Apple Rootstock Advice

Birds love Goldrush during winter thaws. They don’t tend to drop at all.

Bud9 has beautiful red bark!

Zendog…that IS a interesting thing to ponder. I’m curious about that also. I DO know that it certainly would not behave anything like a seedling planted tree for a number of different reasons.
First, it would not develop the tap root that at least some of the seedling advantages are derived from.
Secondly, being a named and bred cultivar ( no matter it’s breeding method ) it would not have the dominant allele gene expression that a seedling would have.
Lastly (and I’m shooting from the hip on this), I suspect (that’s code for guessing) that the fact that it was established on primary roots of dwarfing nature that it would have the slower less robust feedstock serving as it’s primary delivery system and other roots (at least in the immediate future) serving as auxiliary supply.
I would expect though that those roots would provide more growing pressure than the dwarfing stock it was planted on thereby keeping it in a vegetative state longer than would otherwise be the case.
The anchorage, longevity, water seeking ability, and possibly broad spectrum disease resistance would not be there.

grey…so you bought seedlings? Or did you buy seedlings with a variety grafted on to them?

I like your idea of DR apples grafted to seedling stock for wildlife food…I think that is a smart idea and very noble of you to do something like that.

Hopefully you are somewhere well away from urban sprawl…if you are there will possibly be folks in the future wondering “who planted these magnificent trees, who was he and what was he like?”. A bunch of stuff has to go right though for that to happen and sadly we cannot control a lot of it. If you are in the right location the odds are pretty good though that it will happen. Don’t forget pears though…they may stand a slightly better chance of survival than even DR apples…they’re also a bit less finicky as I’m sure you know. Most people like legacies…especially living ones…I know I do.
Thanks for the response.


The seedlings I bought I’m grafting the disease resistant varieties to. I did buy the 4 varieties that I had named already grafted from St. Lawrence Nursery. They use only Antonovka roostock on their grafted trees they sell. Sadly they are retiring and shutting down the nursery. They are located in upstate NY near the Canadian border.
I am blessed with 66 acres that is a mix of old pastures and woods to plant my trees on. I have a number of wild apple & crabapple trees to graft over to named varieties & have discovered a couple that produce “wildlife apples” that hang onto the tree well in to the winter that I’m gathering scionwood from to use in my grafting plan . I’m actually located not too far from you (I think). I’m near Bedford Pa, about 25 miles north of Cumberland Md. I seem to recall that your in western Md?
As a hunter I “run across” old orchards hidden away in the mountains along old stone fence rows and marvel at the work it took to establish them without the modern tools we have today.
And I haven’t forgotten about pears. After some fireblight & bear problems I have several that are approaching bearing age. I have Keifer, Luscious ,Blakes Pride, Seckel and Potomac varieties growing now.

Appleseed, I’m not sure about the dominant allele part, since I don’t know much about apple genetics and there is certainly no tap root, but it definitely acted like a seedling tree. It is now probably 20 to 25 feet tall with a big beefy trunk and branches that can easily hold a half dozen kids climbing in it and sitting on low branches enjoying lunch. I think part of the reason it is so vigorous and there appears to be little or no influence from the dwarf rootstock below is that the new dirt was washed down over it during its first year in the ground. And although we try to hold the erosion in check, they keep adding dirt to the road and it keeps washing down so I’d guess the graft is at least a foot below the surface at this point. So I expect it is what you would get if you just grew out a rooted Baldwin cutting or air layer.

I was curious about the fruiting since I’m putting a Geneva crab on G.41 in my neighbors yard for him and I know that someday he’d like to get rid of the stake and he also probably wants a bigger tree. So I thought we might plant it with the graft right around soil level then mound dirt up around it once it starts fruiting to see if we could get it on sturdier roots. From what Alan says it may not be that easy to get to root out, but if it does at least it will keep fruiting. This would be totally different timing than with the Baldwin so it will be interesting to see how the results differ. I can probably report back on this little experiment in a half dozen years!

Definitely report back Zendog…I’d be interested to know how it turns out. I thought about slowly mounding up soil around my potted seedlings to increase rooting higher up, but was kinda afraid of rot or something. I don’t know why it concerns me because I know you can do it. In other words it would be slowly planting deeper, like one would do with a tomato or something.

If you cover up the grafting part it will turn into a standard size tree.

