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Fruit tree rootstock

Traditional orchards are normally planted with trees on standard rootstocks. These will live for much longer than dwarfing or semi-standard trees so provide habitat continuity and develop veteran features crucial to orchard biodiversity.

Selecting the right rootstock for the space, climate and soil type is key for successful fruit tree growing. The final size as a percentage of a standard tree grown from a seed will depend on local conditions. The % figure is optimum. This list includes the most common, plus some new ones that are emerging and some old, rarely available stocks.

Cross-pollination means that seeds from most fruit will produce a different fruit to the parent plants, so grafting is essential to retain the characteristics of a variety. This ancient technique requires both a scion of the parent plant and a new root system, or rootstock.

Below the table is a list of nurseries known to supply trees grafted to vigorous rootstocks. 

Jump to:  Pears,   Plums, damsons, gages and peaches,   Cherries  

Rootstock name Potential height Notes
Apples    

M27 – dwarfing (25%)

1.2m
4ft

The most dwarfing of all apple rootstocks. Ideal for growing in small spaces. Requires regular watering and good soil conditions.
M9 – dwarfing (35%) 1.8-2.4m
6-8ft
One of the first modern apple rootstocks. The ground around the tree should be kept weed free as M9 is not strong enough to compete with other plants. 
M26 – semi-dwarfing (40%) 2.4-3m
8-10ft
For most varieties, this is the most useful rootstock. Ideally suited for the garden. Keep surrounding soil weed free. 
MM106 – semi-vigorous (59%) 3-4m
10-13ft
One of the most versatile rootstock for growing apple trees in Europe. Tolerant of a range of soils. Keep surrounding soil weed free for at least the first 5 years.
MM111 – vigorous (66%)  4-5m
14-18ft
MM111 performs significantly better in challenging conditions where strong winds, drought or waterlogging are expected.
Seedling rootstock (Bittenfelder, Antonovka) – vigorous (100%)

7m
23ft

As a natural seedling rather than a selection, these are full sized trees, with some varieability. Ideal for growing traditional large apple trees.
M25 – vigorous (84%) 7m
23ft
The largest selected rootstock. Ideal for growing traditional large apple trees. Underperforms in damp, dry or challenging conditions.

Pears

   
Quince C – semi-dwarfing (45%)  2.5-3m
8-10ft
Pears grafted onto the Quince C rootstock produce the smallest pear trees. It is compatible with most varieties.
Quince Eline – semi-dwarfing (45%) 2.3m
8-10ft
Frost-resistant pear rootstock. Produces smoother fruit than Quince C.
Quince A – semi-vigorous (65%) 3-4m
10-14ft
The most widely-planted semi-vigorous rootstock for pears in the UK.
PyroDwarf – semi-vigorous (70%) 4.5m
16ft 
Strange root shape that resembles a carrot.
Kirkensaller – vigorous (90-100%)

 6m+
20ft

Vigorous seedling pear rootstock that produces a traditional free-standing tree. Suitable for traditional orchards.
Pyrus communis – vigorous (90-100%)  6m+
20ft
Vigorous seedling pear rootstock that produces a traditional free-standing tree. Suitable for traditional orchards.

Plums, damsons, gages and peaches

   
St. Julien A – semi-vigorous (65%)  3-3.5m
14ft
The most prevalent general-purpose plum rootstock in the UK. It is compatible with almost all plums, gages, and damson trees.
Pixy – semi-dwarfing (45%) 2.5-3m
8-10ft 
Optimal choice for plum trees in a small garden. Requires good soil conditions and reliable watering.
Brompton 5m+1
6-20ft 
A standard rootstock for full sized plum trees. Best for traditional orchards.

Cherries

   
 Gisela 5 – semi-dwarfing (45%) 2.4-3m
8-10ft
The most appropriate for growing a cherry tree in the garden.
Gisela 6 – semi-vigorous (65%) 3-4m
10-13ft
Similar to Gisela 5, produces a large tree and can tolerant poorer soil conditions.
 Colt – semi-vigorous (65%)  5m
16ft
Classed as one of the best rootstock for growing cherry trees in large gardens and community orchards. Can be easily damaged by a harsh winter.
 F12/1 – vigorous (80 – 90%)  6m+
20ft+
Natural resistance to bacterial canker, one of the most widespread diseases of cherry orchards.

