Get into Grafting
The Definitive Primer to Grafting
Grafting is used to provide more fruit varieties, a longer growing season and more effective pollination by providing a means of propagating plants that do not come true from seed or do not root easily from cuttings. It is used to adapt plants to unfavorable soil or climatic conditions, to repair damaged trees, to control and prevent pests, to modify the growth of plants like with dwarf fruit trees, and even to change the entire top of a fruit bearing tree to another variety (a common practice in orchards, known as topworking. Grafting is a versatile, fascinating technique that is often referred to as “assisting” nature. If you’re like us – enthusiastic gardeners with very little hands-on experience in the ancient arts of grafting fruit trees and ornamental plants – you will be intrigued to learn more and try your own hand at grafting. For demonstration purposes, we will be referring to the Garrett Wade Set of Professional Grafting Tools. However, most of the information here is general to the grafting practice.
Conditions for Successful Grafting
Compatibility is the set of conditions that give rise to a durable graft or union joining living parts of similar but distinct plants. These parts are known as the scion and the root, or rootstock. The rootstock is the main plant onto which the graft will be made, usually chosen for its strong roots. The scion is the shoot (or shoots) that will be grafted onto the main plant, usually chosen for its flowers, fruit or foliage, as well as for pollination of the rootstock. Budding is performed in late summer using a single bud for the scion. The two most important conditions for compatibility are that the rootstock and the scion be very similar plants, and that the right parts of the stock and scion can be lined up at the graft. Apple shoots cannot be grafted onto a pear, for example, because even though they are similar, they are not similar enough to be compatible for grafting. The graft needs to be aligned properly so that it does not interrupt the essential transfer of fluid and nutrients at any time. The scion and stock also need to be aligned so that they can form a structural union as they heal together. The Pro Italian Grafting Tools use the same cutting blade for both stock and scion, so that there is a good match between the two surfaces.
The new graft must be protected from harmful infections and from drying out. This is achieved by covering the finished graft with grafting wax and/or tape.
TIME OF YEAR
The main season for grafting is between January and September, but in warmer regions it is also possible in October. Most grafts are made in late winter or late summer when temperatures are not extreme and the plant is not very active. The graft may have difficulty healing when temperatures are under about 64 and over about 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In hot, sunny weather it helps to protect the graft from the sun by wrapping it with white paper. Grafts made in fall just before the winter rest period will have to wait until the next spring for conditions to be right for the graft to be successful.
The direction of growth should be consistent across the graft: the scion or bud should remain the right way round.. Do not reverse the natural direction of growth of either the root or the scion.
Apart from compatibility with the scion, the stock should be chosen for the local climate and terrain, and for its strong root system. The scion should be chosen from a healthy parent plant.
The Types of Grafts Possible with Grafting Tools
There are two main categories: one category includes V and omega grafting in which the scion is a cutting with more than one bud on it, and the other is a variation of grafting called T-grafting or budding in which a single bud is inserted into the stock. Budding is generally considered to be the more difficult technique, though the Pro Italian Grafting Tool makes it simpler than the traditional method. In all cases the tool permits accurate, matching cuts to be easily made in both stock and scion or bud because the same blade is used for both stock and scion.
Usually done in late winter or very early spring before the start of the year’s growth, scion grafting is more common than bud grafting. The scion consists of about 4 to 5 inches of shoot that has two to three buds. Shoots for use as scions should be cut before the buds start their springtime swelling. They can be cut in winter and kept in a fridge, tightly wrapped in a plastic bag. V grafts are better for grafts made in late winter and early spring. Omega grafts are better for grafts made in late fall (the beginning of the plant’s rest season), helping the graft survive the winter. Roses and vines are most suitable for grafting with the omega cutter. The Pro Italian Grafting Tool performs both V grafts and interlocking Omega grafts.
This is a type of grafting in which a single bud is inserted into the side of the stock. Because only one bud is used this can be a very economical method for large scale production, or when there is limited material available. It is usually carried out in the spring or late summer when the stock is out of dormancy, with both dormant and developing buds, depending on the species. When dormant buds are recommended they should be cut during the dormant season and kept in a fridge, tightly wrapped in plastic, until used.
The Bud is the portion (or scion) found at the base of each leaf stock. The Pro Italian Grafting Tool T- Blade neatly trims a single bud as well as cuts an identical shaped notch in the stock.
General Tips and Methods of Work
Grafting and budding can be thought of as performing surgery on your plants and trees. It is essential that you maintain hygienic conditions while working with plants you are grafting. Below we have compiled tables of the various trees and shrubs and the appropriate style and time of year to graft.
