Published on 05/23/02

Choose Best Rootstock for Fruit Trees

  • Plant Carefully

  • Plan Orchard
If you want to be successful with a home fruit orchard, you need to start from the ground up.

Generally, fruit trees are composed of two parts: the scion and the rootstock. The scion is equivalent to the variety. The rootstock is the bottom part of the tree and is critical to its longevity.

The bud union is the site where the scion was grafted to the rootstock seedling. It's generally obvious at the time of planting.

Rootstocks affect trees' size, aesthetics and resistance to freeze injury, diseases and pests. Dwarfing trees makes them easier to manage by making them simpler to prune, thin and harvest.

Apple Rootstock

Apple rootstock development has provided the greatest range in size modification. The M7 is semidwarfing rootstock and reduces pruning needs while making thinning and harvesting easier. It also provides some fire blight resistance.

Too much dwarfing can increase expenses and management. The M26 requires support by way of trellising. This technique is expensive, but it has the benefit of placing all of the fruit virtually within arm's length. Trellised apple trees on M26 make interesting and friendlier fences between you and your neighbors, too.

In pear production, the Calleryana seedling rootstock develops into a very large tree that's susceptible to fire blight. But Old Home and Province Quince are resistant to fire blight.

Plums, Peaches

For plums and peaches, Nemaguard and Guardian are good rootstocks. Nemaguard is useful where root knot nematodes are in the soil. Guardian is advisable in peach replant sites or when root knot or ring nematodes are a problem. For peaches, Lovell and Halford are also options, but they don't provide nematode resistance.

If you plan to buy named varieties from tree nurseries, now is the time to make a decision for next year.

The nurseries plan now which scion-rootstock combinations they will plant for sale next year. To be certain you get your favorite variety on the dwarfing or resistant rootstock of your choice, place an order now.

Kathryn Taylor is a stone fruits horticulturist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.