Skip to main content

Choosing Apple Rootstocks and Ordering Bare Root Plants

Image: Relative sizes of apple trees grafted onto common apple rootstocks. Source: Washington State University

One of the most important questions to answer prior to ordering apple bare root plants is "What rootstock should I choose?" 

When you order plants for dwarf or semi-dwarf apple trees, you are selecting not only the apple variety, but also the rootstock that the nursery grafts it onto. Most apple growers order grafted trees rather than doing their own grafting.

Winter is a good time to order bare root plants for apples and other fruit crops. Generally, apple bare root plants must be ordered at least one to two years in advance of the planting season in order to reserve desired varieties and rootstocks. 

This is particularly true if you are planting a large quantity of trees, planting a popular new variety or a rare variety, or require a specific rootstock. Therefore, most orchards planning to plant in 2021 should be making their orders now or earlier.
A young Honeycrisp tree grafted onto a G935 rootstock.
The graft union is visible near the base of the plant.
Photo: Annie Klodd.

Selecting Rootstocks 

Rootstocks should be chosen based on orchard site characteristics like soil type and climate, as well as apple variety, intended tree size, planting system (high density or low density), and disease resistance. 

For example: While the Bud 9 (B9) rootstock is commonly used in the Midwest, that does not necessary mean it is the best rootstock for your site and desired varieties. A very low-vigor rootstock like B9 grown on a sandy, low-organic matter soil will likely produce trees that are under-productive.

Do your research before ordering plants. Talk to experienced orchardists in your area, join a grower association like the Minnesota Apple Growers Association, attend the Northern Growers and Marketers Conference annually in January, contact Extension, and study online resources from trustworthy research-based sources like university Extension and fruit nurseries.

There are numerous helpful resources online to explain rootstocks and assist in choosing appropriate rootstock+variety pairings for your orchard. Therefore, I will list some of them here, rather than re-inventing the wheel:

I hope you find these resources to be a useful starting point for ordering apple bare root plants and planning out your orchard. 

Order apple bare root plants

Growers often ask me where they should purchase bare root plants. As a University of Minnesota Extension Educator, I do not endorse or promote specific nurseries. A list of nurseries carrying University of Minnesota apple varieties can be found here:

Author: Annie Klodd, University of Minnesota Extension Educator - Fruit and Vegetable Production. For questions, contact 

Print Friendly and PDF