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Rootstocks

Commercial fruit trees usually consist of two parts, the scion (the fruiting variety) which makes up most of the tree that you see above ground-level, and the rootstock which – as the name suggests – is the roots. The join or “union” is easy to spot in a young tree – it is the kink a few inches above the ground where the scion was budded or grafted on to the rootstock. This marriage works because rootstocks are very closely related to scions – thus apple rootstocks are apple varieties in their own right, but where the main attribute is not fruit quality but tree size. Plum rootstocks can also be used for apricots and peaches, which shows just how closely these species are related. Most rootstocks will produce edible fruit if left to grow naturally, but the fruit is usually small and poorly flavored.

The variety selected for the scion imparts the fruit characteristics such as size, color, and quality factors. The variety selected for the rootstock determines tree size, precocity, some disease resistance (such as fireblight) and even cold hardiness.  And like the fruiting varieties, rootstocks also undergo  breeding and selection for their desired characteristics. Whilst most scientific attention has focussed on developing rootstocks for apple trees, rootstocks are also important for growing pears, plums and cherries.

The most common rootstocks used for apple, pear and sweet cherry are listed below. Click on the crop heading to view the related rootstock information.

 

  • Apple
  • Pear
  • Sweet Cherry
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