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Growing 2-N-1 Fruit Trees

by Patti on 01/11/2011
Double Delicious®

Do you live in suburbia, surrounded by chain link fences and neighborhood sprawl? Are you currently downsizing, or perhaps moving closer to the convenience of the city? These are some common reasons people never consider growing fruit trees. Patti Moreno (of Garden Girl TV and co-host for Growing A Greener World TV) has a very different take on the matter, as she blogs about compact, self-pollinating Stark® Custom Graft® 2-N-1 fruit trees – the perfect pick for small space growing!

– Meg

2-N-1 Fruit Trees

Growing fruit in your own backyard is quite rewarding, but many of us can’t because we don’t have enough space for fruit trees. For homeowners with small backyards, it can be a challenge to plant fruit trees due to their spacing requirements.

The perfect solution? Plant 2-N-1 fruit trees for small spaces!

What are multi-grafted fruit trees & why grow them?

2-N-1 fruit trees are great choices for small-space gardeners — you only need one tree to grow several kinds of fruit. These trees are grafted to grow multiple varieties of the same fruit on one tree. Some fruits require more than one variety in order to cross-pollinate and produce fruit, making 2-N-1 fruit trees technically “self-pollinating”. In addition, many of these fruits may ripen at different times, allowing you to extend the harvest season. (See examples below.)

What is grafting?

Don’t worry, 2-N-1 fruit trees are not genetically altered! Grafting is a simple process in which a live branch from one tree is cut and inserted into another tree. The woods merge naturally and soon the new branch grows with the nutrients from the primary tree. Grafting is actually the most common way to propagate strong, healthy, true-to-name fruit trees. The only difference in the case of 2-N-1 trees is that the grafted branches are not from the exact same variety of tree.

How to care for 2-N-1 Fruit Trees

Caring for your multi-grafted fruit tree is similar to growing any fruit tree, but there are some things you will do differently.

  1. Make sure that your tree is planted in full sun, with well-drained, fertile soil.
  2. Pruning your 2-N-1 tree is key. You want to make sure that you balance the pruning of branches between varieties, making sure not to take off more of one kind than the other. If one variety begins to overgrow the other, be sure to prune back the more-vigorous variety so that both are growing proportionally. Be extra careful not to completely remove one of your varieties when pruning. Read the tag that comes with your 2-N-1 tree for more information.
  3. The primary reason for growing a 2-N-1 fruit tree is to get the most fruit possible, so its a good idea to fertilize your trees when you plant them, and repeat about once a year in early spring. Be careful not to over fertilize for risk of injuring the tree or the environment.

Choosing 2-N-1 Fruit Trees for Small Spaces

Stark Bro’s is a leader in growing high quality multi-grafted fruit trees. They offer a variety of great Stark® Custom Graft® 2-N-1 fruit trees, such as:

  • 2-N-1 Asian Pear: New Century pears ripen in late August and Starking® Hardy Giant™ in mid-September.
  • 2-N-1 Cherry: Deep-red Van Sweet Cherries and Golden Stark® Gold™ cherries, both for fresh eating and desserts. Harvest in mid-June.
  • 2-N-1 Pear: Starkrimson® ripens in mid-August; and the classic Bartlett pear ripens late August.
  • 2-N-1 Plum: Shiro Japanese Plums ripens starting in mid-July. Dark-red Redheart Plums ripen in August.

2-N-1 Asian Pear 2-N-1 Cherry Tree 2-N-1 Pear Tree 2-N-1 Plum Tree

  • Stark® Double Delicious® Apple: Starkrimson® Red Delicious and Stark® Golden Delicious — great for fresh eating and baking. Ripens late September to mid-October.

Enjoying the Fruits of my Labor,
Patti Moreno
the Garden Girl

Topics → Planting & Growing, Tips


  1. Jerry Hadley permalink

    Are these large trees or will they grow in containers?

    • Meg permalink

      Jerry, these 2-N-1 trees are all semi-dwarfs, which can be used successfully in container-growing. They also work well in small yards because of their combination of varieties on 1 tree – most fruits need 2 trees to pollinate each other, but these trees are grafted so that only 1 tree is needed. If you’re interested in planting trees in containers, you might also look for dwarf size or colonnade trees.

      Hope that helps! :)

  2. Patrick permalink

    I have a cottage in the thumb of Michigan, right near the top on the shores of Lake Huron. i would like to plant some 2 in 1 fruit trees, wil they grow in a sandy soil, land do they require a lot of chemical maintenence?

    • Meg permalink

      Thanks for stopping by, Pat! :) First, I’d always recommend amending your soil with coir (like our coco fiber medium) for water retention/distribution & organic compost… it enriches the soil & will help the roots take hold in a more sandy environment.

      Make sure you pick trees that will grow well in your hardiness zone. All except for our 2-N-1 Asian Pears grow in zones 5-8/9, which may be too warm for your location.

