Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Pacific Northwest
January, 2011
Regional Report

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The scar on this graft indicates the union was successful.


I prune my fruit trees in January and often use the cuttings for grafting projects, or I save them for gardening friends who like to be creative with their own trees. Grafting is a late winter project and you won't see much in the way of new growth until spring, but I think the waiting and hoping are just part of the experience.

Fruits to Graft
As long as the plants are of the same family, you can graft a variety of hardwood cuttings onto an existing shrub or tree. For example, you can graft a plum onto an apricot tree or a pear onto an apple tree. Or, you can create your own designer tree by taking prunings from your pie cherry tree and grafting them onto a wild cherry or chokecherry tree. You can even graft several different types of citrus onto one plant and end up with lemons, oranges, and limes all growing on the same tree.

I usually stick with apple trees, and on my original 'Jonagold,' I've grafted 'Akane,'' Liberty,' 'Pink Pearl,' 'Fuji,' and 'Braeburn' apple cultivars. They all flower at the same time so they provide cross-pollination to one another. The flowers are only slightly different in appearance so in the spring, the entire tree looks beautiful when in bloom.

I've discovered that some of my grafts develop into more robust and much faster growing branches, some of which grow way out of bounds. I've managed to keep the tree attractive with careful pruning.

Placement of the Graft
The most important aspect of grafting is choosing a cutting or scion that is exactly the same size as the branch you plan to graft it onto. The cambium layers of both the scion and rootstock part of the graft must match up. The cambium is the green tissue just under the bark that carries nutrients up and down between the roots and the leaves. You'll have more success if the cambium matches perfectly, but if you're willing to take a chance, you can match only part of the cambium, which provides an opportunity to graft smaller scions onto larger root stock, or graft several scions onto a large branch or trunk.

Here's How
In late winter, cut a 6- to 7-inch piece of the plant you want to graft. The cuttings should contain two or more buds. Buds are hiding under the leaf scars, on the section of the stem where the leaf joined the stem. With clean shears or a sharp, clean knife, make a sloping cut on one side of the scion (top piece). You can graft the cuttings immediately, or if you need to wait a few days, store the cuttings in a plastic bag to prevent them from drying out. If necessary, you can store the bag in the refrigerator for a week or two and they'll remain viable.

When you are ready to graft your scion to a branch, make a diagonal cut on the branch to match the bottom cut on the scion, and firmly attach the two pieces. I use floral tape on all my graft unions. Floral tape is a paper tape with a wax coating. It stretches easily and adheres to itself, providing a waterproof seal. Wrap the graft tightly, starting an inch below the graft and finishing the wrap about an inch above the grafted area. You could use dental floss or rubber bands instead of floral tape to secure the graft.

As you gain experience you might want to try grafting roses or other favorite plants in your garden. As long as they are from the same family, the grafts should take. Who knows what designer plants you might create?

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