Does anyone have any direct experience of taking cutting from apples? I am aware that apples are usually grafted, however, I want to make comparisons between cultivars on their own roots and those on named rootstocks. My first thought is hardwood cuttings, but I would like to know if there is a "recipe" that works before just applying general principles.

  • Yes and no. Granted only seed grown trees produce a natural taproot. However, as for for the validity of the comparison, apple rootstocks are not grown from seed, usually being produced by stooling. So they will similarly lack a seedling-type root system as well. Feb 25, 2017 at 22:20
  • The interest is that by growing a cultivar on its own roots, there will be a perfect balance (or as near possible) between that above and that below the ground. As all commonly available rootstocks are to some extent dwarfing, it means the graft is in a permanent state of stress throughout the lifespan of tree. I would expect an own-root tree to be more drought and disease tolerant, and to live longer overall. Feb 25, 2017 at 22:21
  • There was a trial orchard somewhere in Kent, where they were experimenting with own root trees with promising result, but funds dried up and it got grubbed out I believe. Feb 25, 2017 at 22:24
  • On apples, the rootstocks are usually weak, so it is done to have smaller apple trees: easier (and cheaper) to maintain healthy and to harvest the fruits. So without grafting I expect normal apples, but on very large trees. Feb 26, 2017 at 16:25

1 Answer 1


I'm dubious of the premise, but sure, give it a try.

When looking into some of the more extreme propagation methods for another question, https://gardening.stackexchange.com/a/29992/6806 I found a description of a setup where bottom heat was employed to encourage rooting while the tops were kept cold to prevent them from deciding to leaf out before there were roots to support them. It was also described as complex and/or costly to do such that it was not a common technique. I'm fairly sure hormones were also employed.

Here is that link, which still seems to work as of today: "A. D. Webster (1995) Temperate fruit tree rootstock propagation, New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science, 23:4, 355-372, DOI: 10.1080/01140671.1995.9513912"
While it is aimed at propagating rootstock, it should be fundamentally applicable to propagating apple cultivars, as both are apple trees of a sort.

From what I understand, "micropropagation" or tissue culture may be a somewhat more reliable (if also somewhat more involved, and equipment/chemistry intensive) approach, but I have not tried it. I have done "casual" hardwood cutting propagation with more failures than successes, suggesting that a less-casual approach is likely required for a reasonable success rate. What it's actually done for me is to make the "traditional" approaches look pretty sensible, on balance.

  • Some excellent links there. Sensible depends on the objective - high success rates for commercial viability then yes. If, however, the objectives are not commercial and are to create an orchard for posterity then disease resistance and longevity are the priority. Success rate is less importance, so long as there are enough successes. Also, getting a variety on to its own roots would allow subsequent propagation by stooling. May 22, 2017 at 11:45
  • I wonder if air-layering would be effective as it is similar to stooling just at a more convenient location (exposure to rooting environment whilst remained connected to parent)? May 22, 2017 at 11:46
  • My limited experience with air-layering has been that it seems trickier in practice than stooling or tip layering, due to the need to keep a mass of rooting media that's "up in the air" damp for long enough to get roots formed - easy to write about, harder to do in practice than keeping something with soil contact similarly damp. But there are probably technological aids that could be used (which I did not have or use when I tried it long ago.)
    – Ecnerwal
    May 22, 2017 at 18:17

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