grow in a pot or container.
Where Do Medlar Trees Grow Best?
As Medlar trees are native to temperate regions of Europe and Asia, they can withstand quite cold temperatures and actually need them to produce quality fruit. Let’s look closer at some of the growing conditions medlar trees require:
- Climate – They grow best in regions with cool winters and mild summers and need a minimum of 800 hours of winter chill to produce fruit, which makes them well-suited to USDA zones 6 to 9.
- Soil – Medlars prefer well-draining soil that is slightly acidic with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5. They are tolerant of a range of soil types, but they don’t like waterlogged soil, which causes root rot. So heavy clay is not a good match.
- Sunlight – These trees require full sun to thrive and produce plentiful fruit. They will tolerate partial shade, but this will mean they produce less fruit. This is why placing them in an open sunny location is essential if you want to have a plentiful crop. Make sure the tree is protected from strong winds, which can damage the branches.
- Location – Medlars are best suited to parts of the eastern and western United States and parts of Europe and Asia that fall in climate zones 6 to 9.
There are some medlar varieties that are more cold-tolerant and will grow in zone 5 but will need protection from very cold temperatures. It may be best to bring them indoors into a greenhouse or place them in front of a sunny window in your home during the winter.
How Do You Care For A Potted Medlar Tree?
Medlars are fairly easy to care for and don’t require any more attention than most other plants and trees.
- Container Size – You will need a large container at least 60cm wide and deep to allow enough room for the roots to grow. The container should also have drainage holes to prevent waterlogging that causes root rot.
- Potting Mix – Choose high-quality potting soil that is well-draining with good nutrient retention. Add some organic matter such as compost or well-rotted manure to the potting mix to improve soil fertility. Keep in mind that these trees prefer slightly acidic soil with a pH of 6.0 to 6.5.
- Position – Place the pot in a sunny spot where the tree can receive at least six hours of sunlight a day. Although medlar trees are tolerant of partial shade, they will produce less fruit if they do not receive enough sunlight.
- Water – Regular watering is vital, especially during the growing season. The soil in the pot should be kept moist but not waterlogged. They are tolerant of drought but will produce less fruit if they do not receive enough water.
- Fertilizer – Annual fertilization helps to promote healthy growth and fruit production. A balanced, slow-release fertilizer can be applied once a year in the spring, just before the new growth appears.
- Pruning – Medlar trees require regular pruning to promote healthy growth and fruit production. Dead, damaged, or diseased branches should be removed, along with any suckers that grow from the base of the tree.
Are Medlar Trees Self-Fertile?
Medlar trees are self-fertile but will produce more fruit if there are other varieties of medlar trees nearby to provide cross-pollination.
Some varieties are known to be more compatible with others, which increases the chances of successful pollination and fruit set. Here are some examples of medlars that are known to be good pollinators:
- Nottingham – This popular variety of medlar is known for its reliability as a pollinator. It produces large, sweet fruit that is delicious when eaten fresh or used in cooking.
- Dutch – The Dutch medlar is another good pollinator variety that produces sweet, juicy fruit. It is a hardy tree that is well-suited to colder climates.
- Royal – Another high-quality variety is the Royal Medlar. It produces large, flavorful fruit and is also a good pollinator for other medlar trees.
- Breda Giant -This variety produces large, juicy fruit excellent for eating fresh or using in cooking and is a good pollinator.
For best results, it is recommended to grow at least two different medlar varieties, ideally of different types, to ensure successful pollination and fruit set.
Cross-pollination between different varieties helps to increase the quantity and quality of fruit produced by both trees.
As we have seen, it is possible to grow a medlar tree in a pot, but it requires a large container, with good-quality compost.
While medlar trees are best suited to temperate regions, they can be grown in pots in areas with cold winters and mild summers, and even in areas with warmer climates if protected from direct sunlight and extreme heat.
Dwarf and semi-dwarf varieties of medlar trees are best suited to containerized growth provided they are given adequate care, including regular watering, feeding, pruning, and protection from strong winds.
When selecting a tree, be sure to choose one that is compatible with your climate and growing conditions.
Medlar trees are self-fertile, but having other varieties nearby can increase fruit production.
Overall, growing a medlar tree in a pot is a great way to enjoy this unique and visually appealing fruit tree, even if you have limited outdoor space.
With proper care, a medlar tree can thrive in a pot and provide you with delicious fruit for many years.