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Indoor Fruit Plants

The Martha Stewart Show, January 2008

Many people have a misconception that fruit is difficult to grow indoors, but it's not. Fruit can be maintained in a pot and does quite well inside as long as you have a sunny window.

Calamondin Orange (Citrofutnella mitis variegate)
The calamondin orange, a cross between a kumquat and an orange, is a favorite among gardeners for its variegated foliage and its small ornamental fruit. The flowers are extremely fragrant and the fruit, which is very sour, is used to make marmalade. Once established in a pot, the calamondin orange is very easy to grow. Keep it in full sun and fertilize it twice a month in the active growing season. It will flower in late winter or early spring and fruit thereafter. The fruit will hold on for an awesome ornamental display for months.

Citrus "Sunquat"
The sunquat, one of the most prolific and free-fruiting citruses, is a cross between a sweet Meiwa Kumquat and a lemon. Unlike other citruses, there is no uniformity to the size of the fruit, which is determined more by the size of the plant and the amount of fruit on the tree. To create a full specimen of the sunquat, which, like a giant kumquat, is eaten skin and all, prune it at an early age to encourage branching, which, in turn, produces stronger limbs for the fruit to hold to.

Cinnamon (Cinnamonum Zelanicum)
Many people don't realize that cinnamon is harvested from bark by simply scraping it. In the summer, spires of white flowers form on the plant. The leaves have a scent but the richest cinnamon scent is in the bark. Cinnamon, which is a slow grower, is easy to grow and doesn't need an acidic potting soil. To make perpetual cinnamon, place three or four cinnamon sticks in a glass bottle and cover it with vodka. After four weeks, the cinnamon flavor will be extracted out of the cinnamon. Use the cinnamon extract just like you would cinnamon powder. Each time you use the extract, simply refill with vodka. Perpetual cinnamon lasts for three or more years.

Papaya (Carica papaya)
Papaya will keep growing, but to maintain it as a manageable container plant, you can prune back the big stems. Fruit will form on a 12- to 24-inch-tall plant. A papaya plant will begin fruiting within 6 months; it takes seven to eight months to ripen once the fruit appears. Papaya requires full sun, warm temperatures (65-plus), moderate fertilizer, and regular watering.

Coffee (Coffea Arabica)
The coffee berries are ripe and ready to be harvested once they have turned red. Once harvested, the berries must be split open; they contain two beans that bust be dried, roasted, and ground. There are enough beans on a tree to make a whole pot of coffee. A coffee tree, which has extremely fragrant flowers, will produce beans year-round and usually flower twice a year -- in the spring and fall. The plant needs full sun, must be kept above 60 degrees, and must be watered and fertilized every other week during the active growing period.

Special thanks to Byron Martin, the owner of Logee's Greenhouses, a 113-year-old horticultural establishment, for giving Logee's catalogs to our studio audience.

Comments (10)

  • singwings 28 Jun, 2008

    I found a seller from Florida who has the cinnamon plant on her website, and the call it cinnamomum instead of cinnamonum. The name is Jene's Tropicals, and they also call it C. Verum. According to her the plant does get pretty big when it's mature.

  • cedarwater 20 Jun, 2008

    I bought the cinnamon tree (Cinnamonum Zelanicum) and I was wondering if anyone else did. If so, how is it growing? Mine was doing great for the first couple weeks but now is wilting. I can't find any growing information online and Logees seems to have taken it off of their website so I can't find what zone its supposed to be in. If anyone can help, I would greatly appreciate it.