- If scion grafting, collect the scions you wish to graft for the season depending a few months ahead of time. Collect scions that are less than a year old and have 3 or 4 healthy, visible buds. If you need to store scions until they are ready, you can wrap them in a moist paper towel inside a plastic bag and keep them in the refrigerator. Scions should be cleaned up by removing leaves and branches.
- Sterilize the blades of the Pro Grafting Tools with alcohol or bleach prior to using. Dry and clean the blades after each use. Wipe the blades with oil for storage between seasons. Never perform grafts with a rusty blade – replace it. We recommend that you replace the blades for the Pro Grafting Tools each season. We stock a full complement of blades.
- Grafting should be performed when the buds of the rootstock are emerging and the tree is less than 5 years old, when the tree is most vigorously growing. These factors ensure the graft, which is really a plant wound, will have the necessary amount of compounds that help in healing wounds which will result in binding the scion and rootstock together.
PROCESS FOR SCION GRAFTING (V OR OMEGA)
- V grafts are normally done in late winter or early spring, while Ω grafts are performed in the late fall.
- Cut off a section of the rootstock branch not more than 2-3 feet from the main branch or trunk. With the rootstock exposed, use the grafting tool to create a V-shaped or Ω-shaped cut (V or Ω facing inward). This is called the cleft.
- With the scion, cut about an inch below the first bud. Using the grafting tool, flip it over to orient the V or Ω in the opposite direction you cut the rootstock. The cut shouldn’t be too sharp and should fit in the cleft with both sides making contact.
- The finished graft should be protected from infection and drying out by covering with wax and/or tape. This also helps provide the stability needed for the scion to grow in the right direction. All exposed cut surfaces should be sealed. “Suckers” growing from the stock below the graft should be removed so that the growth of the stock does not overcome the growth of the scion.
- Where multiple cultivars are grafted onto one stock, the most vigorous cultivars should be pruned so that they do not overwhelm the less vigorous cultivars.
PROCESS FOR BUDDING GRAFTING
- Budding grafting should be performed in the spring or late summer/early fall when the buds are out of dormancy and active.
- The grafting tool can handle producing the single bud (“scion”) as well as cutting the rootstock to expose the grafting area. Hold the branch in the tool and press to make your cut.
Join the two parts together to form the graft and protect from infection and drying out by covering with wax and/or tape.
G rafting is very commonly used with roses. These are the common rootstocks for roses:
- Rosa multiflora (Multiflora or Rambling Rose) roots easily, and is vigorous. It is resistant to a wide range of climatic conditions and is suitable for small bushes;
- Rosa canina (Dog Rose) may be slow growing and have difficult rooting but it tends to produce extremely long-lived individuals;
- Rosa rugosa (Japanese Rose) can be used for small and large rose bushes.
We have compiled a table of recommended graft types and times
Grafting Times for Plants
Trees, Fruits, and Vines
|Species||Type of Graft||Time of Year|
|Annona (Cherimoya etc)||V||February-March|
|Cherry (Sour and Sweet)||V or Omega||October-November|
|Almond||V or Omega||End of Summer|
|Asian/Nashi Pear||V||End of Winter|
|Hazelnut||V or Omega||Winter|
|Vine||V or Omega||End of Winter|
Flowering Shrubs and Ornamental
|Species||Type of Graft||Time of Year|
|Holly||V||End of Winter|
|Azalea||V or Omega||Fall|
|Hawthorn||V||Start of Spring|
|Dogwood||V or Omega||Winter|
|Lilac||V||End of Winter|
|Peony||V or Omega||Late Summer|
|Rhododendron||V or Omega||Late Fall|
|Rose||V or Omega||Spring|
|Viburnum||V or Omega||August-September|
Propagation Times for Plant Buds
|Species||Type of Bud||Time of Year|
|Kiwi||Dormant||Start of Fall|
|Citrus||Developing or Dormant||Spring, Fall|
|Apricot||Developing or Dormant||July-August, Spring|
|Annona (Cherimoya etc)||Developing||April|
|Loquat||Developing or Dormant||July, April|
|Peach||Developing or Dormant||August-September, June|
|Species||Type of Bud||Time of Year|
|Catalpa||Developing or Dormant||April-May, Fall|
|Horse Chestnut||Dormant||End of Summer|
|Flowering Apple||Dormant||Spring, or (better) fall|
|Ornamental Pear||Dormant||Spring, Fall|