Rootstocks for Fruit Trees

Rootstocks are an essential part of growing fruit trees. This article will explain what rootstocks are, why they are used and which types of rootstocks are grown on our nursery. Information about each individual rootstock will help you choose the perfect one for your tree.

What is a rootstock?

A rootstock is the root system of the tree. Rootstocks have been used for centuries for tree propagation. More recent trials carried out in various countries have resulted in selections that ensure the right qualities for successful growth. To propagate a new tree, fresh wood from the ‘mother tree’ is cut off (this is called ‘scion wood’) and then grafted or budded onto the rootstock. Once the union of rootstock and scion wood is made, the selected variety grows up to become the tree. The rootstock can be planted out in the ground or grafted indoors and potted. Rootstocks need to be a compatible variety to form a strong union with the scion wood, e.g. apple trees need apple rootstocks, etc. There are some exceptions where a different type of tree is compatible with a rootstock, e.g. quince rootstocks can be grown with some pears varieties.

For a closer look at how trees are budded or grafted, click here for our budding video and click here for our grafting video.

To read more about the history of rootstocks, click here.

Why are rootstocks used for growing fruit trees?

There are many reasons why a rootstock is used in tree propagation:

~ To control the growth rate and ultimate size of the tree. This is useful where space is limited and trees need to be a uniform size.

~ To help with disease resistance: many rootstocks are specially selected as they are resistant to diseases such as woolly aphid or collar rot.

~ To enable trees to be ‘true to type’ by ensuring that identifiable scion wood can be used to graft or bud onto the rootstock.

~ To help the tree cope with different soil types: some rootstocks are known to perform better with wetter or drier conditions or in soil that is poor quality.

~ To ensure hardiness against colder winters.

~ To encourage more fruit and improved fruit size.

A guide to fruit tree rootstocks

Rootstocks Chart

How to choose a rootstock

The main consideration when choosing a rootstock for your tree is the size of tree you would like. Each rootstock will determine how big your tree will grow. Other factors such as location, soil type and pruning will also influence the size of the tree so the sizes given are only a guide.

Apple Tree Rootstocks

M.27 Very Dwarf

Ideal for patio tubs and smaller spaces as it produces a true mini tree. Height is no more than 2 metres with little support required. Heavy cropping fruit trees may need a permanent stake. Fruiting begins in the first year. Very little pruning needed.

M.9 – Dwarf

Very productive and usually grows no more than 3 metres. Ideal for cordons. This rootstock provides good growth control with high productivity. Trees will need some support because yields are heavy and fruit size is particularly good.

M.26 – Semi Dwarf

Good for bush trees and cordons in limited spaces. A useful rootstock for those wanting compact, free-standing trees. It is best grown with a permanent stake to improve stability. Requires good quality soil.

M.116 – Medium

A robust rootstock, producing a tree about 4 metres tall. 10% less vigorous than MM.106. Resistant to phytophora, collar rot and woolly aphid. Perfect for bushes and half standards. Espaliers and other forms of trained fruit where large walls need covering should be selected within this vigour range. 

MM.106 – Semi Vigorous

Excellent, general purpose apple rootstock. Produces a tree 4 to 5 metres tall. Suitable for bush, cordon and half standards of most varieties. Staking only required on sites which are exposed. Woolly aphid resistant. Larger, more robust tree form, bushes and half standards are grown on these rootstocks. Espaliers and other forms of trained fruit where large walls need covering should be selected within this vigour range. 

MM.111 – Vigorous

A tough, vigorous rootstock producing a tree about 5 to 6 metres tall. Ideal for half standards and standards. No staking required. Although slower into cropping, the fruit will be high quality. Trees grown on these rootstocks are not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter.

M.25 – Very Vigorous

The best rootstock for traditional orchards. Produces apple trees about 6 metres tall. Ideal for full standard trees and straight leads (trees that have no had their leader pruned out). Although slower into cropping, the fruit will be high quality. Trees grown on these rootstocks are not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter. 