  • SarasotaShotgun 11 Mar, 2008

    I wanted to put in my two cents in about some questions I read about the houseplants. First, I bet you can order a cinnamon tree from Logeen n n n n n s Greenhouse, but In n n n n n m not sure it will thrive for you unless you have the ideal conditions. Check with the shop where you purchase the tree. They are the experts on the how and what. Second, the papaya tree will grow only to the size of the pot you plant it in. I live in Florida and the papaya trees are 10-15 feet tall and extremely heavily laden with fruit, because there is not a hindrance (a pot) to contain them. My 80-year-old uncle lives in West Virginia and he spied the fruit trees when he visited me and said they are called Paw-Pawn n n n n n s. So they grow in West by God Virginia.
    And finally, about the orange or citrus trees. They blossoms in the spring (OMG they smell fantastic). The fruit grows after the flower fades. First a hard, green, golf ball size of fruit forms, as spring turns to summer, the green ball grows to the appropriately size for the fruit, orange, lemon ect. The color change, either orange, yellow or whatever, comes around October or so. The fruit is not ready to pick even if it looks ripe. The cold snap is what makes the fruit sweet.
    My husband had a lemon tree in a container in his bachelor days and he kept it by the sliding glass doors to the lani. He kept it watered and Miracle Grow-when he remembered. The ceiling was 8 foot and the tree not only reached the top but started to spread out-all the while bearing fruit. Again, I think the conditions in Florida are more ideal for this type of plant. Or if you have green house conditions. Otherwise-your efforts may be fruitless n n n n n n pun intended!
    I think a huge opportunity was missed by not discussing pineapple! It is so easy. Maybe thatn n n n n n s why it wasnn n n n n n t mentioned, because it is so, ordinary. I grow mine around the house. I started with a store bought pineapple. Just twist the green top off (like you would a bottle of catsup or twist the cap off the toothpaste lid) itn n n n n n s very easy. Cut up your fruit and enjoy, befor you go out to plant!
    The green top can be planted in the ground or pot. In n n n n n ve got both. The first year do not expect to get any fruit. The older the plant, the larger the plant and the larger the fruit.
    You will know when a pineapple is about to appear because the center of the green crown will get red. Then a funny looking bump will emerge and grow to produce tiny purple blossoms. The blossoms will disappear and you realize what you see is the body of the pineapple and itn n n n n n s tiny green crown. Let the pineapple grow until it starts to turn golden. I always have to prop the fruit with a stake. I tie the fruit to the wooden stake with a pair of old pantyhose. The hose allows the fruit to expand and grow with out limits.
    No matter what the size fruit, itn n n n n n s ripening when it starts turning golden yellow. Depending if you have critters (squirrels, raccoons, etc.) you may want to pick the fruit green or part yellow. Again, just twist it off the parent plant, and allow the fruit to ripen in the house to a full golden color. If you donn n n n n n t mind living dangerously, allow the fruit to ripen on the parent plant. I figure if the squirrels beat me to the fruit, they needed it more than I did. Cn n n n n n est la vie!
    If I decide to plant the green crown from the pineapple in the ground, I will dig a small [filtered word] and stick the green crown in and gently tamp the dirt around. I have been known to kick the dirt with my heel (with shoes on) and drop the green top into that [filtered word] (I have a bad back). The plant grabs on no mater what and grows. The best fruit comes from plants that are in the shade on the south side (the most shady side) but of course there is a ton of indirect light. As far as how to fertilizer, I use the dead leaves to mulch and toss banana peels, egg shells and used coffee grounds- (not all at the same time) around the base of the plant.
    We do get a few days/nights with temps. that dip to freezing. I cover the plants with old sheets to keep the frost off. My mother-in-law keeps all her pineapple plants in pots. Itn n n n n n s easier for her to bring the plants in when we get chilly weather. I gave my friend a plant and she lives in Kentucky. In n n n n n m unsure how the plant will do, but she has a green thumb and In n n n n n ll find out in the nest few months to see if the plant makes it.

  • greenthumb2 28 Jan, 2008

    Help! I live in Winnipeg, Canada. Does anyone know where I can buy a cinnamon tree?

  • Ans 24 Jan, 2008

    I would love to be able to bring a papaja tree in the house , but I believe that it would take up to much room. The top spread of the plant might be a good 35".
    Most homes do not have that much room and sun for it.

  • springokc 22 Jan, 2008

    I would have liked more information on how to care for citrus trees in an ordinary household. For example, how much cold to make sure the tree blossoms; how much water in winter; how much fertilizer to give the tree and when.

  • macysmommie 19 Jan, 2008

    I actually Tivo'ed this episode because I want to bring my Meyor Lemon tree inside to see if it will do better. In the past it has flowered, but I can not get the fruit large enough to eat. Any suggestions? Macysmommie

  • lsy60 19 Jan, 2008

    I was looking forward to hearing about growing lemon trees indoor as well. What happened? They promoted it several times.

  • thisismeg 15 Jan, 2008

    I am upset that I was looking forward to information about growing lemon and lime plants. I have always wanted to grow these plants. The commericals highly suggested that this show was going to talk about growing lemon and lime plants. I was upset that it didn't. Then I searched the website to see if it was on here and other than the "sweet limes" talked about during the show, there were no lemons and limes discussed on the show or the website. Please send me info if I was mistaken.

  • baker4158 15 Jan, 2008

    I was going through some photos after my mom passed away and found a newspaper article. It was my grandparents 65 wedding anniversary and also in the article they mentioned that they grew lemons indoors. This was in the 1950's. I had no idea that they did this and how neat that you now have this on your show. They grew everything for their table in a garden that was very green. I am glad everything is going green again.
    Thank YOU love your show.
    Kay Malone