Cotoneaster as rootstock for pear

In looking for ideas/info for hardy rootstock for pear I came across this very interesting article by Bernie Nikolai in the DBG Fruit Growers Bulletin (Alberta) on their website: about his experience in 2014 (I think) using cotoneaster lucidus as a hardy rootstock for pear and the importantance of leaving original nurse limbs (with some notes from Thean Pheh). I guess this is a common landscape/hedge shrub (common to some folks; I didn’t know what it was). Unfortunately, I couldn’t find any update to how his grafts did since. But it sure got my attention as I’m not having any luck finding ussuriensis rootstock at a reasonable price. Another article on that same page mentioned saskatoon in addition to cotoneaster as pear rootstock with the same important “leave some original limbs”. Anyone tried this? I’m planning on it next spring. Sounds like it won’t be that hard to find c.lucidus. And we have wild Juneberries if I want to do that as well (though I may have to wait a year as I have a hard time identifyinging saplings before they have leaves).

How many harbin rootstocks do you need? What exactly are you looking for in size?

Hi Clark, I only needed a few, about 5, and another member has offered me some so I’m set for now (until I get my next orchard expansion set up!). Thanks to your encouraging posts on growing from seed I did plant some from my common pear (what I call chokepear) and from fruit from a very old pear. But, of course, they won’t be ready for awhile (assuming they grow!). I hadn’t tried to buy rootstock before, only grafting on suckers and wild seedlings I have (apples and plums, not pears) so I hadn’t realized how hard it was to buy a small quantity.

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Sounds great Sue let us know how the harbin perform for you if you get a chance.

Hi Sue, I just came across your post even though it is 4 years old! Cotoneaster does indeed make a dwarfing rootstock for pears and the pears I grafted to them are still going strong after several years. In Russia, there are pear trees grafted to Cotoneaster that are over 60 years old, so it is long term compatible. The only problem I have it my severe winter climate. Last winter I had -42C or about -44F as the low. So the pear varieties I graft to cotoneaster either died or took a real hit. But it works, it is long term compatible, and you get fruit. You MUST allow a few branches of cotoneaster under the graft to feed the roots, or the tree dies eventually as the pear is great at taking nutrition from the cotoneaster roots, but lousy at returning any. So graft a foot off the ground and allow a few shoots of cotoneaster (2-5) to grow in the first foot before the pear graft.


I recall discussions from back in the 1990s on the old NAFEX email discussion list, from Bernie Nickolai and Del Stubbs, about grafting pear onto Amelanchier and Cotoneaster… but never saw long-term reports.
I’ve got one pear (Mooers or Hoskins) grafted onto cockspur hawthorn (C.crus-galli), back in 2001 that’s still going strong… only about 8 ft tall, has fruited sparingly, but it’s stuck in among several other hawthorns that I dug out of the cowpasture and plunked down in a wet spot. The pear stem is now about 50% larger diameter than the hawthorn understock. Also had Ubileen on hawthorn for a number of years, before it was removed to make room for tennis court… was VERY dwarfed.