There are true apple hunters that are always looking for older heirloom forgotten apples. Most of the time it is always in these out of the way places that used to have home orchards. Apple trees close to their house for use and winter storage. If you happen to remember where these places are during their ripening see if you can tell what apples they are. I know FEDCO is always interested in finding old apple varieties. There are a few more gentleman that do this as well, Tom Brown, Lee Calhoun, etc…
I have been trying to fill my orchard with these heirloom and rare apple trees. I’ve only been doing this orchard since 2013 so all are pretty small and have not really started producing any fruit to speak up.

Speaking of rootstock issues. I have tried a few interstem varieties for Boyer Nursery. So far so good with them. I have used some Geneva varieties. Last year we had a drought for about 6-8 weeks then we had a huge amount of rain in a short period of less than a week, we received 5" of rain. The Geneva rootstocks all cracked and split below the grafted area. They are probably not going to make it, if they do I think they would slowly die off over a year or two. I will tear them out and replace the trees. The M111 seem to sucker an awful lot for me. I have a few M7’s but nothing bad, so far. They usually sucker really badly and at times lean over the years. ( Stark Bros uses M7 but also another one and they never know what rootstock you are actually getting).
A lot of nurseries seem to like the M111 rootstock probably because of the variety of soils it can do well in. I just would rather have a smaller sized tree than an M111. I know, I know, keep it cut back. It sounds great until you get older and can’t keep up with it or just feel like not messing around in the orchard for hours at a time. Some apple trees you just want to plant, spray, pick, and enjoy.
I was looking at trying some M26 but since I see some negative reviews here I may rethink that.
Going back to the Geneva rootstocks is probably not going to happen. I’ve been disappointed in the ones I had. I hate to keep growing them, tearing them out and repeat.
Good information posted here about apple rootstocks. Nothing like real reviews and not just reading how “great” they are supposed to be.

Antonovka seedling rootstock is a bit more predictable than domestic seedling rootstock. Here’s Antonovka on the left and M111 on the right so you can see the differences. Antonovka is just mean enough to outgrow anything that’s trying to kill it. If you don’t like how you pruned it, whack it back to a baseball bat and it will re-grow all the branches the next season to be the same size tree, and you can train them right this time. The choice of variety has a lot to do with how soon it will fruit: King David will fruit the second or third year, even on seedling rootstock.


Good info!

I wish more nurseries would offer Antonovka seeding rootstocks. I may try and find some that are available for this years planting.

I’m surprised to find my major PNW rootstock supplier sold out of Antonovka every season, but still have plenty of domestic seedling. I didn’t think that many nurseries were using them, but apparently there’s still a demand. I send pounds of Antonovka seeds to our Uganda nursery for starting their own rootstocks.

That’s all Saint Lawrence Nursery sells on (Antonovka).

Sorry. I thought you meant grafted trees, not just rootstock.

That was what I was referring to. Grafted instead trees of just rootstocks. I’ve not done any grafting yet.
I received their catalog a little later than the rest of the catalogs. They had been shut down ( for retirement) and I didn’t know they were back in business. By the time I had their catalog I didn’t have enough time to order before their cutoff date. I like their selections though.

I will be testing a new 100% of standard size clonal rootstock called MALUS SPROUT FREE this year. I will be grafting low vigor varieties to it. It may be a good option.


Cornell was dabbling with a full vigor rootstock for a while and Cummins sold me a few trees on it. Bob said it had superior disease resistance and precosity to seedling- the precosity was certainly noticeable, but in the NE seedling trees seem pretty good at surviving disease, so I can’t really compare that. I’ve lost track of all but one of the trees, which has Honeycrisp grafted to it.

More vigorous rootstocks are still important commercially in the northern reach of apple country, where they survive better and don’t get as big.

For me, 111 is my staple rootstock as a nursery tree. I’m a dry farmer and it survives the kind of drought we frequently get here (like a month without rain). Bob Cummins would talk about the liability of its burr knots but they’ve never been an issue even if wooley apple aphids enjoy them. Never sapped enough vigor from a tree to be noticeable.


How did those SproutFree do for you Mike? Would you recommend using them for home orchards?

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I don’t have any complaints about Sproutfree. I used it for a custom propagation project where someone wanted standard trees. I had a few extras, so I grafted Dolgo onto it. It’s pushing them nicely in Heavy soil .