Exotic fruit for the sunroom

Exotic fruit in your own sunroom or conservatory is a challenge that is hard to resist. Many fruit trees and bushes have decorative leaves and attractive, sometimes fragrant flowers, making them a round the year bonus.

Clothing the walls

There is a wide choice of suitable fruit trees, plants and vines that can either be assisted to grow up the walls, will do so on their own by using clinging tendrils, or can be fan or espalier trained. Horizontal wire can be used as a support on walls and across roof areas or trellis can be screwed in position. If there is room an arbour, canopy, or a gazebo could be constructed and used as a frame for a climber such as a passion fruit, a grape vine or even melons.

Ornamental treesExotic fruit for the sunroom

Trees can be planted in large pots and many, like peaches and most citrus fruit, can be placed outside in a sunny sheltered spot for the summer to provide more indoor room for eating or relaxing. However, the flavour will be inhibited in oranges, grapefruit and mandarins if the temperature falls below 18°C (65°F). Citrus trees are best placed in a prominent position where the stages of flowering, fruit forming and ripening can be clearly seen and the flower scent enjoyed. When grown in a pot, citrus fruit should be restricted, allowing only three to four fruit per plant in the first few years.

Fig, peach and nectarine can either be grown as a bush in a pot or internal bed, or can be trained to grow against a wall.

Providing the right conditions

In winter many exotic fruits do not need high heat but protection from frost is vital. Ventilation, protection from harsh midday sun and humidity are important in summer. Add some humidity by providing a small ornamental pool or large bowl of water with some aquatic plants and decorative pebbles in it.

Some exotic climbers

Kiwi fruit has large, heart-shaped leaves and creamy coloured flowers. The fruit are furry brown outside and a bright green inside, 3 by 8cm (11/2 by 31/4in). You will need male and female plants and must pollinate by hand. Fruit ripen in October so store for 4-6 weeks to bring out the flavour.

Cape Gooseberry has small yellow-white blossoms with purple-black markings and large, heart-shaped leaves. Gently tap or shake plants at flowering time to OSSif+ pollination. They produce most fruit in the first year. When ripe, the fruit covering turns golden-yellow and papery.

Passion fruit appear after the large and unusual green and purple Passion Ornamental Fruit Trees

Citrus fruit: oranges, lemons, limes, mandarins, grapefruit are evergreen with dark, shiny green leaves and white scented flowers. Fruit take from 12-18 months to mature and so flowers on ripe and unripe fruit can often be seen on one tree at the same time. Trees need ventilation, good winter light and fruit need a temperature for the first six months that does not fall below 13°-16°C (55°-61°F).

Fig trees: These have large ornamental leaves and can be grown, fan-trained, against a wall or as a bush in a large pot. Figs can be grown indoors hut crops will be heavier and more likely to ripen under glass. Two crops a year are possible.

Peaches and nectarines: Both can be grown outdoors but will not always ripen satisfactorily. Inside under glass they need high humidity so mist daily and make sure the trees never lack water. Peaches and nectarines are self-fertilizing hut will need to be pollinated by hand indoors. They can be grown as a bush.

Flowers are shortlived and will need hand pollinating. Some are self-sterile so plant two seedlings together. When ripe, the fruit go purple and the skin shrivels.

Melons, with their large leaves and flowers, need ventilation when the plants are established and fruit are ripening. Assist pollination by using a fine paint brush to carry pollen from a male to female flower. The fruit will need supporting or the weight will damage the plants.

Grape vines are a common sight in glazed rooms. Leaves are heart-shaped and the vines cling to supports with tendrils. Reduce bunches, leaving only the best, or quality may suffer.

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