Free standing dwarf apple trees

I have about 60~ various apple trees planted on G11 rootstocks. I’m trying to avoid running a trellis and or staking. I was told that rootstock doesn’t determine if a tree free stands or not but the pruning of the tree does. To the experts, can a G11 free stand when at a mature height? Most of my trees are 1-3 years, 4 to 8 foot. Currently all staked with the fiberglass stakes. As they grow, I’m replacing with taller stakes but having difficulty finding stakes above 7’.

I don’t consider myself an expert, but that claim isn’t consistent with my own experience.


The size/makeup of the root system is the main thing.
If you have a tree that is heavy with lots of leaves, limbs and a crop of apples…and it has a puny root system…it’s going to lean and perhaps completely fall over and the root plop out of the ground.
M7 leans…but I’ve never seen one fall over. G11 isn’t one I’d trust to live without irrigation, or stand up without support.
If you have a location somewhat sheltered from wind, and you thin your crops considerably, your 7 foot stake may possibly be sufficient to hold up the tree for the duration (dwarfs aren’t as long-lived as standard sized trees anyhow).

Even a G30 or G202 don’t appear they can support much of a crop…with caliper of trunk the size of my little finger…this after 4 years since being grafted. But so far I’ve not staked trees with those rootstocks.

I have 30 free standing semi dwarfs on bud 9, g41, and m26. I another 200 on g41, g890, and g969 that are in a nursery bed now, and will be going in the orchard next spring. I only have 2 that require support, 1 on m26 and 1 on bud 9. Both had anchoring issues when they were younger, so I staked them and wired them to the stakes. They are still staked, not sure if they would still need to be, but I’m leaving them as is, as a precaution.

G11 is supposed to be a bit more dwarfing than G41. I have a number of trees in their 2nd year interstem grafted on M111 / G41. The first year in a pot they didn’t get much more than a foot and a half tall. Planted out in the orchard about half of them hit 7’ this year. My goal with interstem is what I believe you’re hoping for too, small overall size but free-standing. Mine in year 2 are skinny “whips” and a few have “leaned” a bit in rain/wind. So I currently have them all staked but am hopeful that will only be temporary. I suspect this isn’t uncommon at this point and next year they will gain a lot of strength. Fingers crossed that they stay reasonable sized, are freee-standing, and are precocious and productive. Without the interstem root system beneath the G41 piece though, I’d probably expect to have to permanently stake them. G11 without some kind of support though, hmm…


I’m trying to find the site which described topping the trees to make it free stand but so far no luck. Maybe it’s a myth. Last year we didn’t get much rain so the growth wasn’t spectacular. This year, most of the trees had 18"+ of growth. One graft done last year was a foot tall in March, now it’s 4’. Several trees in the orchard went from 5 to 8 foot this summer.


M7 leans

45 degree lean Crimist 5 is a telephone pole on a pensile root system and cannot supply the trees for healthy growth.


With fruit load, last year my G 41 toppled over. I did thin well but obviously not well enough. The location is protection from wind so only fruit load that was the cause.

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The soil is a big factor in how prone to lean they are. My personal (lazy) approach is no tree is staked until it asks for it by starting to lean a bit. In one place with loose soil nearly all the dwarf trees needed staking but in other places no stakes were ever needed.


I used to have a site that lists if the rootstocks need to be staked or not. I will see if I can find it again.

Rootstock is the most important factor IMO. When I buy trees I ask if they need to be staked. G-41 needs to be staked IMHO or so the really knowledgeable folks at Cummins say. Not so much when they are new, but for sure once they start to bear. Some wind, some fruit, and rain and you will be picking up the tree. I do not need to long term stake G-890s, 202’s M-111’s, etc., or even M-26s, but as one person said if they need to be supported, then support them. I typically buy an 8’ or even a 7’ steel fence post from the CO-OP and drive it in with a post driver and then use 2 or more cable ties, where I can better adjust the tension and just cut them off if they need to be. Has worked really great on various trees - especially M-9s, including some semi’s when they were young. If need be, I thread the ties through water soaker hose to minimize bark wear and damage and replace the ties if it looks like I need to.

In general, you want to permanently stake dwarf apple trees. I have seen very small freestanding trees on M27. Gene’s orchard in Chicago is an example of this.

But his orchard is a special case. The trees aren’t very tall, the orchard is completely sheltered from wind and his crop load management is excellent. Most of us are going to have trouble duplicating this. You really need to stake the trees. You should be able to find 8 foot steel t-posts locally. Lowe’s, Menards and a lot of other suppliers carry them.

Try 3/4" galvanized electrical conduit in 10’ sections.


The only dwarf tree that is free standing is supposed to be the G 969. I looked through my rootstock info the last couple of days.

G.16 is supposedly too and it’s rated is between G.11 and G41 in size, so probably close to B9. It still needs early support, but supposedly it’s very well anchored according to Cummins. Down side is that it’s extremely virus sensitive.

My orchard is/was a mish-mash of trees on different rootstocks, some known, some unknown.
Without pruning (I never did) M7 and M106 are too big, 25 years out. Trees on M9/M111 leaned badly on my site, requiring jacking back into upright position and propping up with concrete blocks or big chunks of Osage Orange; also, they suckered terribly.
M26 has been ‘just right’ for us… free-standing with no need to stake or prop- and they’re in a very exposed spot; 25+ years out, the trees are still only 8-9 ft tall. There are rootstock suckers, but they’re not aggressive like the M111 or M9(IDK which part suckered on those), and are easily pulled off - to be lined out or potted up for use as new rootstocks.


Does the M26 need permanent staking?

No staking required for M26 in my orchard.


I was hoping to use a Antonovka rootstock with a bud 9 intestem, won’t that be a free standing dwarf?

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Bud9/Antonovka should ultimately be freestanding although you may need to stake it for a few years. Size will probably be in the M26-M7 range depending on if you bury the interstem part way to reduce suckering. It really isn’t a dwarf tree but more of a semi-dwarf. Most of the interstems fall in the M26-M7 size range.

M26, M7, G890, G969, and G30 should all be freestanding semi-dwarf trees. At least if they are trained to central leader or open-center. But they may go thru a period where they need temporary staking. It depends on the soil type and depth as well as other factors. A local orchard I harvested scionwood from had some leaning trees on M26 although most of the M26 were fine.