Suggested nurseries

These nurseries stock good quality trees and a wide range of varieties grafted to vigorous rootstocks. There may be nurseries that stock vigorous trees that we have missed – do get in touch at orchards@ptes.org if you wish to be added to the list.

Most nurseries will graft trees to request, so you can get whichever rare, local or heritage variety you like as long as graft material can be sourced.

 

In no particular order…

Keepers Nursery – specialist fruit tree nursery with over 600 varieties. This includes hundreds of varieties of apple, pear, plum and cherry trees, as well as more unusual fruit trees such as quince, medlar and mulberry. The website also offers a vast range of online information on hundreds of varieties of fruit trees, useful means of selecting suitable trees, as well as valuable advice on growing fruit trees.

Tom the Apple Man – All types of fruit, available on standard rootstock. Specialises in West country and Welsh varieties.

Walcot Nursery – Located in the Vale of Evesham, Worcestershire they offer a wide selection and to assist customers in making their choice in planting fruit trees. All are dispatched bare rooted from late November until April while dormant. The fruit tree nursery has been established to grow organic fruit trees for sale suitable for all situations from small gardens to traditional orchards.

Welsh Mountain Cider – Stock an extensive range of heritage and modern apple and pear varieties. They have hundreds of types of apple and pear trees available; cider apple trees and perry pears, heritage dessert and cooking apples and pears from around the world, including Welsh apples, Somerset, Devon, Herefordshire and Yorkshire apple varieties, and locally collected Welsh apple varieties exclusive to their Welsh Mountain Tree Nursery.

Adam’s Apples – Tom has now taken over running the nursery from Adam and Kim. Based in the heart of Devon, Tom continues to grow a wide variety of high quality apple trees. Whilst growing other fruit trees and fruit bushes, apples remain the specialty.

Cider Apple Trees – About 50 varieties of cider apple trees available and 50 eating and culinary varieties. Also plums, pears and damsons. Specialise in supplying standard apple trees.  01963 220855 or email whittick445@btinternet.com

Grow at Brogdale – Fruit tree nursery based at the home of The National Fruit Collection in Kent with over 2,200 apple varieties; 500 pear varieties and 300 cherry and plum varieties. They specialise in rare and heritage varieties and can supply hand grafted trees to order as well as bare-root trees. They also offer more unusual fruit trees such as quince, gage, medlar and mulberry.

Deacons – Supply over 350 different varieties of Apple tree, plus an extensive selection of other fruit trees such as Plum, Pear, Peach, Nectarine, Cherry and more.

Heritage fruit trees – The Heritage Fruit Tree Company is helping to save our fruit tree heritage. Over 200 varieties in stock including apples, pears, cherries, plums and other top fruit and soft fruit.

Days Cottage – Day’s Cottage propagate old and unusual varieties of apple and pear trees, specialising in local Gloucestershire varieties. Many of these have been bought back from the brink of extinction.

Dolau-hirion Fruit Trees – Situated in the picturesque Towy valley near Llandeilo, Carmarthenshire, they sell Welsh apple varieties and pear trees including a range of cider and perry types, and traditional English fruit trees suitable for growing in Wales including plums, damsons, gages, cherries, mulberries, medlars, hazels, bush fruit etc. Grafting service for apples and pears not in stock.

Frank P Matthews – Established in 1901 and based in rural Worcestershire, they grow over half a million fruit and ornamental trees every year, with over 200 different varieties of apple and many well-known and unusual fruit trees.

Lodge Farm trees  – A small nursery growing and selling traditional and rare varieties of   fruit trees. They have been working closely with the Gloucestershire Orchard Trust and are currently propagating old rare apple, pear and plum varieties originating from the Gloucestershire area, some of which have never been commercially available before.

Plants and apples – A family business, rooted in Perthshire. Appletreeman propagates and sells hardy, heritage and Scottish fruit trees.

South Lakeland Orchard Group – trees available by collection, ask for MM111 or M25 rootstock trees.

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