How will a multi-graft apple tree look when grown?

Kim LadinNovember 14, 2012

Hi all,

I'm thinking of planting a dwarf or semi-dwarf apple in my front yard, and I'm considering a multi-graft tree from Dave Wilson.

I'm wondering how the tree will look in a few years when it's grown. Will it have a nice apple tree shape? Or does the multi-graft tend to look a little "frankenstein-ish?"

Thoughts and/or pictures?



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It will depend on what is grafted to it.

If vigor or growth habit of the scions differ markedly...well, it will show in the tree's visual "balance". To some extent you can moderate this with pruning.
If the scions are all simialr in habit it will look "normal"

I have found I get much better balance on trees when I graft them in "layers" over a few years. Starting with one cultivar and changing over the central leader each of the following seasons. As pointed out by member harvestman this works best if you place the most vigorous at the bottom and reduce vigor going up.
Grafting apple is very easy, but maybe more than you want to jump in with?

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 2:36PM
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goyo626 S.Cal.8b/SZ20

I have a multi-grafted apple with anna, dorsett golden, gordon, and fuji that has been in the ground for only one year and you can definitely identify that there are different varieties on it. The leaves differ in size and shape. The most vigorous graft (anna) is also the thickest caliper and the fuji has the thinnest caliper. At least on my tree the anna and Dorsett golden has grown much more. This means that you will have to do several things to ensure that one combination of your tree does not overtake the combination. First thing is to give the least vigorous graft the best sun exposure. Then summer prune to keep the tree balanced. Hope this helps. I have included a link to a helpful video.

Here is a link that might be useful: How To Plant A Multiple-Budded Fruit Tree

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 2:58PM
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goyo626 S.Cal.8b/SZ20

Forgot about some pics taken before I summer pruned.

Here you can see that the leaves are slightly different in size and shape.


In the second photo you can see that the anna graft (on the left) Has grown much larger and put out scaffolds, while the fuji graft which is on the right has not put out scaffolds and grown less.


The last pic shows the differences in caliper between the varieties. Anna on the left circled in blue. Fuji on right circled with yellow.


Hope this helps.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 3:20PM
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goyo626 S.Cal.8b/SZ20

Sorry Here are the pics.

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 3:27PM
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Kim Ladin

Thanks, everyone! Those pictures are really instructive. Looks like I should stick with a single variety, as I don't think I can do all the work it would require to keep things balance -- much less graft my own!

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 3:35PM
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goyo626 S.Cal.8b/SZ20

It is not too much work if you keep an eye on it and keep it in check from the start. It is simple maintenance, it took me three minutes to summer prune it and I over thought it. However, if you don't think multi-grafted fruit trees are appropriate for your situation you may also want to look into planting multiple trees in one hole. I have never done it but I am sure more knowledgeable and experienced people can help you if you are interested in this type of planting. I have included a video which explains the basics of this type of planting.

Here is a link that might be useful: Plant 3 Fruit Trees In 1 Hole

    Bookmark   November 14, 2012 at 4:50PM
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I ordered one tree 4 in 1 Big RED delicious, YellowGolden Delicious,
McIntosh and Northern spy from Miller and wondering too how is going to look. I don't care about the shape as long as I have delicious Apple for my Kids.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2012 at 6:19PM
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nw_gardener(8 (WA/Kirkland))

Goyo626: That was a very useful series of photos. I have a 3 in one tree - a Golden Delicious, a HoneyCrisp and a mystery variety grafted onto a single tree.

The tree has been in the ground three years now and I have not had any of the varieties flower yet - I hope to get some this spring. The Golden Delicious is much more vigorous than the other two; I have been cutting back the new growth but the caliper of the graft is still growing faster than the others.

What kind of pruning style are you following? I am trying to maintain an open center because that is how the tree was originally when I purchased it. Should I be trying to create a central leader instead?

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 9:28PM
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goyo626 S.Cal.8b/SZ20

TBH I am very new to growing apple trees and have no professional experience. I am trying to keep the tree in balance and not allowing anyone variety to dominate the combination. For what it is worth I am keeping the tree open-centered. I have had a difficult time trying to find articles and journals, which discuss multi grafted trees since most of the scholarly journals are for commercial growers. I am confident that more knowledgeable posters can help you with your questions.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 9:53PM
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nw_gardener(8 (WA/Kirkland))

Some images to illustrate how I have my tree pruned today.

