Fruit Tree Rootstock

A fruit rootstock is a stump of an established related species grafted onto to a separate fruit tree. These are identifiable by a bulge a few inches from the bottom of the stem where the wood has knitted together.

This is done for multiple reasons, including controlling the height of the tree, improving disease resilience, and allowing the cultivation of trees in a smaller space then if grown on its own. But it is worth remembering that the rootstock has no influence over the size of the fruit itself.

Grow your own Fruit Trees

Rootstock we use:

Fruit TypeRootstock NameRootstock TypeUltimate HeightStart FruitingGrowing ConditionsSpacing
AppleMM106Semi-dwarfing3-5 m 3 – 4 yearsRange of soils including grassed orchards and poor soils3.6 m (12ft) with 4.5m (15ft) between rows
PlumSt Julien ASemi Vigorous2 m 3 – 4 yearsHeavy soils are tolerated5m (18ft)
PeachSt Julien ASemi Vigorous2 m 3 – 4 yearsHeavy soils are tolerated5m (18ft)
CherryColtSemi Vigorous2 m 3 – 4 yearsMany soils tolerated including clay and light, chalky soils6m (20ft)
PearQuince ASemi Vigorous4.5 m 4 yearsMedium to heavy fertile soils3 – 4.5m (10 – 15ft)
PearQuince CDwarfing3 m4 yearsFertile, moisture retentive soils3m (6-10ft)
AppleM9Dwarfing2.4 m2 – 3 yearsFertile, well-drained but consistently moist soils2.4 – 3m (8-10ft)
CherryGiselaSemi-dwarfing3 m3 – 4 yearsLoamy, fertile soils2.7m (9ft)

Rootstock Names Explained

Colt

In 1977, Colt was made at the East Malling Research Station in Kent. It is a cross between a related but less vigorous species of sweet cherry, Prunus Pseudocerasus and the sweet cherry Prunus Avium. It was the first sweet cherry dwarfing rootstock, allowing a cherry tree to be grown in a small garden.

MM106

In Europe, this is probably the most adaptable rootstock for cultivating specimen apple trees. Additionally, it is the best method for creating large, trained forms like espaliers. Once established, trees on MM106 will tolerate other plants or grass growing around them and only require occasional watering during dry spells. While most of the crop should be accessible from the ground, picking fruit from higher up on the tree may require a ladder.

Quince A

Quince A (not Quince Adams) is a widely planted semi-vigorous pear rootstock. Pears grafted with Quince A often grow to a height of 3 – 4m after 5-10 years. Often considered equivalent to the apple MM106 but is less vigorous, they do best in good soils but is not tolerant of chalk or drought conditions.

St Julien

A semi-vigorous rootstock that produces trees about the same size as the apple MM106 rootstock. St. Juliens were originally grown for their fruit, which is useful for drying but not particularly eating. A tree grown on St. Julien rootstocks is significantly smaller than a tree grown on its own roots. After three to four years, plum trees typically bear fruit. With some tolerance for chalky soils, St. Julien can thrive in a wide range of soil types.

Gisela

Gisela is a cherry rootstock that produces trees around 3m tall that begin fruiting after 3-4 years. Originating in Germany in the 1960s, this rootstock made it incredibly convenient to grow cherry trees in smaller spaces.

Dwarfing Varieties

Quince C

Pear trees are often grown on this dwarfing rootstock to fit nicely into spaces such as small gardens or allotments. Trees grown on this rootstock will often start fruiting after around 4 years of growth.

M9

A commonly used dwarfing rootstock with shallow roots that require nutrient-rich soil. M9 has a long history of use in apple production, reportedly providing the world with an extra 18 million tonnes of apples between 1920 and 1960, as well as saving 70 million hours of picking time with its shorter height.

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Updated on April 4, 2024

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