Advice on storing rootstock - apple and pear

Hi everybody,

I’m having a little trouble figuring out what I should do with the apple and pear rootstock that arrived from Grandpa’s today (G41 and OHxF333, to be specific). Basically, I thought I had a decent plan, but some of the info that Grandpa’s included with the shipment seemed to suggest that part of my plan was a Really Bad Idea that might end up with me Going Back to the Old Drawing Board. I know the issue of rootstock storage has been discussed before, but I wasn’t able to track down the threads I semi-remembered on the subject, and so I decided to just go ahead and ask.

My plan, basically, was to keep the rootstock in the fridge until I can start grafting and planting. We’re in zone 5b, so I was planning to go with Cummins’s recommendation of early-mid May to minimize the danger of late frosts zapping new grafts. However, Grandpa’s pretty strenuously discourages keeping stuff in the fridge due to the ethylene effect. Would this still be a problem if we clear any fruit out of our fridge for the time being and keep the bag sealed? (This is basically what I’ve been doing with my scion wood.)

Alternatively, I could heel the stock in and keep it either (A) in our relatively cool and dark basement, (B) in a shadier part of our screen porch, or © in a shadier part of our yard, and hope that it stays dormant for most of April. (My understanding is that it’s good to have the rootstock a little bit ahead of the scion wood - am I right about that?)

My guess is that option A would be the best call out of these options, since the conditions would be a little more stable, and who knows what weird weather we’re going to get over the next month… If I do go that route, am I right in understanding that I would somewhat loosely cover the stock with mulch or something like that and make sure to keep them damp but not wet until ready to move on to the next step? (Up until a few days ago, I had been considering the old-school bury-it-in-the-snow method that I’ve seen some of you talk about, but our snow is rapidly disappearing here.)

As always, your help is very much appreciated!


1 Like

Don’t know how many rootstocks you have but what about grafting them now and putting them in pots ( in front of a window ) until they are ready to go outside ? Depending on the size of the rootstock a milk jug cut off makes a good temporary pot if you don’t have any right handy.

1 Like

I vote for the basement or porch. I’m storing ~25 rootstocks in a bucket full of damp sawdust in a mudroom that is barely heated (electric fan unit set at 45F), reasonably well lit, and it’s been touching 55 on the warmer sunny days. About 3 weeks on the B118 is showing some minor elongation of the buds. I have another package of rootstock for interstems in the colder, mostly unheated basement below; it’s been steady at 45F and dark. My scionwood is double-bagged in the fridge.

Given how things are going I suspect by next weekend the rootstock will be getting lively and the interstems might be showing some signs of life. I’ll do the grafting, wrap the whole upper assembly with parafilm (which I haven’t done before, but seems to be recommended for interstems), and stow them until late April when (hopefully) the snow will have melted, the grafts will have callused, and the ground dried out enough to plant.

1 Like

Yes; and ideally you want your scionwood cut as late as possible. The fresher the wood, the better.

Option A is what I do. I got my rootstocks in mid-Feb. They were shipped from a cooler and I put them in promix/peat moss and have been warming them up w/o light on a heat mat. There’s no need for you to entertain the thought of a heat mat if planting in early-mid-may. Check on the rootstocks weekly; if they break bud 1/3 of a “block” then they all are ready for grafting. You need to get them to a window then.

Even on bottom heat, mine are just waking up 5-weeks later.

Normal water(ing).



Thanks, everybody, you’ve been tremendously helpful. Going with the advice of Ben and Dax, I’ve got the roots heeled in and stowed away in our basement, which seems to stay pretty steady around 50 this time of year. Even remembered to separate the pears and the apples, which is pretty good for me… Still feel like I’m more than a little bit over my head, and I’m sure I will have more questions, but for the time being, I hope, Marvin the Martian moment averted.

I’d vote for basement or garage type storage, but also am wondering about your schedule. I assume you are planning on bench grafting these (eg before they get put in soil). If so, they can use 30 days in a cool, dark place to callus over. So if you were thinking of planting them in dirt the beginning of May, that means you’d want to do your actual grafting around April 1, or in just a few days.

I did my bench grafts last year around Mar 1 as I recall, then put them back in the shipping box with moist stuff on the roots, wrapped in plastic, and in my “root cellar” for a month. Someplace cool and dark and out of the way so they would not be bumped (checked them once or twice for moisture around the roots). Then I took them out and potted them and they went into the greenhouse. I had a very good success rate.

If you did something like that (whether you pot them or plant them outside) seems like you probably ought to be doing the actual grafting soon and letting your “storage time” also serve to let the callouses grow.

1 Like

Missouri’s State Nursery: pecans/pawapws/persimmons/walnut
Great prices.


For out of state orders all they charge for is shipping. I bought 300 seedlings and paid 150$. Pretty tough to beat that, especially when the pecans and walnuts are heavy duty. The persimmons are 18" tall but skinny. The pawpaws are on the skinnier side as-well. I order my scionwood of pawpaw and persimmon after I’ve had a chance to look at the rootstock. Last year the pawpaws were larger. Every year though their pecans are outstanding.

Yep, 150$ for 300 seedlings. Once you reach 300 seedlings the shipping charge changes. Maybe it’s 60$ instead of 30$. I don’t know. I purchased 295 I guess, looking at my order. Here it is:

It’s crazy to buy in groups of (10) for 8$ when (25) costs 10$. But, then there’s shipping rates to consider.


Funny you should mention milk jugs, I used them this year for the first time with my bench grafts simply because it is hard to find pots that are deep enough for some of the rootstock without also holding way too much dirt and taking up valuable space.

It is now 4 weeks that my left over plum and apple rootstock have been stored in damp peat. Three weeks in the cold basement and when they started pushing buds, I put them out in the light and warmer temps.


Hi Steve,

Thank you very much for the suggestion about grafting earlier to allow for callousing! I have to admit that I’m still trying to get my head around this part of the process, so your advice (and the others here) have been really valuable.

Cummins recommends planting out around May 15 (for the Northeast). Looking at the calendar, that’s about six weeks out, around Mother’s Day.

At this point, my pear rootstock is just starting to show a little white/green on a few buds, most of which are at the ends of smaller side branches. My apple rootstock seems to be a little bit further behind. Following up on Dax’s recommendation above, I’m wondering if this means the pears would be ready to graft soon, like within the next week? And then the apples maybe a week or so after that? That would give still give everything a good month to callous up before planting time.

Thanks for your help everybody!

So, is there a recommendation for temperature to store rootstock prior to grafting, in a fridge?

What I like about Growing Fruit. Had a question, figured it had been asked before, searched, found it, got a couple different suggestions to compare, and now I can go forward — in a few weeks.

1 Like