Grafting Trees: What Is Tree Grafting

tree-graft
Image by Ryan Somma

By Nikki Phipps
(Author of The Bulb-o-licious Garden)

Grafted trees reproduce the fruit, structure and characteristics of a similar plant in which you are propagating. Trees grafted from vigorous rootstock will grow faster and develop quicker. Most grafting is done in the winter or early spring while both rootstock and scion plants are dormant.

Tree Grafting Techniques

Tree grafting is the most common method used for grafting trees, especially for fruit trees. However, there are various grafting techniques. Each type of grafting is used to accomplish various needs for grafting trees and plants. For instance, root and stem grafting are techniques preferred for small plants.

  • Veneer grafting is often used for evergreens.
  • Bark grafting is used for larger diameter rootstocks, and often requires staking.
  • Crown grafting is a type of grafting used to establish a variety of fruit on a single tree.
  • Whip grafting uses a wood branch or scion.
  • Bud grafting uses a very small bud from the branch.
  • Cleft, saddle, splice and inarching tree grafting are some other types of grafting.

Grafting Tree Branches with the Bud Grafting Method

Bud GraftFirst cut a budded branch from the scion tree. A budded branch is a whip like branch that has mature (brownish) but unopened buds on it. Remove any leaves and wrap the budded branch in a damp paper towel.

On the rootstock tree, select a healthy and somewhat younger (smaller) branch. About 2/3 of the way up the branch, make a T cut lengthways on the branch, only deep enough to go through the bark. Lift the two corners that the T cut creates so that it creates 2 flaps.

Remove the budded branch from the protective wrap and carefully slice a mature bud from the branch, being careful to leave strip of the bark around it and the wood below it still attached.

Slip the bud under the flaps in the same direction on the rootstock branch that it was cut from the budded branch.

Tape or wrap the bud into place making sure you do not cover the bud itself.

In a few weeks, cut the wrapping away and wait for the bud to grow. This can take until the next period of active growth. So if you do your bud grafting in the summer, you may not see growth until spring.

Once the bud starts actively growing, cut off the branch above the bud.

One year after the bud has started actively growing, cut all branches but the grafted branch off of the tree.

Trees grafted with the right kind of rootstock can create a tree that benefits from the best of both the rootstock and scion trees. Grafted trees can make a healthy and beautiful addition to your yard.

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