Grafting to Crabapple Trees

I have almost as many varieties of apple trees as I do trees…I think 3 is the most of one variety that I have. I also have many crabapples. They tend to be among the more vigorous trees that I have. Is there any reason why I would not want to graft some of my more desirable apple varieties (which I typically have fewer of, and seem to be the least vigorous of all my trees) on to my crabapple trees ? It seems the best choice to put my most desirable scions onto my most vigorous and healthy trees. Aside from specific individual incompatibilities, is there any reason I would not want to do this ? I am not speaking of topworking the trees, although I may decide to do that in the future, just grafting a few branches…I have had good luck with “Z” grafts.


I’ll be interested to hear responses to this post. I top-worked about 10 wild crabapples this year.

I would, never have. But I think your logic is sound. I’d like to find a crab I could stick some scions on just to grow them out and try them.

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I graft to limbs on wild crabs every year.


my most vigorous and healthy tree is a Chestnut crab on Standard rootstock. So I took some of my more desirable apples (again they seem to always be the ones doing most poorly) Rubinette and Goldrush and grafted them onto some of the chestnut branches. Maybe not the best way to have a significant amount of fruit, better o do a graft further in and further down on the tree, but if they take at least I will have more scions of those varieties to graft later on.


Here’s a wild crab I top worked. I was running out of scion, but it’s just a wild tree growing out of a pile of old farm equipment…not too worried about form.


I taught myself to graft by practicing on wild or abandoned crabs growing along the bikepath I use to commute to work. In my first round less than half took. One issue was that I was grafting to very old trees. There was not much recent growth wood to be found and the tree had no reason to push growth into my graft since it was already maxed out in size. When I started grafting on my own trees, it was not too hard to get to 100% success because they were young and wanted to grow.

Probably would have had better luck on the bikepath crabs if I could have lopped off limbs and done cleft grafts but these were not on my property and I didn’t have permission so I wanted to keep below the radar, and also practice the kind of grafts I expected to be doing on my own trees later.

Still it was a good way to get some practice and feel with your own hands what I had been reading about or watching videos on.

Just last fall while biking home one evening I ate a delicious Chestnut from a graft I put on 7 years ago. Pretty satisfying! In the background you can see the little crabs that are native to the tree, and a lump where my whip and tongue graft was put on.

So in summary: Go for it!


That’s great!

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I’ve pulled crabs as volunteer rootstocks, including a wild crab I stuck 7 different apples onto that’s still doing well on the berm at the edge of our neighborhood…


At work today I came across a stand of crabapples that were scheduled to be removed in the next few weeks for construction. I figured I couldn’t let already developed rootstock go to waste, so I dug them up at the end of the day and brought them home. They are between ~1.5-4" diameter and I was able to keep a decent amount of roots for each. They are currently buried in a yard of wood chip mulch. I am thinking it makes sense to wait for a few more weeks to graft them. I cut them all off at a couple of feet tall, knowing I’ll be top grafting each and it made it easier to transport. I know they are apples and not Callery pears because one tree still had the remnants of one apple hanging.

I figured they will act like semi - dwarf rootstock, at least their growing habit was at the site. Growing in coal spoil will do that to a tree though… We’ll see if they make some fruit by next year!

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