Growing your own rootstock, what are the possibilities?

Been browsing multiple nurseries online in Canada for rootstock, and have just recently discovered that some shrubs have the ability to dwarf pear trees such as Perking Cotoneaster (Cotoneaster acutifolia)
and crab-apples such as the Siberian Crab-apple (Malus baccata) having exceptional ability of creating cold hardy trees. Has anyone used Mountain Ash or Hawthorne as a rootstock for Asian Pears? Would love to hear other people’s experiences with what kind of plants they used to dwarf a tree, or perhaps grow a standard sized tree!


I think @steveb4 has pear on ash.


I have a few sand cherry and about 10 choke cherry saplings I want to play with next year, they are super dwarfing on plum.

We use a lot of baccata here in Alaska. It is not dwarfing but usually our weather does a good job at dwarfing trees regardless. One caveat is that not all apples are compatible with baccata, I wasn’t able to get Prairie Magic to take on baccata.

Your best bet for apple rootstock? Dolgo. It is probably every bit as hardy as baccata and very likely that you can find it locally putting out apples. Find them apples and you will get them seeds.

Another food for thought; next time your baccata rotted tree puts out a branch from the rootstock let it so you can get baccata apples to make seeds and rootstocks from.


I have multiple euro pears on a back yard mountsin ash…also had an apple an asian pear which grew great for year after grafted then didnt wake up so guessing incompatible? (Have same asian pear growing on mountajn ash with euro pear interstem and its been growing great for the last few years


That’s great to hear Carlin, that’s making me even more eager to root some mountain ash cuttings and try it for myself, I live near an old farm field that is just filled with Black Hawthorne and Mountain Ash! :+1: endless supply and attempts to be made!


There’s some cool graft compatibility in the Rosacea family that’s understudied because it doesn’t translate to commercially available trees. You probably won’t find a pears on Cotoneaster, Rowan, Saskatoon or Apple rootstocks at a nursery or garden center, but it’s something I’ve thought about growing and offering from my little backyard nursery in Manitoba to enthusiasts just because it’s so cool.

Downsides - due to some degree of less than full graft compatibility.

  • Your tree might not live to be an old fruit tree. But then neither do dwarf apples (~20 years), or peach trees (~12 years). If you want a tree that will still be fruiting in 50 years, your best option is actually to have one growing on its own roots. Sadly that’s also another thing you won’t find in the nursery trade.
  • Your tree will probably have some amount of dwarfing (downside?)
  • Your tree might not look stereotypical - the graft union might be overgrown, it might be staked, and it might have a branch of the rootstock variety. This is less of a downside if you have lots of trees and you want to add some interesting variety. One good option might be to plan on espalier.
  • Specific combinations aren’t well studied, and just might be more or less compatible. You can find anecdotes about particular cultivars but the full range of what’s possible is understudied, the data is probably out there or maybe it was lost on old farms and orchards. For example in my own research nearly every case reported is working with cultivars that don’t even grow in our climate zone (USDA zone 3). Nanking Cherry and Saskatoon are two examples that do thankfully. An example of a well known and successful combination is some cultivars of pear on quince… but quince isn’t cold hardy. I would like to try a quince one day, they never seem to show up in the grocery stores.

Benefits - Here there are a few, especially for northern gardeners who have a limited selection of very cold hardy rootstocks.

  • Early fruiting - might be the largest benefit. Every study I’ve read with intergeneric rootstocks report early fruiting.
  • Cold hardiness - Cotoneaster and Rowan / Mountain ash for example are at least as cold hardy as Harbin pear. For apples I’ve grafted them on Amelanchier / Saskatoon with some success this year, and plums onto Choke Cherry and those trees are both hardy to zone 2. There are some reports that the graft union may could be less cold hardy, but I haven’t found any much information to back that. I left most of my intergeneric grafts wrapped with budding tape this winter.
  • Vole resistance - in our orchard voles only eat apple and pear wood. They’re not interested in the other trees, I’ve never seen on anything else girdled by voles over the winter.
  • Dwarfing - Plums or Peaches on Prunus tomentosa / Nanking cherry are dwarfed, also pears on Cotoneaster. Apples on Saskatoon seem to have some dwarfing, more so than with pears. These are examples of dwarfing that doesn’t require a weak root stock with a small shallow root system.

This old Harvard study has some cool results, wish it had been followed up on.

I made a blog post about a wild rootstock project, where I’m trialing different zone 3 varieties on wild Choke Cherry and Saskatoon trees. Grafting Pears and Plums to Wild Choke Cherry and Saskatoon – Oak Summit Nursery

Note my trials with less conventional combinations are just going into their second year, and I’ll get more excited about sharing results once I’ve seen the grafts pull through a few seasons. But some of these are well established in Russia like pear on Cotoneaster, and Saskatoon has been used in rootstock studies that showed good compatibility and early fruiting in at least the first few years… and I think that’s where that study ended. The craziest thing about most of these combinations in there’s very little specific data, and there’s other variables to consider that could affect how successful the grafts grow like climate, cultivars, specific genetics for seedling rootstocks, pruning, graft aftercare like support, and just your expectations for what would be a good result.


