Q. When shopping for fruit trees, I noticed both dwarf and miniature trees available which confused me. What is the difference between a dwarf and a miniature variety?
A. The difference between the two is a difference in genetics (miniature) versus how the tree was propagated or grafted (dwarf). Miniature fruit trees are regarded as genetically different or independent from other varieties.
The terms “miniature” and “dwarf” are sometimes used interchangeably in the nursery trade for marketing purposes. This causes a lot of confusion for the consumer. But they are different from each other.
Miniature fruit trees (sometimes called genetic dwarf in the nursery trade) are not manipulated to be smaller. Their “smallness” is in their genetics. They were “born” that way. Miniature fruit trees do not have to be grafted to make them smaller but sometimes they are grafted for other reasons. Examples of genetic dwarf apple trees are the varieties ‘Apple Babe’ and ‘Garden Delicious’. Genetic dwarf peaches include Bonanza and El Dorado.
|Grafted fruit trees with a rootstock (bottom) and scion (top) that produces the fruit. Dwarf and semi drawer for fruit trees are usually grafted and may be considered "dwarf" rather than miniature.|
Dwarf fruit trees are made “dwarf” by attaching them to roots that cause the tree to become smaller. Dwarf fruit trees MUST be grafted to another tree so that they become smaller. Dwarf fruit trees are small because they are forced to be small through graftage.
|Grafted peach tree with a graft union, sometimes called a "dogleg".|
By grafting apple trees to another tree that doesn’t get as large, the apple tree will never grow large. It stays small; a “dwarfed form” of the same tree.Fruit from dwarf fruit trees have the same taste and size as the normal-sized tree. But the tree itself remains smaller; a dwarf version of the same tree. There are dwarf forms of Red Delicious, Fuji, Granny Smith, Gala and all other apple varieties. These are all grafted to a dwarfing rootstock.