Apple tree rootstock selection criteria


“Rootstock” may be a new word to some of you. Don’t worry though, it’s a very simple concept. The apple tree rootstock is exactly what it sounds like: the roots of a tree. If you planted an apple tree rootstock on its own, it would grow and develop into a tree just like it does when it is grafted. The purpose of a rootstock is twofold. First, it allows tree varieties to be duplicated identically. Second, it dictates the size and hardiness of the tree. Certain apple tree rootstock are more or less precocious (early producing), disease resistant, or better suited to certain soils. Consider these factors as well when you make your decision.

Tree Size

Apple tree rootstock are generally broken down into three general sizes: dwarf, semi-dwarf, and standard. For wildlife plantings, semi-dwarf or standard sized trees are generally preferred. This is to allow the fully-grown tree to be out of the reach of hungry deer who like to browse on young branches. Trees planted on dwarfing apple tree rootstock will need to be fenced permanently for protection from deer. 

Winter Hardiness

Just as in variety selection, the rootstock will also have an impact on these tree traits. This is particularly important for norther climate growers. Your trees may be fine for a few seasons with certain apple tree rootstock, but you need to plan for the coldest winters your climate gets. Otherwise one severe winter may knock out your entire orchard. For more detail, continue on to the rootstock selection section.

Disease Resistance and Precocity

For descriptions of these, look at the variety selection criteria section. Keep these factors in mind when making your decisions.

Soil Type and Fit

Since the apple tree rootstock is the rooted portion of the tree, it is the most important aspect in determine the tree’s success in specific soil types. Some are better suited for well-drained soils, while some can tolerate “wet feet”, or wetter clay soils. For best results, a rootstock should be selected that fits your soil type.

The Short(er) List

Bud 118, Antonovka, MM (EMLA) 111, EMLA 7

Find places to buy rootstock here.

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