      There are always ways to take care of your trees with minimal chemical use: pruning, maintaining a clean planting site, and avoid watering the foliage when you do water. I’d also recommend a fertilizer for new fruit trees to get the trees off to a strong start, but stop fertilizing by July 1. :)

  3. Robert Couture permalink

    I purchased some dwarf &simi-dwarf trees,among them are starkspur trees. My question is how do you prune the spur trees.

    • Meg permalink

      Robert, sorry it took me a while to get back with you on this– had to do some research!

      According to Elmer, the spur-type trees should be pruned *less intensively* than other trees. Typically, just the pruning of dead/diseased branches & cross-branches will be needed with the spur-type trees. I hope that helps!

  4. ALLEN HONAKER permalink

    Please send catalog.
    Thank You;
    Allen Honaker

    • Meg permalink

      Allen, I sent your address over to our Customer Service Team — they’ll get a catalog sent out to you within a couple of weeks! Thanks for your interest! :)

  5. Sybil permalink

    Do they make grafted nut trees to b 2 n 1 or 3 n 1??

    • I’ve looked around to see if these exist, Sybil, and I haven’t had much luck finding any. I’m willing to bet that it’s either not practical to have a multi-grafted nut tree, or the industry is just not there yet. There aren’t very many nurseries that offer grafted nut trees to begin with, as most are sold as seedlings. Which nut trees were you thinking would be nice to have as a 2-N-1 or 3-N-1?

  6. Mary permalink

    Our pear tree has two varieties; one ripens in summer (siekel) and the other is ripening just now (?). Both delicious! The tree is over 100 years old. No other pear trees around it. Any ideas as to what sort of pear trees were available with two varieties in 1911?

    • Hi Mary – that sounds like quite the productive pear tree you have growing there! I asked around to see what multi-grafted fruit trees were offered in the past, but the consensus is that it’s likely the variety tree (Seckel) and a sprout from its rootstock growing along with it, rather than a traditional 2-N-1 grafted tree.

      As for what the second tree actually is, given the industry at the time, it was likely a seedling rootstock, so not a named variety. It is possibly Bartlett pear seedling, but, being a seedling, the variation of fruit quality and ripening time could be several weeks different from the original Bartlett.

      The only other thing I can think of is that someone with grafting skills might have made their own multi-grafted tree, in which case you get to benefit from their creativity, but we can’t know for certain what variety might have been used. :)

  7. Mary permalink

    Thank you, Sarah. The Seckel is a definite. What is ripening now is tan about an inch and a half in diameter very crisp and juicy.
    These trees (over 100 apples, plums, this pear is left) were shipped around Cape Horn.
    The winter banana are just now falling (cattle love them) and one other type(wish I knew what it is) ripening now large, red, tart crisp delicious (I make waldorf salad with them and the black walnuts, etc).
    Another type falling now I call sheep nose not as good.

    July brings the yellow transparent in truck load. Mary

  8. Karen permalink

    I’m used to bareroot trees and large nursery grown trees in pots. But, I can’t quite picture what these would look like. How old are the grated 2-in-1 trees? Are they branching? Are they shipped in pots and how large are they when shipped? Are they harder to grow than bareroot? Thanks!

    • The 2-N-1 fruit trees, and any of our multi-grafted fruit trees, are grown in our Stark® EZ Start® Pots, whose dimensions are 4×4 inches square by 10 inches deep to encourage dense root systems — with the exception of the Double Delicious Apple and the 4-on-1 Antique Apple, which are bare-root trees. The potted trees are not any harder to plant than a bare-root tree, in fact, some people find it easier to plant these trees since you can already see, by the existing soil, how deep to bury the roots when you plant. Just be sure to score the roots when planting, as demonstrated in our planting video here.

      The multi-grafted fruit trees are the same age as the regular grafted fruit trees we carry, which is about 2 years old when you receive them. The ones in EZ Start Pots are about 1-2 feet tall when you receive them, like any of our other EZ Start potted trees (if there is a Select option available, these trees are more robust and 3-4 feet tall when you receive them). The bare-root trees are 3-4 feet tall, like our other bare-root trees (if there is a Supreme option available, these trees are more robust and 4-5 feet tall when you receive them).

      You will notice branching, since in most cases the branches are going to determine where the different varieties are located. This varies depending on the type of fruit tree it is (plums are grafted differently from apples, for example). We hope to have some informative visuals coming soon — so be on the lookout for that!

      When you receive a multi-grafted/2-N-1 fruit tree, the tags have additional instructions regarding the branching and how to prune:

      “To ensure proper treatment, we have already pre-pruned your tree. You will notice that the trunk of your tree is marked with paint. Do not prune off any complete limbs above the white paint mark. It is important that these limbs are allowed to grow and develop, as they will bear fruit from the varieties, which have been grafted to your tree. These original limbs may eventually be trained with directional pruning or to remove watersprouts and crossing branches in subsequent years, but the limbs should not be removed from the tree.”

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