Failed rootstocks

curtis(5)June 13, 2013

I grafted quite a few apples and some pears this year. It was my first attempt and I had mixed success. I realized recently that most of my failed have failed rootstock also. Is that how it goes, or did I do something wrong? some drown? (in pots with mix of peat moss, compost and a little vermiculite) my statistics don't seem to change on what apple type, graft type, or day I did them (over 2 weeks). The failures would open up, but not get far before they petered out.

The goods root stocks put shoots off below the graft, the bad ones either put off nothing below, or a bud opened but soon died. The pears 9 of 12 were bad. the apple were about 1/3. But the good apples are off to the races. The 3 pears are going really slow.

Apple rootstocks were MM111's for raintree. I don't remember the pear stock.

I guess the info I want is a realistic expectation of rootstock survival rates, and any info on anything I may have done wrong.

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
fruitnut Z7 4500ft SW TX

The rootstocks should have all survived a failed grafting attempt. It sounds like maybe the dead rootstocks were too wet. You mentioned drowned and that's about the most likely thing that might have killed them. Pots drain much more slowly than in-ground same soil. In a pot you need a really well draining mix and yours sounds rather water retentive.

    Bookmark   June 13, 2013 at 11:36PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

I also grafted for the first time this year and got very iffy performance out of new rootstocks. I suspect that I need a more forgiving environment for my ugly cuts. I did much better grafting my excess scionwood to an existing tree.

2 M27 and 1 B9 from Raintree: all 3 lived, but none of the grafts took. I also grafted 3 pears onto quince with the same result (live RS, dead scion).

2 P2 from Maple Valley- both grafts took.

10 G65 from Cummins- 1 took, and 4 RS never leafed out, leaving 5 live rootstocks.

My grafts were all single or double cleft grafts and I count it as success if I got one of the 2 sticks in the double cleft to grow.

I've re-grafted some of the failures (with live RS) recently, with early indications of some success. It seems that keeping them in the garage for 1-2 weeks after the graft may be helping, as it is pretty warm out (getting into the 80's sometimes), but the partially underground garage doesn't get above ~70 and feels nice and cool.

I'm 7/7 on the grafts I did to the established apple tree in April. I did another dozen grafts with the leftover wood from 5/24-6/14 and have at least 2 takes so far.

I also had 3/3 apparent takes on an existing (potted) rootstock from a M27 tree which didn't make it a couple years ago. I did those grafts on 6/1 and just moved it outside a few days ago.

One thing I noticed is that I went overboard on Parafilm tape. I noticed that some grafts leafed out, but didn't seem able to push through the tape. I actually managed to save a few by gently peeling back the tape. It was a bit tricky, as I laid it on thick, winding it tightly and using it to hold the graft on, as well as moisture in.

    Bookmark   June 17, 2013 at 10:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

In my limited experience grafting onto an existing tree (or an established rootstock) generally works better than a bench graft (i.e., scion on a newly potted or planted rootstock). There's better sap flow and quicker knitting for the existing tree.

I've had really bad luck this year with new rootstocks for apricots (only 2 out of 4 and I've regrafted one of the remaining two so many times that there's only about 1" above the soil...). Also poor luck with two cherry grafts although 5 other cherry grafts on established trees took and grew like gangbusters.

Apples and pears, on the other hand, almost seem bullet-proof, even on new rootstock.

I've tried to do some t-budding on the rootstocks that just would not take a graft, but I've little experience with that technique so it's a reach.

I'm thinking that it might even be worth it to pot up a new rootstock one season, get it growing well, and then graft the following dormant season.

As for the parafilm, you really don't want more than a single layer wrapped around a scion, and that with some stretch. It's not really made for holding the scion in place. For that you need either rubber bands or some other kind of semi-elastic binding (preferably self-degrading). You can't get enough pressure on the union from wrapping with parafilm alone.

    Bookmark   June 18, 2013 at 12:05AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

In my last post, I mentioned that 4 of the 10 G65 from Cummins never leafed out. I want to correct the record- they have now all leafed out, though some took quite a while. A day or two after my last post I noticed that 2 of the 4 "dead" ones had small leaves. In the last few days, I've noticed small leaves starting on the last 2. That's almost 3 months after I planted them on April 5th. I doubt that this will help the scions, but at least I can bud them later this summer or re-graft next spring.

