Graft Union on Apple Tree

Most of the trees I buy are bare root, but recently I bought a potted Liberty Apple Tree that is on MM106 Rootstock. When I went to plant it I cannot find the graft union, I always make sure the union is at least 2 inches above the soil. Why is there no graft union on this tree? I did not cover the union as the potted soil is flush with the topsoil. is there a union and some how I am missing it?

Second pic.

That kink at the soil line looks suspiciously like where it would have been budded.

Whomever grafted that tree did not graft high enough on the rootstock and as a result the graft union is just above the roots. When I graft to rootstock I always air on the side of caution and graft a little higher on the rootstock.

Thanks Levers and Speedster - if the graft is below the soil won’t the tree take characteristics of the rootstock - not the graft?

The risk is that the topstock will root. With a dwarfing root you lose the dwarfing if that happens.

If the scion does root, I’ve read you can control size (somewhat) by allowing the tree to bear fruit as early as possible, and also not thinning the fruit (or thinning very judiciously). I doubt it would turn a standard into a dwarf, but it might be enough to keep it more of a semi-dwarf size.

And some people say there are some benefits to own-root trees, to include making the tree healthier and longer lived.

I guess what I’m saying is that from what I’ve read, this might not be the disaster you’d think it would be. Then again, I’ve never tried it myself.

I guess if I had a bit of extra room, I’d try it, and hopefully the MM106 stock will remain the rootstock, but if not, I might be able to work with an own root tree. But if I had a limited number of trees in a limited amount of space, I probably wouldn’t take that chance. Especially since you can find Liberty apples at places like Lowes and such.

Thanks for all the replies. I really didn’t want a standard size tree, I didn’t space for that - I spaced for two M111/B118 type trees. But maybe it won’t grow into a standard or I will have to prune it heavily.

My thought would be that the risk of the Liberty rooting is probably lower for you because the graft isn’t completely buried. But it sort of depends on the propensity for Liberty to root.

The difference between an own-root Liberty and one on MM.106 might not be huge. I think Liberty is supposed to be a reliable annual cropper. I pushed my 3 year old tree sort of hard last year because it was one of only 2 trees that were going to fruit, and it still has a good return bloom for this year. Carrying a crop load also slowed its growth relative to other 3 year trees.

Since there’s some uncertainty about it there’s an opportunity to experiment- so here’s a thought.

Can you kind of artificially create a little longer trunk by lifting the tree a couple of inches, maybe three, no more, so that the tops of the roots are exposed and then very judiciously pruning those uppermost roots off a foot or so away from the trunk? I’m thinking (but not knowing) that doing so might force roots lower to grow and eventually allow you to remove the highest, exposed roots altogether.

May be a cockamanie scheme, but maybe somebody else will build on or shoot down the idea. Good luck with whatever you do.

So I was in Lowes today and I looked at there potted Apples, everyone of them had the graft below the soil. It is odd, I always knew to plant the graft above the soil unless you were planting a standard tree. Wonder why the commercial nurseries are ignoring a basic principle of grafted trees?

One hypothesis would be that if you plant the graft union below the soil line you can make the tree look straighter or hide the bud union? Sometimes bud unions look a little unsightly.

A concern I would have would be for collar or crown rot if you have wet or heavy soil. MM.106 is susceptible, and having the union right at ground level could help promote it.

truth is if you plant the graft joint below ground the tree will not be able to balance fruiting and growing. Look at what orchards do. When the tree scion-roots, they take it out.