Whether you are bare root fruit tree shopping in winter or picking out containerized fruit trees in other times of the year, read the label on the tree. Both of them.
After you're done salivating over the fruit's juicy details after reading the top tag, pay attention to that bottom label.
That tag, the rootstock information, is critical in determining whether the tree will live or die in your soil.
Fruit trees are grafted onto various rootstocks to extend the range for that tree, giving it the ability to grow where it might not normally be possible (due to sandy soils, wet soils, crown rots, nematodes, etc.). Rootstocks can also help control the height of the tree or offer drought tolerance or more protection in cold winter areas.
But no single root stock is perfect. Each has its pros and cons.
Here is a list of some of the more commonly available rootstocks for deciduous fruit trees, along with their pros and cons, according to wholesale fruit tree grower, Dave Wilson Nursery:
Nemaguard peach seedling
Pros root-knot nematode resistant, vigorous, strong tree.
Cons susceptible to root-lesion nematode, prefers sandy soil, susceptible to oak root fungus; bacterial canker, prunes on this rootstock are subject to brown line
Lovell peach seedling
Pros slightly more resistant to wet conditions than Nemaguard but prefers well-drained soils, slightly more resistant to bacterial canker than Nemaguard.
Cons susceptible to root-knot and root-lesion nematode and to oak-root fungus, some what susceptible to bacterial canker, prunes on this rootstock are subject to brown line.
Citation interspecific peach plum-rooted cutting
Pros highly compatible with apricot and plum, induces early bearing, tolerant of wet soil conditions, resists root knot nematode, advances maturity and increases size and sugar content of fruit.
Cons susceptible to crown gall, bacterial canker and oak root fungus, intolerant of virus with peach or nectarine.
Viking interspecific peach, almond, plum; apricot-rooted cutting (patented)
Pros vigorous, root-knot nematode resistance similar to Nemaguard, productive, precocious tree, increases fruit size, considered well anchored, less susceptible to bacterial canker than seedling rootstocks, tolerant of wet soil conditions, tolerant of saline and alkaline soil conditions.
Cons Trees on peach x almond hybrid rootstocks, including interspecifics, are very sensitive to dehydration. While planting, keep roots damp. Irrigate after planting.
Atlas interspecific (patented) peach, almond, plum; apricot-rooted cutting
Pros extremely vigorous, root-knot nematode resistance similar to Nemaguard, productive, increases fruit size, considered well anchored, tolerant of saline and alkaline soil conditions.
Cons delays fruit maturity in some varieties, intolerant of wet soil conditions, intolerant of dehydration in transplanting.
Titan Hybrid Titan almond x Nemaguard peach hybrid seedling
Pros extremely vigorous, may have root-knot nematode resistance, considered well anchored, tolerant of calcareous soil conditions.
Cons trees may be excessively vigorous on good soil, may delay maturity of fruit, more susceptible to crown rot than peach seedling rootstocks, intolerant of wet soil conditions.
Myrobalan 29-C plum-rooted cutting
Pros makes large tree, immune to root-knot nematode, tolerates wet soils, less sucker development than Marianna 2624.
Cons tends to lean, some incompatibility with almonds, prunes subject to brown line on this rootstock, may set lighter crop than Marianna 2624, susceptible to oak root fungus.
Marianna 2624 plum-rooted cutting
Pros slightly dwarfing, moderately resistant to Phytophthora crown and root rot and oak root fungus, tolerates wet soils, root-knot nematode resistant.
Cons tends to lean; shallow roots the first few years, very susceptible to bacterial canker, incompatible with peaches, nectarines and some almond varieties, suckers profusely, susceptible to crown gall, almonds subject to brown line disease and union mild etch.
Mazzard cherry seedling
Pros more water tolerant than Mahaleb, cold hardy, resists root-knot nematode, vigorous, moderately resistant to oak root fungus.
Cons slow to bear, large tree prone to root suckering, susceptible to crown gall, bacterial canker; root-lesion nematode, scion doesn't show buckskin infection as quickly as on Mahaleb.
Mahaleb cherry seedling
Pros more drought tolerant than Mazzard, resists bacterial canker, smaller tree than Mazzard, moderately resistant to crown gall and root-lesion nematode, shows buckskin infection quickly.
Cons intolerant of wet heavy soils, attracts gophers, tends to sucker, susceptible to oak root fungus, some root-knot nematode susceptibility - very susceptible to Phytophthora crown and root rot and Prunus stem pitting.
Colt (patented) cherry rooted cutting
Pros tolerates wet heavy soils better than Mahaleb, resists bacterial canker; cherries on Colt are field resistant to cherry stem pitting.
Cons drought sensitive, slight to not dwarfing under California irrigated conditions, susceptible to crown gall, not cold hardy (not a problem in California).
M 9 apple layered cutting
Pros dwarfs to 40-45% seedling size, very precocious and productive, increases fruit size, has field resistance to cherry stem pitting disease.
Cons shallow rooted, drought sensitive, trees require support, susceptible to fireblight and wooly apple aphid.
M 26 apple layered cutting
Pros dwarfs to 55-60% seedling size, precocious and productive.
Cons shallow rooted; drought sensitive, staking or trellis usually required, susceptible to Phytophthora, susceptible to fireblight and wooly apple aphid.
M 7 apple layered cutting
Pros dwarfs to 65-70% seedling size, widely adapted to various soil conditions, moderately resistant to Phytophthora.
Cons suckers, staking may be required, susceptible to wooly apple aphid.
M 111 apple layered cutting
Pros tolerates waterlogging and drought, well-anchored, resists wooly apple aphid, dwarfs to 90% of seedling-rooted size, good for sandy soils.
Cons susceptible to crown rot under very poor conditions.
NCB (Northern California Black) walnut seedling
Pros vigorous, resists Verticillium wilt, oak root fungus and root-knot nematode.
Cons susceptible to Phytophthora crown gall and root-lesion nematode, Persian (English) walnut on Northern California Black subject to black line.
Paradox NCB x Persian walnut hybrid seedling
Pros very vigorous, may induce better quality and productivity. Resists root-lesion nematode and certain Phytophthora species, grows better in heavy, wet or low fertility soils than NCB, resistant to oak root fungus.
Cons highly susceptible to crown gall, may be less resistant to oak root fungus than Northern California Black, Persian walnuts on Paradox subject to black line.
Generally, your local, independently-owned nursery will pick the combinations of fruit tree and rootstock that will work best in your area.