I still watered them along with the other pots, even though I was feeling pretty silly watering a dead stick in mid-June. I'm glad now that I didn't re-purpose the pots and media.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 6:19PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
alan haigh

My success rate is probably about 80% based on vigor of tree being grafted to. I wonder if it wouldn't be worthwhile to let rootstocks grow one year and graft once they are established. Isn't this more or less what commercial nurseries do?

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 6:31PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

My grafting onto M111 apple rootstock (over 2,000 this year) runs about 98% success, about the same as I get grafting onto a tree. The rootstock came from a wholesale grower and has lots of roots and pushes vigorously, and the scionwood is well-refrigerated or previously frozen.

I do a cleft graft, cutting the scionwood back to only one bud, wrapping the graft with vinyl tape and the scion with Parafilm. I do not do many whip & tongue grafts because there's usually too much a disparity between the size of the rootstock and the scion. I used to use a Stanley utility knife to do the cleft graft, but I found a plastic knock-off utility knife at the dollar store that feels really nice in my hand and has become my favorite (I bought a dozen of them as backups, but the first is still going strong). I split the rootstock with a Craftsman utility cutter that takes a utility knife blade.

It doesn't hurt the completed benchgraft at all to sit two or three months in the refrigerator until it grows white roots and sprouts pushing out; just pot it up and it springs to life in a couple days, the white sprouts turning green quickly. I have some sprouting in pots of Home Depot potting mix right now that were grafted back in April and are sprouting in our 110F degree heat. I had forgotten about them in the back of the refrigerator, but they did fine.

I ordered a few M26 rootstock from Raintree, and they were pathetic; only a couple root hairs, and have grown glacially.

For summer budding I also get about a 98% take, but I hate bending over in the hot sun; much nicer doing it at the bench in the spring with good lighting, music, and a cup of coffee.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 7:10PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
bob_z6(6b/7a SW CT)

Applenut, I did cleft grafts as well, as it was the only ones I didn't completely butcher with test wood. From your picture it looks like you only match up one side of the scion, due to size disparity. When I had such mismatches, I used two scion sticks, in the hopes at least one would work. But, if you get 98%, I don't suppose you have much doubt that it will work :) Does it actually improve your chances when you focus everything on a single bud, rather than 4-6 like I was with double-cleft grafts (2-3 per stick, with 2 sticks)?

Am I to understand that after completing the graft, you put it (rootstock and all) back in the fridge in a bag with wet paper towel (or something similar) to keep moist? Then, once it starts to wake up in the fridge, you know it is ready to plant? If so, that may be the technique I was missing. As soon as I completed each graft I ran outside and potted it up. I'm sure it wasn't the most efficient way (I took most of an afternoon for my first dozen), but I thought I had to plant right away to have the best chance of a take.

I've had 3 more re-grafts take on potted rootstocks in the last couple weeks by keeping them in the cool garage (~70 degrees). That you had some take in 100 degree heat is pretty impressive.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:18PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo
Noogy(6 sw mi)

The best results I've had grafting have been using established stock(that year) and summer budding. 62/65

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 9:42PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I do the single bud for a few reasons; first of all, I find that either they all "take" or none of them take, and there's been no reason for redundancy. I also ship them all over the world to some remote places, and having such a short, stubby scion prevents it from getting knocked out of place during shipping, handling, and planting. Sometimes they go back into the refrigerator after grafting, and other times they are shipped immediately to tropical humid climates, where they are planted immediately in the shade of banana or coffee trees, and they all take about the same.

Once the scion growth is a couple inches high they can withstand any amount of heat, but I'll tell you what will kill them, and that's wet feet. If there isn't perfect drainage, root rot sets in and the scion will sprout a little bit, then die; this is probably the #1 killer of young apple trees, borers being a close second.

For storing the rootstocks and benchgrafts, I just put them in a plastic bag tied shut, with no more moisture than they came from the nursery with on the roots. Before shipping I sometimes have to dip them in horticultural oil for phyto certificate reasons, and those end up being a little wetter (greasier?) during shipping. If the shipment travels more then a couple weeks, they may sprout during shipment, but as long as they are not dried out or the scion growth knocked off, they do OK.

    Bookmark   June 29, 2013 at 11:04PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Applenut: you said wet feet is the fastest killer of new grafts. most of my failures had no growth below the graft, or the above and below died at the same time. We had a really wet spring and my pots sit out in the open. So the frequent rain was the likely culprit?

part 2 if I have the successes in the same pots next spring and get the same rain, are they just as vulnerable as when first planted?

