Graft Fruit Trees in 5 Simple Steps

Grafting trees and plants can be one of the most satisfying things a gardener can do. It’s actually really fun! The risk reward scale associated with grafting by far weighs heavily on the reward side of things. One of the biggest problems with getting started with grafting is lack of knowledge and space.

You’ve probably heard about tree grafting but may not know exactly what it is. I want to explain what it is and give 5 easy examples of trees you can start grafting to create unique and fun food at home to enjoy.

What is Grafting?

In the simplest terms, grafting is attaching one plant to another. There are many different techniques and strategies when it comes to grafting plants. The University of Minnesota has several online books available to really get into the details of grafting. For the sake of time we’re going to keep things on the surface level here. 

The basic understanding of grafting is to find two compatible plants, usually these are fruits within the same family, like citrus or prunus (apple, cherry, plum). Below I’ll list some fruit trees that are easily grafted together.  Grafting is the process of collecting these plants, attaching one to the other and then how to proceed in caring for these plants. 

There are two commonly used terms in grafting, rootstock and scion. The rootstock is the plant you will be grafting to. It is the plant currently in the ground, think of it as the plant that has roots. The scion is the new plant you will be using to graft to the rootstock. The rootstock is an established plant where the scion is a young shoot or bud from another established plant. 

It is important to know that grafting is completely different than cross pollination. The results are wildly different as well. There can be some cross pollination that happens as a result of a successful graft but again, the process is very different.  

How to Start Grafting

grafting plants and fruit trees

An appropriate place to start with grafting would be when to graft. The key time of year where grafting is successful is during the winter (depending on your selecting grafting technique). At this time in the year plants are still dormant and not actively growing. Once they do begin their growing for the year, they will be more receptive to their newly grafted home.

On average the best age to collect and use a scion is after the first year it has been growing. At this time it should be hardy enough to survive any elements or complications when being grafted. This young scion is completely alive where some of the older branches might have some less than ideal spots around the branches. 

Grafting is successful when the rootstock and the scion start growing together. Sharp tools are another key element to this procedure. They allow for the precision necessary to make the cuts to bind together rootstock and scion 

Special Care of Your Grafting

how to care for a grafts of a tree or plant

Care for the graft is crucial for a successful graft. Each completed graft should be covered with nurseryman’s tape to protect it from weather, pests and disease. Pruning paint can also be helpful to protect the graft. You don’t want anything to get in the way or prevent the plant tissues from growing together. 

The wounds made on the scion and rootstock should be protected and covered for about 3 months. Depending on how well everything was setup and the condition of the area at this time, once the tape is removed you should see both pieces of plant material fused into one.

Special care needs to be a high priority in grafting because if the graft isn’t successful there is a chance the plants will continue to grow around the graft. An example of this is if the graft is placed in the ground the rootstock can sprout its own growth above and the scion can send roots down below. In the event of the latter the scion would then grow into a tree of its own, instead of a grafted tree bearing two types of fruit. 

Types of Graftsgrafting types - home grown food HQ

Like most things, there are several ways to graft. Specifically, there are different techniques used to graft one plant to another. North Carolina State has a more in depth guide explaining how to do some of the more popular grafts. With today’s article and resources you’ll be on your way to grafting in no time!

Here is an example of grafting and steps to complete it successfully. 

Splice Graft, when you attach a scion to the stem of a rootstock. The way to create and complete this graft is to make a diagonal cut on the rootstock about an inch in length. You then make the same cut on the base of the scion. You then place the two cut ends on top of each other as if they were two of the same piece. You then attach the two pieces together using tape or twine. At this point you just need to protect the graft and care for the plants. Splice graft complete!

Easy Fruit to Graft

There are many types of plants that can be grafted together but here are some of the easier ones. These plants all need to be able to survive in your climate Apple trees are especially easy to graft, especially the apple trees that grow fruit. Cherries also grow really well after grafted. Most citrus trees can be grafted together as well. Doing the proper plant research should be a key step in deciding which plants to graft. You can’t have a successful graft if the plants don’t grow in your zone or if you try to graft two plants that don’t belong to the same family. 

You can also visit our store to see many of the available fruit types.

In Conclusion

There are many benefits to grafting plants, if you’ve even been remotely interested in grafting plants hopefully this is just what you needed to get the motivation to tackle the challenge. Grafting opens the door to have unique plants and more variety in a much smaller space. 

We went into some of the details about what grafting is, how it’s done and how to care for newly grafted plants. We also touched briefly on some of the plants that take to grafting better than others. There is always more to learn about these and other gardening subjects so feel free to browse through our blog!

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