Peach "runting"?

Can someone please explain what it means when a peach tree “runts”? I am seeing the term mentioned but not finding what it means. I have plans to try my hand at grafting in the coming months with various dwarf to vigorous rootstocks. Thanks all

“Runt out” is a common term used for apples. Generally it occurs on dwarf apple trees in spindle system (but can occur on dwarf backyard apple trees too.) The rootstocks are so dwarfing that unless the trees are irrigated and fertilized heavily, they won’t get to the top wires on the spindle trellis. They just quit growing about 2 or 3 feet short of the top wire and never reach their potential. They just stay stunted for life, which is undesirable because every year, they don’t produce the amount of apples they are capable of doing.

In peaches, I’ve not heard much about “runting out”. I have talked to nursery owners who sell me peach “runts” though they generally don’t use that term. They are just small nursery peach trees which didn’t grow much their first season. I prefer these small 3/8" whips because I can train them easier.

I suppose if you are grafting peaches to dwarf rootstocks, it’s possible they could “runt out” like apple trees, but I’d guess it would be much less likely. Dwarf apples runt out because they start producing too many spurs too soon and quit producing much vegetative wood. It’s not a problem to get apple trees producing more vegetative wood on semi-dwarf rootstocks, but much more difficult to get dwarf apple trees back to producing vegetative wood, once they “runt out”. Peaches don’t produce spurs, but produce all vegetative wood, in the sense the wood is all vegetative, with some flower buds on the vegetative wood. So they don’t get spur bound, like apples.

I’ve no experience with true dwarf peach trees (like Controller rootstocks) so maybe they occasionally do runt out on those extreme dwarfs, I don’t know.

Sometimes peaches in very poor water logged soil conditions will not put on much growth at all. When that happens, those peach trees are generally very short lived, if they survive at all.


Excellent explanation I really appreciate it!

I have had many non-dwarf peaches runt out. Lack of nutrients or age or disease (canker in particular) are reasons why peaches can runt out.


Dwarf apples runt out when they are allowed to produce too much fruit too soon. Too soon being before they reach the size needed in whatever system being used. I’ve never had that happen because I thin early in the season and heavily especially on young trees.

Peaches on standard rootstock are only going to runt out if growing conditions are poor or a disease like crown gall hits the tree really hard. I’ve had a few peaches that didn’t grow well but none I’d say runted out.


When I think of runting out, I’m thinking of trees which never got much bigger than a rosebush, like runted out apples. Like maybe 4’ tall X 2.5’ in dia. Trees like that (apples, peaches too) never took off, even from the beginning, so it wouldn’t be an age thing.

Of course I can’t speak for your orchard, but I’ve never seen canker cause a young peach tree not to grow. I have had lots of young peach trees get canker, but it doesn’t seem to slow them at all. They just get a partial girdling of the scaffolds or trunk. But in my experience, with any kind of partial girdling, it doesn’t seem to take much bark at all for peaches to pass adequate fluids and nutrients through.

Nutrient poor soil is one I didn’t think of. I could see extremely poor or imbalanced soil severely affecting newly planted peach trees. We don’t have that too much here in corn country.

Now that I think about it, I did sell some peach trees to one of my peach customers (I sometimes graft more peach trees than I need and sell the extra to customers). These peach trees never grew much at all. I’d never had this happen, and made several personal visits to his house to try to figure it out. I think his soil was really poor. He planted the trees on a pond dam. The pond dam was made from excavated soil from the bottom of the pond, which made very poor soil.

The guy ended up killing the trees by dumping some random soil activated herbicide at the base of the trees towards the end of that first summer. As a side note, after all my efforts, and him killing the trees, he wanted his money back, which I gave him.

I should also probably mention that in addition to poor soil and water logged soil, thick grass sod close to the trees would also contribute to a runted out peach tree. I think all three variables would work synergistically to runt out a peach tree.

I think you are right on that. We don’t grow apples on the super spindle system, but I talk to guys that do. They do try to crop the trees as early as possible, but are pretty careful with the crop load. They tell me it’s critical the young trees are irrigated and fertilized heavily.

Peach trees on dwarf rootstocks can indeed runt out. I have seen this happen often enough on Controller and especially on Krymsk-1.

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I have very thin soil, maybe 9 to 11 inches. Hard pan and clay, below that, fractured basalt to who knows what depth. So, I plant on dirt mounds to help the situation a little.

I bought some “top soil” for one of the trees.
The new tree I planted in that mound just sat there and didn’t grow. Now I’m trying to figure out what is wrong with the tree. That first year I referred to it as my Charlie Brown peach tree. If I had hung a single Christmas ornament on it, it would have bent over under the weight.

The following year I started pouring the fertilizer to the tree, and it grew like a weed (like they usually do). Turns out the soil was just nutrient poor.