Image 1 shows the tree as of a couple of days ago (apologies for the bad MSPaint editing :) ). As you can see from the image, the left "branch" of the tree is a Chehalis variety (and not Golden Delicious as I thought it might be), the middle is a HoneyCrisp and the far right branch is a mystery variety. The Chehalis is by far the most dominant.

The second image is of the area where the respective varieties have been grafted on the trees. You can see clearly how the Chehalis has the thickest branch cross section followed by the HoneyCrisp and then the mystery variety.

Should I aim to keep the tree pruned so that each variety is allowed to develop to its own side with no central leader? Any suggestions as to how I can better control and/or balance the tree out would be very welcome.

Also, as mentioned this tree has been in the ground just over 3 years now without a single flower. I understand that could be due to my soil/growing conditions, but I do have a pear and a plum in the same area and they seem to be doing okay (and they give me fruit in the bargain) so conditions do not seem to be terribly hostile.

    Bookmark   November 29, 2012 at 2:37AM
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Rootstock can make a big difference when your tree will start producing, some standards will take 6 years or longer to produce fruit, and some dwarfs will produce in just a couple years. I have a grafted tree that has 5 or 6 varieties on it right now that I was hoping would flower this year, but didnt, Its a little larger than yours is....

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 4:04PM
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Whenever I see one at the nurseries they never look that great. they allways seem poorly done or misshapen. I have an espalier three tier apple tree with each level a different type of apple. Pretty easy to keep it pruned.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2013 at 6:20PM
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yukkuri_kame(Sunset 19 / USDA 9)

Even single-variety orchard trees tend to be more utilitarian than aesthetically pleasing. A multi-graft won't help. I have definitely seen multi-grafts that qualify as frankensteinish.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 4:58AM
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My 4-in-1 plum tree definitely looks odd with three green and one red branch - Hollywood. The Hollywood is definitely the least vigorous and looks like it might eventually be crowded out, despite regular pruning.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 11:10AM
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I see a lot of you posters are in 8 and 8B. What I've noticed is that in these zones you have to really watch your varietals, your rootstocks and your training method. I would love to hear your experiences, but relevant to multi-trees, I would think this would make growing successfully in these zones impossible. PS I also do narrow axis types in order to maximize control.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 4:17PM
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goyo626 S.Cal.8b/SZ20

Looking back on it I would say dont get a 4 in 1 gordon anna dorsett and fuji. At least for me the gordon and fuji have not leafed out and it is june. I reckon planting 3 trees in one hole 18" apart would be better. if i remember ill post a pic.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 5:18PM
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megamav(5a - NY)

I have a 4 in 1 tree, and I grafted the most vigorous variety on the north side of the tree, and the weakest on the south side.

This way, the most vigorous variety can grow as large as it wants without robbing the smaller varieties of much needed sun.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 5:34PM
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goyo, are you in Austin or C Texas. Would love to hear how your varietals are doing. I've given up central leader training because they're all too vigorous and the green out competes the fruit all year long.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 5:43PM
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goyo626 S.Cal.8b/SZ20

Im in California about 25 mi from Downtown Los Angeles.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 6:18PM
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Oh so you're even worse off than I. You probably have no chill hours. That's probably why you have Anna. I tried Dorset and Ein Shemer with 200 chill hours and they've been finicky.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2013 at 6:36PM
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nw_gardener(8 (WA/Kirkland))

So my multi-graft apple finally bloomed this year (and set apples too). The weakest variety however did not bloom and seems destined to fall behind, despite it growing on the south side of the tree.

appleconservatory - going just by the zone may be risky; there are large differences in climate in areas that are in the same "climatic zone". Even though Goyo and I are in the same zone, I am in north-central Washington state with cool summers and much longer winters than in Southern California.We happen to be great apple growing territory up here for instance.

    Bookmark   June 9, 2013 at 1:04AM
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