Help for a fruit growing novice

Hello All,

I need some help with getting my grafted trees to grow. Here is some short background to give some insight. Last year I grafted 25 trees on EMLA-111 stock. All 25 trees took and started to grow very nicely. I planted them in “pots” that I had made from 6 inch PVC pipe that were long enough to cover the root stock up to 1" below the graft. I kept them in my basement with grow lights and planned to plant them this spring in their permanent homes.

I used Miracle Grow potting soil to pot them in. After a month or so, I noticed that the edges of the leaves were turning brown. I assumed this was from the fertilizer in the potting soil burning the roots. I transplanted them from the Miracle Grow into some soil from my garden but all the tress died. I’m guessing that I was too late with the transplanting and the trees died from the roots being damaged from the fertilizer, but I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t doing something else daft that you all could help me with.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated!


I don’t understand keeping them under gro-lights- unless you are talking about full spectrum sun equivalent- the florescent plant lights I use produce leggy vegetables so I can’t imagine they’d produce strong trees.

You transplanted them from some soil in your garden? What, in your pots? Soil does not usually work well in pots, unless they are bottomless and set into the ground (real soil). Real soils don’t allow proper drainage when used in pots so watering has to be done with extreme care- that’s why peat-lite type soils were created in the first place.

The easiest way for a novice to start an orchard of their own grafted trees is simply to put the rootstocks outside and let them establish for one season and then graft to a couple strong annual shoots on each “tree” and save the strongest graft to create the tree. The next simplest way is to benchgraft freshly bought rootstocks in a greenhouse, whose high humidity helps reduce the stress of the transplant shock of the rootstock which is dug up and then grafted to. Never heard of anyone attempting this under lights in a basement so I think that may be your primary problem, but the soil maybe put them over the top.

I did 10 apple grafts last year (first time) I did them I guess you would call it bench grafting in my basement. I grafted them to bare root B9 rootstock then put them in 1 gallon pots with straight Pro-Mix (no ferts) and stuck them under fluorescent lights (not grow lights) just to get the grafts to take. I also did not even wrap the scion other than the graft area (with elec. tape). Nor did I wrap or wax the top after I cut it. (because I didn’t know better)

They all took and when the weather got warm in the spring I planted all of them in the orchard. I only lost one due to root issues on the rootstock. This is exactly the way I was going to do it this year but did I just get lucky and the results will probably not be repeated? (Confused)

But it appears that D attempted to keep them indoors far beyond the period you did- he repotted the trees indoors, apparently.

The reason I kept them inside for so long was on some advice due to the Cicada emergence we had here last year. Someone told me they would likely kill the new root stock.

I like the idea of letting the root stock getting established for a year and then grafting to them. Thanks!

I bet you wind up with bearing trees just as fast as if you started them a year earlier in a green house. I’d love it if someone did an experiment because I get such better growth when I graft onto vigorous trees not in a state of shock, but I’ve never tried doing it in my greenhouse- not enough room.

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Thanks for the advice. I’d be really interested to know the outcome of that experiment as well.

Miracle Grow potting soil has never burnt any of my grafted trees. I start apple/pear/callery seeds in it too.

It seems that I made many compounding errors last year. I’m going to do as @alan recommended and let the root stock get a year under its belt then graft to it next year.

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How often did you water? It’s easy to drown a tree or even potted plant with those circumstances, which often looks like nutrient burn initially.


I didn’t really use a set amount of time between watering. I made sure to keep the soil moist but not water logged.

Good thought. And Miracle Grow potting soils are usually the worst because they have those water-holding crystals or whatever they call them. It keeps the soil wet for weeks, and with the tendency we all have to baby new plants, I would think over-watering could easily be the culprit.

I’d never use Miracle Grow potting soil for indoor plants unless I was making a 50/50 mix with perlite. And even then, I’d keep an eye on the water.

If you don’t trust yourself, you can buy a moisture meter at the store for $10 that will tell you when to water.


This forum is great! I’ve been given more help here in two days than I was able to get in a few months of research otherwise. Thanks everyone!


honestly if worried about cicada I’d just put soil insecticide down, heavily.

Are the plants dead yet, or just “on their way”?

Might be able to rescue them by:

less water (like none for a bit) to try to let them dry out
re-potting in a fabric bag pot or rootmaker or similar, ideally with a newer, lighter soil mix
getting them away from the grow light, at least mostly, and into a window or similar where it gets some light but not enough to make it all leggy, weak growth.

if they aren’t dead I’d probably buy a couple 5-10-gallon rootpouches or similar, and build a mix from a lot of bark and a bit or pearlite/vermiculite and a bit of potting mix, so it was a much better draining system, re-plant them in the pouches, and try to limp them along until its warm enough you can start hardening them off outside.

Edit: sorry, missed that the trees died. My guess is the roots got waterlogged to where they were largely rotted, whatever wasn’t outright was damaged enough it couldn’t be saved on planting outside…

Do you still have the trees? Can you check the roots for rot? Moist by my standards could be drowning for some trees under artificial light. Did you have a fan on them? Artificial light just doesn’t have the intensity to cause sufficient respiration without a little assistance. Regardless of what you think about drugs, if you want to grow inside, the stoners have a TON of good advice available.

Cicada can be bad to cut up new trees. I’ve grown rootstocks out without grafting them for 1 year and grafting them at the same time. I didn’t do a formalized grafting experiment but experimented on 100 trees some of which I did not have time to graft. The results were interesting the trees not grafted the first year did better than those grafted the first year. The rootstock is obviously stronger stock so I guess that makes sense. In a few years I can do a follow up. The rootstocks are ohxf333. I did not get about 15 grafted out of the 100 rootstocks.

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@MisterGuy I don’t have the trees anymore. They all died around the end of last May. Never thought about consulting the kings of indoor growing. The cicadas shouldn’t be an issue this year so I’m gonna plant most of the rootstock outside and graft to them next year.

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Yeah, I have some October Glory Maples that I planted two years ago. I had to cover them in netting to keep them from sawing into them and killing a bunch of branches. No easy feat being as I transplanted them at 15’ tall.

Although, they didn’t seem to bother the 5 or 6 apple trees left in my orchard that my great grandfather planted back in the day. I don’t seem to recall them killing a single branch.

I’m glad those things only come around every 17 years or so, they are a pain in the rear and can ruin a perfectly good motorcycle ride, not to mention your trees.

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You might be interested in this post 17 year cicada's woke up hungry

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They hit the oaks and stuff really hard here in SW Pennsylvania last year. Where I live we got off somewhat easy, but drive 10 minutes in any direction and the tress all looked dead from the damaged limbs hanging down. I don’t recall a single dead branch on the apples here at home.

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