Choosing a fruit-tree rootstock

Thinking of buying a fruit tree? Our guide to rootstocks will help you choose the right tree for your garden.

Left to grow naturally, fruit trees will reach a height of at least 5m - far too big for the average garden, and not practical to harvest fruit from. For this reason, many fruit trees are grafted on to a root system, or 'rootstock' of a related tree that keeps them a more manageable size. These range from dwarfing rootstocks, ideal for small or medium-sized gardens, to those that produce a huge mature tree.

Discover the 10 best fruits for containers.

When buying a fruit tree, the label or product information should give details about the rootstock it is grafted on to. If you buy fruit trees from a specialist nursery, they will be happy to give you advice.

Here's our guide to fruit tree rootstocks.

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Apples

Apples come on range of rootstocks, identified by a number preceded by M or MM. MM106 is best for a mini-orchard, as trees reach just 3.5m wide, so can be planted closely. Choose M9 rootstock for a small apple tree about 2.5m tall. M26 is ideal for espaliers and cordons. M27 is good for stepovers or trees in pots.

Pears

Pears are larger trees than apples, even on a dwarf rootstock. ‘Quince A’ is the most commonly found - trees will grow to about 3.5m and can be planted quite closely. 'Quince C' is smaller, suitable for a small tree, cordon, fan or espalier and fruits slightly quicker.

Plums and cherries

‘Pixy' or 'Ferlenain' are best for a small, fan-trained plum tree. ’Gisela 5’ is good for a small cherry tree below 3.5m, and for fan-training. On this rootstock, the popular cherry ‘Stella’ will stay small enough for a large pot. 'Colt' will produce a larger tree, suitable for a big garden or orchard.

Peaches, nectarines and apricots

Peaches, nectarines and apricots are usually grown on a semi-dwarfing ‘St Julian A’ rootstock, but it is summer pruning and training that limits their size. Grow on a south-facing wall.

Left to grow naturally, fruit trees will reach a height of at least 5m - far too big for the average garden.

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Patio fruit trees

Plants sold as 'patio fruit trees' will stay naturally small, especially when planted in a container.

Discover more ideas and inspiration

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