A Rootstock Experiment

I have a rootstock that I used this year that I think will make a good semi-dwarf rootstock. It is the Key Apple that my wife’s family has been growing for 80-100 years. It is a very healthy tree that my in-laws have been growing personally themselves for 50 or 55 years. It has a small green apple on it and we all enjoy those in the summer. The trees never get pruned and with 20 year old trees they never get more than 12 or 15 feet tall (I need to measure a few of them and the mother tree to really get a basis for this).

I have grafted 15 or more trees to these apple as a rootstock and my hope is that they will be healthier than most rootstocks I can buy for my area 6b as they always survive well in this area no matter the weather once established. I have never seen disease on these trees as far as I know and the only problem is a bit of insect pressure.

I would like some input on here to see what steps and how many years would this project have to take to get this rootstock on the map if it is a sucess?

I plan on contacting the UT Experiment Farm which is less than 10 miles from my house and explain this out to them as well and see what they think about it.

I will try and get some pics in my next posts as I am typing this out on a laptop and my pics are all on my phone.

Does anyone think that this is a worthwhile project or am I just wasting my time?

Would different varieties with very vigorous growth over take the rootstock and create larger than what the rootstock normally creates or would the rootstock keep different varieties around the same size as the original tree?


Are you saying they grow true from seed or are you using root suckers?


They grow from suckers. Sorry for not explaining that better. They sucker from an early age and sucker a fair amount that I can get more than several a year if really trying (and that is only from a few trees). I am wondering if I can propagate more rootstock from root cuttings and from air layering? Are most normal roostock varieties grown from seed or cloned? I think Antonovka is grown from seed but are other varieties of rootstock done in a similar manner or are they cloned?

I have never planted the seeds from these but I will also do that for them this coming year :+1:


Most of the clonal rootstocks are grown with stool beds. You basically let it sucker and mound sawdust/loose soil/etc around the suckers as they grow until you have a few inches of stem covered, then let the suckers grow. You then come back the next year (or is it that fall?) and uncover the bases of the suckers. They should have rooted, in which case you just prune off the stems to have an already rooted cutting.


I think it’s sound thinking. And iirc @clarkinks does some stooling using large tires.


Ok, so I am on the right track from the sounds of it. I still need to get some pics of these trees and some of my rootstock/grafts that I have already done this year with those.


Ok, here are a few pics of the Key apple itself. I will try to get grafts I have done with that rootstock this evening because I don’t think I have separated them out in pictures from the Bud118 I also used

This is the mother tree

Some of my in-laws trees

And one of mine (I grafted one limb of it over to Brushy Mountain Limbertwig)

I also have some suckers coming up already that I will get pics of along with some that are already dug up and potted.

Seeds of these will also be planted this year.


I am going to go back to the mother tree this winter and clean up around it and see what suckers I can get from it as well and maybe prune it just a little.

1 Like

A few more pics of the Key apple, its flower and after petal fall.


Nice project.


I have researched rootstock stooling some this morning and have saw several different methods for making a tree sucker. The above mentioned method with sawdust seems to be one of the more prevalent ideas. I am going to plant one of the Key apples in a spot by itself hopefully and after it grows a bit and gets settled in that spot, I will prune it harshly and see how many suckers it can produce. I will also try the method above and see what those results yield as well. Hopefully I can find a bigger sprout to use for this from the original mother tree and that should speed the process up some. I also intend to use as many of the suckers I can from my trees and my in-laws trees (as long as he doesn’t mow them all down that is :laughing: )


I have a seedling I like for its size and hardiness. I grew out more seedlings in the first year and then grafted on sprouts from the parent in the second year. I planted the graft below ground in hopes that it will root and ensure size and precociousness similar to the parent. Eventually I will graft them over with new varieties. It’s basically the same approach as using a dwarf interstem on standard roots. I expect the some trees could get a little larger than the parent, but not by much I hope.


Can’t wait to hear some longer term feedback from your project @AJfromElmiraNY :+1:

One idea is to share scions with people here and see how it works… the ground-up approach as it were :grin:

My guess is the Universities won’t be interested, they have their own research programs focused on fireblight, etc etc.


I did send 1 person some scions this year that I traded scions with :+1:

I am going to try and contact UT through somone I met on a Fruit Growing Facebook page that knows one of the professors at the experiment farm and I am hoping to get some feedback and/or ideas from him. All of this is just in my head atm but when I get something in my head like that then I have to try something or else it won’t leave :laughing:

1 Like

I would need to send rootstock out across the US for my project to flourish more though… The apples are fine but I am sure most might not love them :man_shrugging:

The project is more in finding out if this rootstock would keep other varieties at the same size of tree as the mother tree and the suckers :+1:

It is not hard to graft a rootstock scion at ground level and then stool it. I think that is how many places got started selling rootstock. The only thing is you need to be careful where the “scion root” vs “root root” boundary is.


Oh ok. Gotcha :+1: Scions would be much easier to send vs rootstock as well :blush:

1 Like

Here are a few images of new suckers.

This one was dug in early winter so it is one from last year

This one is at the base

Of this one

This is one was planted a couple years ago and died but sprouted back out this year along with an extra sucker that is coming up to compete with it


Many people would probably think suckering a bad thing…I see you see the lemonaide with that lemon.