Rootstock Information – Why Do We Use Rootstock For Trees

By: Darcy Larum, Landscape Designer

When you have children, providing a good variety of healthy snacks is always a challenge, especially when the price of produce increases all the time. The logical choice for many families is growing their own fruits and vegetables. This seems easy and straightforward enough: plant seeds, grow food, right?

However, once you start reading up on growing fruit trees, you’ll discover many fruit trees planted by seed can take three to eight years to start producing fruit. In eight years, the kids may be off to college or starting families of their own. For this reason, many gardeners choose to purchase immediately fruiting trees that are grafted on already established rootstock. What is rootstock? Continue reading to learn about rootstock plants.

Rootstock Information

Rootstock is the base and root portion of grafted plants. A scion, the flowering and/or fruiting part of the plant, is grafted onto rootstock for a variety of reasons. The scion and rootstock must be of closely related plant species in order for the graft to work. For example, in fruit trees, pitted fruit like cherry and plum can be rootstock and scion for each other, but an apple tree cannot be used as rootstock for a plum scion and vice versa.

Rootstock plants are selected not only for their close relation to the desired plant, but also for the attributes it will give to the desired plant. In the world of grafting, there are many more scion varieties available than rootstock varieties. Rootstock varieties may come from naturally growing trees, unique naturally occurring plant mutations, or be genetically bred for the purpose of being rootstock.

When a successful rootstock plant is identified, it is then propagated asexually to create exact clones of it for use as future rootstock.

Why Do We Use Rootstock for Trees?

Grafting onto rootstock that is already established allows young fruit trees to bear fruit earlier. Rootstock plants also determine the tree and root system size, fruit yield efficiency, longevity of the plant, resistance to pests and disease, cold hardiness, and the tree’s ability to adapt to soil types.

Common types of fruit are grafted to dwarf fruit tree rootstock to create dwarf or semi-dwarf varieties which are easier for homeowners to grow in small plots, and also allow orchard growers to grow more trees per acre, therefore, producing more fruit per acre.

Some cold tender fruit tree varieties are also made into varieties that can withstand more cold by grafting them on to hardier rootstock. Another benefit of grafting onto rootstock is that fruit trees that require a pollinator can actually be grafted onto the same rootstock as their required pollinator.

While the importance of rootstock plants is mostly stressed in fruit crops, other plants are grafted onto rootstock to create specialty or ornamental trees. For example, a knockout rose shrub in tree form is not a naturally occurring tree or the result of pruning and training. It is created by grafting a shrub onto related rootstock. Even common trees such as maples are grafted onto specific maple rootstock plants to make better quality maple trees.

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The rootstock is the lower portion of the grafted plant, the part that produces its roots. “Understock” and “stock” are synonyms for “rootstock.”

Usually, the top of the rootstock is about at the soil line, but not always! When plants are “top worked,” they might be grafted at a point many feet above the ground. In this case, everything below the graft, including perhaps an old tree’s trunk and branches, is the rootstock. Topworking is how weeping standard trees are produced: by putting a weeping scion on a non-weeping rootstock.

Question about a possible grafting rootstock


Post by annie on Aug 14, 2010 11:58:40 GMT -5

Since I may have a difficult time trying to cross tomato cultivars, given Georgia's quickly-appearing heat and humidity in the spring (though I haven't given up on that possibility), I've shifted to thinking about grafting tomatoes if it's just too hot and humid to cross them next spring.

Apparently Dr. Randy Gardner et al believe you can use any strong tomato variety that has tolerance to the diseases you're concerned about for a rootstock replacement for the standard expensive ones.

What I'd like to do is build in a strong foundation for tolerance to Early Blight using an existing tomato line as the rootstock, and unless Mountain Magic becomes available on a commercial basis for 2011 or I can get some seeds from a kind soul who has some, I'll be limited to commercially-available cultivars in what I can use for a rootstock if I don't go for Maxifort or Beaufort.

So, after reading all I can find about Early Blight resistance in tomatoes, Matt's Wild Cherry keeps heading up my list. The plants are reputed to be vigorous and with nearly total tolerance for both Early and Late blight strains.