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 11:58AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


A post-mortem of the benchgraft will tell you if the tree has dead, rotted roots (too wet) or dry, crispy roots (not enough water).

As for wet feet, that depends on how much trouble you want to go through. A client in Bangkok, Thailand sprouted her apple benchgrafts in pots of commercial potting soil under a Lexan-covered shelter to protect them from the drenching tropical rains, and made little humidity domes from dowels, wire, and plastic bags to protect the sprouts from direct rainfall (she's an orchid-grower, and apparently this is common with orchids). I'd cut way back on the peat moss and use mostly forest litter, and lift the pots off the ground so that they drain out the bottom better.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 2:35PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Fruit Nut, Enjoy your expertise. Two questions-- Can I grow my own rootstocks? How do nurserys grow them? I grafted one time --- 6 out of 10 made it----Now I'am hooked , but I don't like paying $3.50 for a rootstock.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 9:29PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Clonal rootstocks like M111 must be propagated in a stoolbed; you can't just plant a seed and get them. You can buy from wholesale nurseries like Treco or Willamette with a minimum order, typically a bundle of 50. They are sold out for years in advance of dwarfing rootstocks like Bud. 9 or the Geneva series; however they always have seedling or Antonovka in stock if you just want to play. M111 sells out by October.

Here is a link that might be useful: Propagating Clonal Rootstocks

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 12:06AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"in pots with mix of peat moss, compost and a little vermiculite"

This mix composition sounds like it would be too wet in almost all situations. I would think you'd need really hot dry conditions for it to work.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 11:45AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Applenut, regarding forest litter, If I get the stuff the tree trimmer guys run through their choppers will that do? Would it need to be gotten when the trees are without leaves? or is leaf material OK? Should I get a pile now and let the leaves compost until next spring ? I assume when putting in the posts mix some compost too, right? what ratio?

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 12:14PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I just use the cheap stuff in bags from Home Depot; plain soil works just fine also if your pots are up off the ground.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 1:58PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Applenut, First, thanks for helping us beginners. It has helped me a lot.

I have mostly 1.5gal pots, plus some 2.5, with your forest litter mix and my pots can they stay in the pots for 2 full years? (although my 2 years may be like one to you, I am in Iowa zone 5)

Also what is your ratio of dirt to litter? I am going to try it again next year and want to be more in your league of success.

This post was edited by cckw on Mon, Jul 1, 13 at 19:10

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 7:02PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo


I don't mix any litter in when I use dirt; my guys in Uganda also just sprout them in bags of plain dirt (which weigh a ton; they take them out and transport them bare root at this stage).

I wouldn't use anything smaller than 5-gallon pots, and if they're going more than a year I'd use 15 gallon. Even in your climate they should do six feet of growth the first year, but only if the roots have room to expand.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 9:09PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Applenut: now I'm confused, above you said " I'd cut way back on the peat moss and use mostly forest litter, and lift the pots off the ground so that they drain out the bottom better." this was in regards to my wet spring drowning them in my peat/compost/vermiculite mix.

I thought you were saying to use the forest litter in place peat moss and vermiculite in the soil mix.... my failed trees had very little if any new root growth. the roots were decomposing but have been dead a while now, so that may not mean a lot, but wet feet/drowning is a good bet given the constant rain we had. These will be in pots for 2 years so need a soil mix appropriate for that. and per your info will get larger pots.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 12:48PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

From your observations of the dead rootstocks I'd plant them in plain soil. they will do fine for two years in it if you mulch the top with compost after the trees have sprouted. Once you plant them after grafting, give them a good drink to settle the soil, and then no more water until they start to sprout, as there's very little transpiration going on. Once you get some leaves you can ramp up the watering.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 8:49PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
Help, fuzzy scion wood
Hi all, I got apple scions from ARS last week and was...
Converting typhoon damaged hillside forest to blueberry plantation
Hello all We've recently obtained a small strip of...
Fungus on grapes from last season?
Near the end of last season my grape plants got a fungus...
Blueberry leaves turning brown
The leaves of one of my southern highbush (Snowchaser...
Can I prevent Fire Blight the way I prevent Peach Leaf Curl?
Okay, so it's pretty easy to prevent peach leaf curl....
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™