Revisiting Rootstocks

After trying semi-dwarf apple rootstocks, I think I want something a little larger that can penetrate the tough soil and cope with the droughts better. Stone fruits need to be netted from birds now, so I like to keep them smallish.

I decided to try a local seedling for my apple rootstock. The tree is the right size, about 8" trunk with very robust branches. In the first year, I pruned the tree hard to induce new vertical shoots for interstems and started seeds form another larger seedling I’m fond of. In the second year, I collected the interstems from the desired tree and grafted them to the year old seedlings. The interstem will be planted below ground to root. Not sure how it will workout, but I like the idea of using decades-old trees that have been tested by nature in the exact environment they are expected to perform in. The only thing that concerns me is the rooting of the interstem and effect on fruit quality of certain varieties.

I’ve been testing these with peaches for a couple years now. They seem to make smaller fruits that are more intensely flavored. It also seems to make fruit buds a little more winter hardy (compared to peach roots). They perform well in both drought parched and waterlogged soils. On the down side, the seedlings often grow like bushes and spread like thickets, which can make management a little challenging. Hard pruning encourages this behavior. Of course, the sprawling root network from the thicketing behavior might be the key to extreme soil tolerance. Considering how much they sucker, I wouldn’t use an herbicide like roundup around them. Overall, I’m liking their potential for small plots in tough conditions.


I tried rooting some pear rootstock this year
100% Failure, not one rooted.
Sorry I have lost track of which one it was, I believe -ohxfd
I stuck them in a shaded nursery area where I usually have good luck rooting other things.
What advice do you have on propagating pear rootstock ?
Any tricks to it ?

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I prune everything to an open center (peaches, apples, pears, plums). The only thing I don’t prune as much to an open center are tart cherries. They really want to grow in the Christmas tree shape.

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I’m interested in the open center apples. What rootstock are they on and how tall do the tree get?

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I’ve got them on several different rootstocks. Bud118, M7, MM111, and standard. The ones on standard really have to be pruned quite a bit more, but I prune all my trees to pedestrian height, so I don’t know how tall they would get if I didn’t prune.

The apple trees on standard rootstock are like peaches in that they need to be pruned in the summer generally. Apogee helps a lot, but it’s a pain to spray. It does make the trees more productive though. Since it slows the growth, you don’t have to remove as much wood, which allows for more spurs to form.

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To propagate pears just take a look at the bottom of a pear tree that suckers profusely. The answer is to find one like that or just let me know if you need one but remember it suckers profusely

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@Hillbillyhort @clarkinks

I had some accidental luck rooting an ohxf97 cutting this year. In early May, as my rootstock were springing to life, I topworked some ohxf97 to various varieties (I was late getting my grafting done but I had 100% success on my grafts so it turned out OK). The rootstock had been in the ground a season to get a little size on them. I had discarded all the trimmings until it occurred to me that they might grow better in the ground than in the trash :slight_smile: I stuck maybe 3 or 4 tops in the ground. Some cuttings were longer and some short. I don’t recall if I did anything special with the portion of the cutting below ground. I put shade around them (a couple of tree tubes tied together, 2’ tall). Because this experiment wasn’t a priority and I was gone a lot during the summer, I watered them occasionally, and weeded barely. One of them rooted. I’m not sure what might have been different about this one versus the other 2 or 3 that failed. The survivor is about a foot tall above ground and maybe 3/16" diameter or less. A minor success, but I might try that on the larger scale this year. Here’s a shot of the survivor this morning after a fun 10F night. Ignore the encroaching weeds :slight_smile:



In Central Virginia:

  • Peaches Lovell, Halford, Bailey, Seedling
  • Cherry Colt
  • Apple MM106, G935, G41
  • Pear betulifolia

What doesn’t work - OHXF 87/97 series for pear, Mahleb for Cherries, MM111 or Standard for apples (they grow but never bloom/set fruit or runt)…

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My 6 year old daughter accidentally rooted a piece of Moonglow wood. I was grafting this spring and I wanted to keep her occupied and away from my tools. So I gave her few pieces of pruned off moonglow wood and parafilm. She wrapped it in parafilm and planted it. It didn’t dry off for about 4 months and finally started to leaf out. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t stored energy that got the wood to leaf out and wanted to see it had roots. I made the mistake of pulling it out to take a peak (I hate when my kids do this but I have to admit I’m guilty of doing that too) I was amazed to see tiny roots. I quickly planted it again and watered but it never got through that shock. It dried up within a week.


The cuttings I tried were root sprouts…
Hoped to root these , no luck , now I think I should cut them all off, as fire blight can have a direct connection to the root if it strikes these.
I also tried air layering with no luck.
Maybe just the wrong strain for rooting.

I do not want a start from one that suckers profusely , thanks .

Snowflake , that is interesting about moon glow rooting,
I will have to try that. I did try a half hearted air layer of moon glow . No rooting.

Would like to establish a stool bed of pear, not sure which one ?
I did start some betulafolia from seed with good results, but took 2 yrs to reach grafting size

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APPLES - four of six of my fruiting trees are all on antonovka (purchased as trees from Fedco); other two old trees on unknown rootstock that is standard size & very suckery. All hale and hearty.
Apple grafts (couple dozen or more) are on regrown antonovka (orig trees died thanks to borers) rootstocks, most on “wild” young seedling apples or crabs; some on full grown producing wild apples & crabs. Almost all growing very well at varied rates, no fruit yet. Also root grafted several this year and they grew. On most I’m leaving a nurse branch (mainly till I see what the original fruit is like). Many varieties are on several different stocks so it will be interesting to see differences when they fruit. So far all are fully hardy. The wild/seedling crabapples and regular apples we have around are of varying sizes and shapes.

PEARS - I have one 40 yr old rootstock pear likely common seedling rootstock. Very hardy! And large. No suckers but I’ve grown a few from seed (still young) to graft later. Wish it would sucker. Grafted a number of scions to low branches.

Planted 5 usseriensis rootstock last year, grafted 4. One died over winter (regrew vigorously from root), another during summer (dead). Other 3 looking good.

Two purchased pears growing well are on OHxF97 rootstock.

PLUMS - many - all but one on American Plum rootstocks, either purchased or suckers of those. Plenty hardy enough, vigorous, easy grafting, winterkill not a problem (pollination on the other hand…!).

Chum (Sapalta) on own root, many suckers, likewise hardy, easy to grow, haven’t grafted to any yet but plan to try some apricot.

One chum from seed rootstock has 3 regular hybrid plum grafts, two of which badly overgrew graft, 1 OK. Very hardy but very little fruit. Wouldn’t do that again (regular on chum).

CHERRY TART - Mazzard rootstock - Original two purchased cherries on Mazzard (from Fedco). Suckered when trees died (racoon inflicted wounds cankered, not winterkill). Lived about 10 yrs. Another purchased tree died 2nd year (rootstock regrew). Grafted onto suckers. Four winterkilled first year or two. Root shoots regrew. Going to try grafting a couple again. Others going to root graft in spring & bury graft to try & get cherries on own roots.

Have a 2 yr own-root Evans and 3 yr own-root Carmine doing well. Think own root may be the way to go here.

I figure my zone to be 3 because I’ve had winterkill on z4 rated trees, and we’re in a valley (cold settles nicely here). So hardy rootstocks and varieties are important.