Cherry Tree Rootstocks

Gisela 5 – Dwarf

Produces trees about 3 metres tall. Ideal for commercial orchards, gardens and patio pots. This rootstock provides good growth control with high productivity. Fruit is a good size and quality.

Colt – Semi Vigorous

Trees on this rootstock reach 4 to 5 metres. Very productive and fully compatible with all sweet and flowering cherries. A useful rootstock for those wanting compact, free-standing trees. Perfect for bushes or half-standards. There is enough vigour for covering walls as fan-trained trees.

Prunus F.12.1. – Very Vigorous

A vigorous rootstock that will ultimately produce trees 6 metres tall or more. Ideal for large specimens or traditional orchards. Although slower into cropping, the fruit will be high quality. Trees grown on these rootstocks are not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter. 

Pear Tree Rootstocks

Quince ‘C’ – Dwarf

Produces a tree 2 to 3 metres tall. Crops within the first few years. Prefers soils that are not chalky.

Quince Eline® – Dwarf

Similar size to Quince ‘C’ but more productive and copes better with cold winters. Produces smoother fruit with less russetting. Tree reach 2 to 3 metres tall. Crops within the first few years.

Quince ‘A’ – Semi Vigorous

The ideal rootstock for bush and half-standard trees. Ultimately growing to about 4 metres. A useful rootstock for those wanting free-standing trees. Also perfect for fan-trained trees and espaliers. Prefers soils that are not chalky.

Pyrodwarf – Vigorous

Specifically used for perry pear varieties. Produces a tree about 5 metres tall. The name is misleading as it is a more dwarfing version of the vigorous Pyrus communis and not actually a dwarf rootstock. A tough rootstock that produces good quality, uniform fruit.

Pyrus communis – Very Vigorous

Ideal for large, traditional orchard trees. Can reach a height of 6 metres or more. Although slower into cropping, the fruit will be high quality. Trees grown on these rootstocks are not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter.

Pyrus Kirchensaller – Very Vigorous

Ideal for large, traditional orchard trees. Can reach a height of 6 metres or more. Although slower into cropping, the fruit will be high quality. Trees grown on these rootstocks are not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter. A selection of Pyrus communis that has a more consistent vigour and form.

Almonds, Apricots, Damsons, Gages, Nectarines, Peaches, Plums

VVA-1 – Semi Dwarf

Produces a tree about 3 metres tall. Good fruit size, yield and winter hardiness. A useful rootstock for those wanting compact, free-standing trees.

Torinel – Semi-Dwarf

Particularly good for apricots. Trees reach a height of about 3 metres. A specialist rootstock for improved fruiting yield and fruit size. A useful rootstock for those wanting compact, free-standing trees. There is enough vigour for a good fan-trained tree against a wall.

Krymsk 86 – Medium

Compatible with apricots, peaches and nectarines. More tolerant of heavy wet soils with better anchorage. Larger, more robust tree form reaching about 4 metres. Bushes and half standards are grown on these rootstocks. Fan trained trees on large walls can be grown with this rootstock.

Wavit – Semi Vigorous

A robust disease resistant, free standing and non-suckering rootstock for plums, gages, damsons, mirabelles and apricots. Grows well on a wide range of soils and conditions. A useful rootstock for those wanting compact, free-standing trees. There is enough vigour for covering walls as fan-trained trees. About 10% less vigorous than St. Julien ‘A’.

St. Julien ‘A’ – Semi Vigorous

Produces a tree about 5 metres tall. This is fully compatible with all plums, damsons, gages, peaches, nectarines and apricots and many ornamental prunus species. A useful rootstock for those wanting productive, free-standing trees. Also ideal for large, fan-trained specimens.

Brompton – Vigorous

Ideal for large standards in traditional orchards. Trees on this rootstock can reach 6 metres. High quality fruit appears after the first few growing years. Not suitable for containers. Available to buy bare-rooted in winter.

Vines

All our vines are grafted onto ‘SO4’ rootstock which is vigorous, suiting a range of soils and UK climate conditions.

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