Guidance please - Purchased rootstock

I’ve decided on a rootstock for this year to try out some grafting on a non established tree/plant.
What I’m not clear on and I can’t seem to find the answer for: once I get the rootstock, what are my immediate steps? Some are listed as potted, some are not. Am I potting the rootstock and then grafting the scion to it right away, or am I potting it and wait for it to come alive before grafting?
Also, once I’ve grafted to a rootstock I potted and the graft took, am I letting it grow one year and once it’s dormant again, take it out of the pot and trim the roots and then plant it in its permanent spot?

Some guidance of the usual steps would be welcomed.


You may get different answers then mine, but the way I’ve done it is graft the dormant scion onto a loose rootstock, wrap the graft union with tape or something similar, wrap the whole thing with a damp paper towel and place in a tied up plastic bag.

I put the bag in a dark cool place and let it sit a few days, and maybe after a week or two, if the graft took, you should see new green buds peek out on the scion.

I let mine sit a few days to see how it progresses in the bag. After a week or so, I potted them up in a 3 gal pot with the appropriate potting soil, making sure the graft union is a few inches above the soil. After that, I just left it outside to grow, and watered it a bit when needed. If it’s hot out, you may need to set it in the shade at first and get acclimated to the weather, and then gradually let it get more sun. You could plant it in the ground probably the following fall where you want it. Some folks would transplant it to a garden spot in the spring and let it grow like any other veggie, and then move it that fall. Or even leave it there until the next spring and transplant it to its permanent location.

I did that with 3 apple grafts last year, and they’re in the cellar now because it’s too cold right now to plant them. I hope to plant them in the ground in March before they come out of dormancy.

Just my 2c, there are way more qualified folks on here who might do it differently.

If you’re not ready to use the rootstock immediately, some folks store them in pots with some moist peat moss or soil over the roots, and store in a cool dark place, or maybe heel them in by digging a hole for them outside, and laying just the roots in the hole and covering it back up with the soil.

What are you planning on grafting, apples, pears, peaches?

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Being in California, we can plant trees in the ground throughout winter and spring, so potting is needed only if you don’t have access to the location where the tree is going to be eventually planted.

There are two approaches that you can choose from. One is called “bench grafting” — you graft a dormant scion onto a dormant rootstock and keep the resulting tree in a dark cool place for a week or two, until the graft takes, and then plant it in the ground. People have varying preferences regarding the details like at what temperature to keep the bench-grafted tree, whether to apply some heat to the graft area, and how long to wait until the graft is healed. You can find more recommendations about these specific details by searching for “bench graft”.

Another approach is to plant the rootstock in the ground (or in a pot if you don’t yet have access to the future planting location) right after you receive it from the nursery and then wait a month or two until it breaks dormancy. Then you graft a dormant scion onto an actively growing rootstock. In my personal experience, this works very well with species that are easy to graft like apples and pears. However, for stone fruit and other species that are more difficult to graft (e.g., persimmon, etc.) you will significantly increase the chance of success if you let the rootstock to establish in the ground for one season and graft onto it only a year later.

I have never encountered a nursery selling potted rootstocks, only bareroot. An exception is when somebody bought a few rootstocks, potted them for later use, but didn’t ever get to grafting them, and eventually decided to sell. It’s ok if you can find a deal like that locally, but shipping potted rootstocks is a waste — shipping will cost more than rootstocks themselves.


Scion wood comes from trees that will be removed due to re-grading of the property (they stand in water for many months of the year and are not healthy) so proper drainage will be installed. I’ll be able to plant once that is done.
I read that nurseries put the rootstock in big boxes after grafting for a year before selling/planting which is why I figured if I pot them that would be similar.
All of the scion are from stone fruit (peach, plum, and pluot).

That’s what I thought as well, but Raintree has Gisela 6 listed in small pots. Maybe it means something else?

Last year I had near 90% takes by doing the benchgrafts and potting them up right outside in the cold. So, I don’t know how much additional benefit there is in storing in a plastic bag in a dark place waiting for the graft to callous? This was in March…with numerous days in 50’s and numerous nights in low 20’s in zone 6b.

Well, these were my first ever bench grafts and I didn’t know if they’d take, plus it was pretty cold outside at the time, so I guess I was being cautious. They’re in a cold cellar now, awaiting planting in March.

If trees are not healthy, the quality of the scionwood taken from them might be subpar. This might affect the rate of grafting success.

In my experience, potted stone fruit trees do not do well in summer heat here (I’m in Tracy, so I assume the conditions in your location are fairly similar to mine). I had multiple apricot and cherry trees dying in pots in July and August (while 100% of potted apple trees survived and grew very well). If you keep them in pots just for a few months and plant this spring it will be ok, but if you need to keep them in pots over the summer take extra precautions (like planting in white pots and using additional shade).

I would guess that these are really tiny.

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So the issue is having the graft take but once/if it does, all is candy and rainbows?

Basically yes. The scion has to survive on its own resources for some time until the graft union heals. A scion taken from vigorous growth on a healthy tree has a better chance to do that than one taken from weak growth on a sickly tree.