But I've never grown Matt's Wild Cherries. If you've grown them, can you confirm the sturdiness and vigor of the plants themselves? I want to graft at least a Cuostralee and a Mortgage Lifter (two nice heirlooms for which I have clean seeds) to a strong rootstock to see if the grafted plants will last longer through Early Blight than ungrafted plants.

I cannot do a controlled experiment -- don't have the space for controls -- and I want to take some new steps to keep disease pathogens to a minimum next summer, so all I can do is see if the plants last longer than early August next year.

Besides grafting and strict sanitation measures, here are the steps I plan to take.

1. Plant nothing but clean seeds.
2. Plant a cover crop of hairy vetch that I can cut in the Spring and use for a mulch under the tomato plants. Used as a mulch under tomatoes, hairy vetch helps your tomatoes resist fungal diseases as well as encourages them to live longer. Hairy vetch also jumpstarts, as it were, several tomato genes into high gear, believe it or not. Not surprisingly, two of them are the genes that help to resist the fungus.
3. Intercrop varieties of tomato plants alternating more tolerant cultivars with less-tolerant cultivars re fungal diseases. Studies have shown that tomato fungal diseases don't spread as quickly when plant cultivars are mixed and intercropped.
4. Purchase tomato seeds of other hybrids and heirlooms that have been seen to have Early Blight tolerance in varying degrees in Southern field tests.

Maybe these steps taken together will allow me to grow a decent tomato crop that lasts longer than six weeks next year!

How to Graft Roses Onto Rootstock

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You find the rose (Rosa spp.) of your dreams but what a nightmare! It doesn't grow in your hardiness zone. This is where grafting steps in like a fairy godmother. Two roses become one, literally, in a graft. You meld a cutting from your dream cultivar (called a scion) to a hardy, reliable rootstock by joining their inner cambium layers they grow into one plant. Rose gardeners debate the relative merits of "own-root" and grafted roses but regardless of which side you come down on, grafting is a useful technique to have in your arsenal.

Act in late winter while both the rootstock rose (that provides the root system for the new plant) and the scion rose (that provides the shoot system) are dormant. The rootstock rose can be either growing in a container or planted in the garden.

Sterilize a sharp knife by wiping it with a rag soaked in denatured alcohol. Cut off the stem of the rootstock rose about 2 inches from ground level. Make a long, slanting cut about 2 inches long with the knife.

Cut a scion from the rose cultivar using a long, slanting slice. The scion will provide the stem, branches, leaves and flowers of the new rose. Select a length of stem with a similar diameter as that of the rootstock. Remove a 6- to 8-inch cutting that has at least 3 buds on it.

Place the knife blade on the cut section of the rose rootstock, about one-third of the way from the high point to the low point of the slant. Work the blade into the wood about one-half inch. Do not make the cut parallel to the grain or to the slant make it halfway between the two. This cut serves as one part of the tongue-and-grove that links the rootstock to the scion.

Cut the basal end of the scion in the same way, one-third of the way down the diagonal. Press the scion's slanting edge onto the rootstock's slanting edge. Slip the tongue into the groove. Fit the pieces together tightly, cambium layer against cambium layer.

Wrap the graft connection with grafting tape. Cover the area with grafting paint. These materials disintegrate over time. They do not require removal.

Graft Mixed Trays Options

Graft Mixed Trays are available to ship March 22 – May 28 for the 2021 season. (Single variety trays are available year round.) We offer 6 pre-set mixes and do not take special orders at this time.

Cherry Tomato Mix – Indigo Cherry Drops, Sungold, Sweet Million / Shincheongang Rootstock

Color Mix – Pink Girl, Cherokee Purple, Valencia / Truster Rootstock

Garden Favorites Mix – Big Beef, Mountain Magic, Sungold / Shincheongang Rootstock

Greenhouse Favorites Mix – BHN-589, Bigdena, Geronimo / Shincheongang Rootstock

Heirloom Mix -Brandywine, Cherokee Purple, Striped German / Truster Rootstock

French Heirloom Mix – Marnero, Marbonne, Margold / Shincheongang Rootstock

Watch the video: Quick Rootstock Tips. An EASY way to obtain FREE ROOTSTOCKS

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