Planting Tips

Red Delicious Apples

Be sure to have your sales person identify the graft union for you. Below the graft union is the rootstock (which is an apple variety also) and its’ function is to control the size of the tree. All growth that may appear below the graft union should be removed immediately. Our trees are grown on several different dwarf and semi-dwarf rootstocks. By dwarfing the tree we are able to keep it small and manageable and get fruit production in two years. Above the graft union is the scion, which controls the variety of apple that the tree will produce.

A few inches below the graft is a color ring painted on the tree. It tells us what kind of rootstock the tree is on and it also indicates to you the depth to which the tree should be planted. Take care to get the planting depth right. If you plant your tree too shallow it will be too small and if you plant it too deep and the scion touches the soil it will root around the dwarfing rootstock and you will have a very large tree that takes seven years to produce fruit.

We use several semi-dwarf rootstocks and all of them are free standing (they do not require support). The only full dwarfing rootstock we use is “M9” and it requires support. M9s are the world champions for production but need a stake or pipe beside the trunk to give them extra strength. They may also be trellised or espaliered along a wall or fence.


To remove the plant from the container hold the trunk of the plant just above the soil line and bump the top of the bucket with the heel of your hand a few times. This should loosen the pot and it should separate cleanly from the rootball. If it proves a little stubborn, mash the side of the pot inward between your hands to loosen the soil and try again. When the pot has been removed examine the rootball to see if white feeder roots are circling on the face of the rootball. Circling roots are undesirable and will make your tree slower to establish itself after being planted. If they are present, use a sharp knife and make a series of very shallow cuts downward along the face of the rootball every few inches to break up the circling pattern. Now plant the tree down to the color line, firm the soil around it, and water it well in order to remove any air that may have been trapped in the planting process.

Other Planting Tips

  1. It is best to just use native soil in filling the hole around the tree. Amendments may do more harm than good.
  2. Fertilization should be made just before growth starts in the spring—usually mid to late February. Instructions for fertilizing are available at the desk at The Apple Store.
  3. Keep all competing weeds, grasses, or flowers at least three feet away from the base of the tree. They will rob your young tree of nutrients and water.
  4. Do not let your tree have more than a few apples for the first couple of years. Remove all but the chosen few when they are the size of your fingernail. You must first grow the tree—apples come later.