Grafting KNOWN varieties to WILD rootstock......bad idea?


Active Member
I grow 20 or so apple trees from seed each year that come from people on various forums and are typically touted a "great wild trees that the deer love, taste good, produce well, etc".....they all grow to about 3 ft the first year and are big enough that I could graft to them from some of my known apple varieties (or even some wild ones).

Would this be a mistake?

I know the rootstock and scion are HUGE in the long-term and I don't really plan on planting 1000 trees overall, so it is dumb to graft to a rootstock that is not known and hope for the best?

Has anyone done this with success?
It's a crap shoot-unless the tree is self fertile then you are getting a cross. However, if all trees are wild and adapted to your conditions then there is a good chance these will be successful trees. I don't think anyone can answer your question with 100% certainty but I have some apple seedling that I started from seed that are showing phenomenal growth. One grafted with a dolgo scion flowered in its 2nd year. Most of mine are in their 3rd and 4th leaf and not producing yet - but most of them are keeping up with the M111 rootstock, with some exceeding.

So my advise - if you enjoy growing trees from seed then go for it. If you get a seedling that is a poor doer--throw it away. I only graft the seedlings that show good growth rate.
You will never find the next great thing cloning existing varieties. Take a throw of the dice at the genetic craps game, worse that could happen is it comes up snake eyes but you might get boxcars.
You can always let the tree grow 6-7 ft then top graft it, known variety on top with seedling variety underneath this way of you like what it becomes you can graft it to a tree by itself and if you don't like it you got a variety on top you do.
I have grafted crabapple seedlings over to Liberty, honeycrisp (for fun), winesap, golden russett, and im surely missing a couple. They have done very well. To be clear, i didnt graft them until the rootstock was about 4-5 years old. I just didnt think about it until then. :)

Liberties are in their 4th leaf since grafting and are supporting a nice crop. Some of my crabs displayed true dwarfing characteristics (small size and purple leaves) and others are vigorous. I grafted the larger growing trees.

I dont think you can go wrong. Leave some and graft some. My best crabapples are those grown from seed. Most had issues with disease and fruit size for whitetails. But some were great.
I think I will do some selective grafting on the best ones to see how it goes!

Whats the worst that could happen!