“I’ll be real blunt about this: I’m not a fan of the most common semi-dwarf rootstock that’s out there, Citation,” said Don Shor, owner of Redwood Barn Nursery. Don was speaking on the December 14 broadcast of the radio show he co-hosts, The Davis Garden Show.
This made me think: Do I know anyone who likes Citation? Everyone I know who grows multiple kinds of stone fruit trees and has had some on Citation prefers other rootstocks.
(What’s a rootstock? See my post, “Your fruit tree is grafted: Why? And so what?”)
The first time I heard an unenthusiastic view of Citation was in 2017 from Chuck Ingels. During a talk at the University of California Master Gardener Conference, Chuck mentioned that peach trees on Citation didn’t last long.
I registered that comment because I knew that Chuck had a lot of personal experience to draw from. He had grown innumerable fruit trees himself, observed many more, and edited the excellent book, The Home Orchard.
A friend who grows many stone fruit trees on a small farm near me has also found Citation unsatisfactory.
A few years ago, he purchased ungrafted Nemaguard rootstocks and planted them near his peach and nectarine trees on Citation. Since then he has grafted the Nemaguard rootstocks to the scion (fruit) varieties he wants, with the plan to eventually remove the trees on Citation.
Watching the trees on both rootstocks grow side by side, he says he has seen that the Nemaguard trees are healthier overall and “power through leaf curl.”
I have grown a few trees on Citation in my own yard that I’ve been able to compare to trees on other rootstocks beside them. I had a SpiceZee nectaplum on Citation next to a Snow Queen nectarine on Nemaguard rootstock. The SpiceZee grew more slowly, got worse peach leaf curl damage, and always took longer to grow out of it.
I had a Flavor Grenade pluot on Citation next to a Dapple Dandy pluot and a Flavor King pluot, both on Myrobalan 29C rootstock. Those trees have loads of fruit every year and grow every year. The Flavor Grenade on Citation, on the other hand, had loads of fruit but grew slowly. It wanted to fruit on small branches rather than develop a scaffold that could hold a real crop.
I removed both the SpiceZee nectaplum and Flavor Grenade pluot trees on Citation after a handful of years.
Why do they sell trees on Citation? The main appeal seems to be its weak growth. Yes, its weak growth is the feature. They call it a “dwarf” or “semi-dwarf” rootstock, which sounds attractive to home growers who don’t have a large yard and want a smaller tree.
But described in another way, we can say it’s a slow and feeble rootstock. I would rather have a faster, stronger rootstock that I have to prune more.
Instead of Citation, I prefer Nemaguard for peaches and nectarines. Don Shor prefers Lovell. Nemaguard and Lovell both make trees that grow faster than Citation, but which can easily be kept down in size through pruning.
For plums and pluots, Myrobalan 29C has given me great results on a number of scion varieties. My trees on Myro 29C are tough and vigorous yet, as with the peaches and nectarines, I have no problem keeping them pruned down to the height of my reach.
Rootstocks perform differently in different soil conditions so your results may not be the same, but as you look for a bare-root tree to buy this winter, check the tag for the rootstock. I can’t tell you that Citation will perform worse in your yard than another rootstock, as I and others have experienced, but I can say that I will be avoiding any new trees on Citation.
Don Shor made some additional comments about his experiences with Citation and specifically on this post of mine here. He noted that he also finds his trees on Citation to need water more frequently compared to those on other rootstocks. Listen to his comments on the January 4, 2024 show here. The topic of Citation starts at 21 minutes.
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