Lime Tree Grafting - Budding Lime Trees To Propagate

Rows Of Plants In A Greenhouse
(Image credit: kittimages)

Plants are propagated in many ways whether by seed, cuttings, or by grafting. Lime trees, which can be started from hardwood cuttings, are generally propagated from budding a tree or bud grafting instead. Grafting a lime tree using the budding method is easy to do, once you know how. Let's look at the steps to budding lime trees.

Steps for Budding a Tree

  1. When to perform lime tree grafting- Lime tree grafting is best done in the early spring. At this time the bark on the tree is loose enough to allow for easy separation of the bud from the mother plant and there will not be any concern of frost or premature growth of the bud while it heals.
  2. Choose the rootstock and the budwood plant for lime tree grafting- The rootstock for budding lime trees should be a variety of citrus that does well in your area. Sour orange or rough lemons are the most common, but any hardy variety of citrus trees will do for rootstock when bud grafting a lime tree. The rootstock plant should be young, but at least 12 inches (31 cm.) tall. The budwood plant will be the plant you will be budding a lime tree from.
  3. Prepare the rootstock for the lime tree budwood- When budding a tree you will use a sharp, clean knife to cut the rootstock about 6 inches (15 cm.) above the root line. You will make a "T" that is 1 inch (2.5 cm.) long, so that two triangular flaps of bark can be peeled back. Cover the cut with a damp cloth until you are ready to insert the bud. It is very important to keep the rootstock's wound damp until you are done grafting a lime tree.
  4. Take bud from desired lime tree- Choose a bud (as in a potential stem bud, not a flower bud) from the desired lime tree to use as the budwood for budding the lime tree. With a sharp, clean knife slice away a 1 inch (2.5 cm.) sliver of the bark with the chosen bud in the center. If the bud will not immediately be put in the rootstock, wrap it carefully in a damp paper towel. The budwood must not dry out before it is placed on the rootstock.
  5. Place the budwood on the rootstock to complete the lime tree grafting- Fold back the bark flaps on the rootstock. Place the budwood sliver in the bare spot between the flaps, making sure it is pointing the right way so that the bud will grow in the right direction. Fold the flaps over the budwood sliver, covering as much of the sliver as possible, but leaving the bud itself exposed.
  6. Wrap the bud- Secure the bud to the rootstock using grafting tape. Wrap tightly both above and below the rootstock, but leave the bud exposed.
  7. Wait one month- You will know after a month if budding the lime is successful. After a month, remove the tape. If the bud is still green and plump, the graft was successful. If the bud is shriveled, you will need to try again. If the bud took, cut away the rootstock stem 2 inches (5 cm.) above the bud to force the bud to leaf out.
Heather Rhoades
Founder of Gardening Know How

Heather Rhoades founded Gardening Know How in 2007. She holds degrees from Cleveland State University and Northern Kentucky University. She is an avid gardener with a passion for community, and is a recipient of the Master Gardeners of Ohio Lifetime Achievement Award.