This is a guide to the most common apple tree rootstocks. When buying apple trees from us, you do not need to worry about choosing the right rootstock - each of our trees is grown on the most suitable one for its intended final shape and size.
However for those who are interested, the realtionship between a rootstock and a variety is similar to the one between a car model and engine size. BMW 3 series cars come with a range of engine sizes. Bramley or Discovery apples (for example) come with a range of rootstocks. Just as the bigger engine makes your BMW go faster, so a more vigorous rootstock makes your Bramley grow bigger. In the table below, the mature sizes shown are approximate maximums: the variety of apple, the soil type, the amount of sun and the way the tree is pruned will have an effect on how big the tree can potentially grow.
Apple Tree Rootstocks At a Glance
|Rootstock Name||Size Range & Max. Mature Height||Common uses|
|Very Dwarfing (2 metres)||Rarely used. Pots or Cordons. Requires support.|
|Dwarfing (2.5 metres)||Cordons. Requires support. but always grown against a wall or the like|
|Semi-Dwarfing (3.5 metres)||Bushes. Requires support in windy conditions|
|Semi-Vigorous (4 metres||All purpose - can even be used for cordons. Needs no support when established.|
|Vigorous (6-7 metres)||Cider apple trees & commercial growing. Picking-crane required for harvest and spraying. Needs no support when established.|
You can buy apple & pear rootstocks here.
Each tree will tell you on its page which rootstock it is grown on: we use MM106 for almost all of the apple trees you buy here. It works for both trained shapes like fans or espaliers and can also produce a mature tree that is a manageable size for a garden.
Detailed Description of Apple Tree Rootstocks
M27 is the least vigorous rootstock, producing a tree that will struggle to reach 2 metres (6 feet).
Its major shortcoming is that growing conditions have to be ideal and even then your crop will be small.
It is rarely used and we do not grow any trees on it.
M9 is a dwarfing rootstock, producing a tree about 2-2.5m (7-8ft), which is ideal for cordon apples.
Soil preparation is very important - M9 has shallow, weak roots that need rich soil to get what they need. They are also not strong enough to compete with grass & weeds and will always need watering in dry weather.
M9 trees need permanent support if you want to grow them as a small bush (cordons are wire-trained).
M26 is a semi dwarfing rootstock, producing a tree 2.5-3.5m (8-10ft) at maturity. The size is suited to smaller gardens, but like M9, the M26 rootstocks do not have a strong root system and require permanent support.
We think that M9 is best for cordons, while MM106 is better for any larger sizes.
MM106 is an all purpose rootstock that is used by both gardeners and commercial orchards, producing a free-standing tree around 4m (12ft), which can easily be kept a smaller size of about 2.5 metres with a good pruning regime. It is also great for wall trained fans and espaliers.
After your trees are established, they do not need support.
We grow most of our apple trees on MM106.
M25 is the classic rootstock of the cider apple orchard, where the biggest crops are needed to get loads of juice. It is too large for most people's gardens, producing a free standing tree that can be 6-7 metres (20 feet plus) in height.
We grow a few cider apples on M25 but you must have access to a proper cherry picker and commercial grade spraying equipment when they are mature - using a ladder is simply too dangerous for you and is likely to damage the tree too.