Milking Rootstock (micro-grafting)

When grafting apple I sometimes find rootstocks on which the distance between the highest and lowest roots makes for a longer section than will fit in the pots I’m using. Rather than leave them full length I will cut a couple inches off the bottom and save these rootstock stubs for micrografting (assuming there are adequate roots on the cut section).

These rootstock stubs are ideal for when you have varieties which aren’t in need of any particular affect from a specific rootstock because the resulting trees will be own-root on account of the graft ultimately getting buried while the rootstock stub simply serves as a nurse root.

Typically I will graft very short scion sections onto these rootstock stubs; one or sometimes two nodes (growth rate will be slower than that of those grafted to the normal sized rootstocks). I then pot them up with just the top of the graft site exposed with room in the pot to add soil and cover the scion as it begins to grow so that it can form its own roots.

The below photos show an example. In this case I’m grafting scion from a naturally dwarf crabapple that I want to evaluate. Because I’m interested in evaluating its natural habit without influence from rootstock, this method proves ideal.


I love it. Nice

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Thanks for sharing.

I believe @Barkslip has mentioned grafting directly onto a root in the past, but I think he was talking about something other than apples. This makes me wonder, can you just lop off decent sized sections of roots from established trees and graft directly onto them? I ask because I have that exact thing sitting under mulch in my backyard currently from pieces of crabapple trees I dug at work.

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I was just about to ask a similar question. I received some Dolgo rootstock with huge roots that I had to trim back . I was wondering if I could plant these and grow new rootstock from them or maybe just graft directly to them.

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The bottom section of an apple rootstock is still just a stem with roots, so the the bark is thin. If grafting onto an actual root piece the bark will be thicker and spongier so you’ll have to put a bit more effort into lining up the cambium layers of the root and the scion.


It seemed? (Or my imagination) That a cut made on the bottom of the rootstock reduced survival rates of the main graft. So–I’ve mostly moved to using a bigger pot if that is an issue of too long a root.

But, the idea of a second graft from a rootstock is certainly interesting.

I haven’t had any issues, but I only do this with apples.

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I have tried to graft apple scion direct onto roots and here you can see result after few years.

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When you’re grafting you need to look for sunken areas or bumpy or anything that doesn’t appear normal because when you cut into that, you’ll the tissue or (whatever it is) is also funky. So, find areas that appear normal and graft into those.

If you got a root in your hand like @greyphase is showing and there’s all those laterals, then you might not find much cutting room to make your union. And cutting those off (or I should say) drawing your knife above a lateral and trying to cut into the root to stick a scion, usually you’ll find those areas too are different tissue. And, it goes deep into the center core of the main root. So, ‘learning’ where to cut and not to cut comes from experience and me trying to say in words the problems you’re going to run into, should help quite a lot.

Bonsai guys/gals are always grafting directly to roots, fyi.



Just buy the deep pots. There reusable.

What have you got against getting more trees out of the rootstock than the original number of rootstock? :confused: Anyways, deep pots are cool, but if you’re doing a large number of grafts it is more efficient to use uniform pot sizes.

Nothing ventured nothing gained. :slight_smile:


That is a healthy looking root! I bet it will work out just fine.

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