Great first post, welcome to the forum! We have a few other threads exploring similar interests. I’ll try to dig some up from my bookmarks tomorrow to link.

Some have tried pear on hawthorn too.


@disc4tw Hey thank you, and you’re right there’s at least a few good threads about graft compatibility. I jumped into this one because it’s new and @Taylorinshirewood was asking about growing in Canada.


Doug, I am very grateful that you’ve shared your experiences on things like this since the information out there is scare as it is. I’ve actually came across your website while looking for perennial seeds, neat coincidence! I’m relatively new to grafting, and earlier this year, have had difficulties finding rootstock to start grafting onto, seeing what you’ve said about chokecherry, saskatoon, (Ordered saskatoon, and foraged chokecherry), cotoneastern, ash, it fills me with hope that there are alternatives out there, and opportunities to be had.

I relate to your idea about selling these trees out from your backyard. Over here on Vancouver Island, south island area, I want to focus on small backyards and patios - folks who don’t have a lot of space, but want to possibly grow a tree or some berry plants. Espaliering seems to be the best way to train trees in this environment, as well as step-overs and having trees that produce early would be a huge benefit in this context.

While the south island area doesn’t get as cold as say your -40c, we do occasionally, and right now have artic outflows down to -20c in the interior of the province, -5 on the southern island area, to -10c in the central island area. These artic outflows really only last for a week - if rarely two weeks. Cold hardiness is a concern, but drought resistance I think in the context of an urban backyard would be more of a desired trait, higher costs of water, limited soil depth in a container, ph flexibility all due to road salt, considerations to think about when trying out wild rootstock.

This following season I’m planning to grow the chokecherries out, as well as the ash seeds, after they’ve been stratified over the winter and do my own research and perhaps remember to send you a message to see what I’ve found out!

I’m eager to hear about your trials and will bookmark your website/blog to hear more about them!


I have great interest in these things. I am not quite as ambitious when it comes to exotics, but my current plans are to test callery rootstock in some of my spots with hard, dry rocky soils. I am also thinking about growing apples on callery rootstock using a winter banana interstem.

I am also curious if using limbertwig or other weeping varieties will cause the cultivar to weep. It seems most here think not but I have not been able to find anyone who has tested this.


Hey thank you, I’ve always just been a reader here on board, for sure I’ve read through many of the threads on this topic. Nice to hear about your weather, I’ve been out to Vancouver a few times in recent years and would love to get on ferry next time and see some of the islands. Espalier is under rated, when researching the Russian melon and arctic stanza training methods I realized how similar their methods of growing low sprawling trees to improve cold hardiness is to a step over espalier. A few apple trees in my orchard are slowly being trained in informal low spreading forms, I think it’s cool like a form of Japanese Niwaki / garden trees, just makes your fruit tree more interesting.


Someone may have planted a Callery in the general vicinity of my yard which may or may not have been dug up from a local highway in the interest of invasive species removal. It may happen to be split near the base in a perfect location to make an espalier…

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Could you share photos when you have a chance?

Might be a bit, they’re under some feet of snow :wink:

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Where can Callery rootstock be found in these parts? I have sections of my property close to the lake that is quite boggy. I am growing a few Pacific Crabapple to use as rootstock in the wet areas. Pacific Crabapple is one of the few apple species that can tolerate wet feet. I’m also planning to use winter banana as an interstem. However, I am going to try growing European pears on the crabapple/winter banana combination. I intend to grow these as a fan or espalier against a wooden fence.

Hopefully some of these experiments work out, as I would like to grow fruit trees right down to the lakeshore if possible. Pacific Crabapple is starting to get some exposure as a good rootstock for wet areas. A few Nurseries are now experimenting with using it as a rootstock.

It appears that I live quite close to you @ribs1, as I live in the Southern Gulf Islands quite close to Victoria.

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I dont think we are close. I live near Ann Arbor, Michigan

Sorry about that @ribs, I replied to the wrong user. It is @Taylorinshirewood that is in my area I believe.

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You can look around for them. The leaves look like pears obviously, but they have a distinctive red color in the fall. Usually more red than any other pear leaves get. They are also often thorny.
You can also harvest the fruit and grow them from seed I think.
Clarkinks will have much more info. Are you in the US somewhere?

No, I am in southern British Columbia. Callery are not common in these parts as far a as I’m aware. From what I’ve read I don’t think they’d be too welcome here either, as they are reputed to be extremely invasive.

That’s why I’ll give the Pacific/swamp crabapple a try as rootstock. It is a native species and I don’t believe it spreads by suckering as Callery does.

Is Saskatoon / Serviceberry / Juneberry native in your region? I had success with pear grafts on Amelanchier canadensis that grows natively here in upstate NY. I had 24 successful grafts with about 8-10 european pear varieties. Unfortunately, I don’t have any left, but that was due to my failure to protect the grafts from deer. The Amelanchier canadensis definitely had a dwarfing effect.