Instructables
Picture of Grafting Made Simple
Follow this 6-step process for improved varieties of trees.

What is grafting?

Grafting is a horticultural technique that's defined as attaching a twig (scion) from one tree to the stem of a tree seedling (rootstock). The scion becomes a permanent part of the tree over time. If the scion is from an improved variety, the tree will take on those characteristics.There are several grafting techniques, but we at The Progressive Farmer have chosen to demonstrate our favorite technique, the four-flap graft technique.

Getting Started (When to Graft).

During the dormant season (late winter), cut new-growth scions with buds on them. Refrigerate scions in plastic bags until spring. Scion and rootstock should be about the same diameter.

 
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Step 1: Vertical Incisions

Picture of Vertical Incisions
Make four 3-inch vertical incisions through the rootstock's bark, starting at the top. Slip a small rubber band on the rootstock, stopping just below these vertical cuts. With the point of a knife, separate the bark from the wood at the tip of the rootstock. Peel the bark down in four 3-inch-long flaps. Cut off an equal-sized piece of rootstock with shears after peeling back the bark.

Step 2: Prepare the Scion

Picture of Prepare the Scion
Prepare the scion by trimming 1/2 inch off the bottom to show fresh, green wood. Slice a shallow, 2-inch cut into the wood at the bottom end of the scion. This cut exposes cambium tissue, which carries sap through the tree. Repeat this in order to create four evenly-spaced cuts.

Step 3: Connect Scion and Rootstock

Picture of Connect Scion and Rootstock
Place the cut end of the scion inside the four flaps, lining up each cut surface with a flap.

Step 4: Secure the Graft

Picture of Secure the Graft
Now is the time to use the rubber band to hold the flaps in place. Make sure the cambium tissue of the scion is seated against the cambium tissue of the rootstock.

Step 5: Protect the Graft

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Protect the graft by wrapping it with a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then a piece of plastic.

Step 6: Secure the Plastic

Picture of Secure the Plastic
Tape the plastic lightly around the graft using masking tape. New buds should appear in 15 to 30 days. You may want to write the date and tree variety on the tape to keep track of multiple trees.

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anhmytran01 month ago

The rootstock might not be inferior. It is unsure or different indeed. Breeding animals, you always get unsure younglings that may not have desired properties (or characteristics) resulted from crossing DNAs during sperm and eggs formation. The breeders need thousands of younglings to find the one (or none) that meets the desired quality. Grafting helps to have the plant that carries the exact DNA you know.

caledonian6 years ago
Totally naive question, but how do you judge the rootstock is inferior, and thus could be improved by this technique? If it's a matter of variety, why not plant the better variety in the first place. Reading novels over the years has given me some insight with a livestock analogy, emphasized breeding of the "better" livestock to improve the overall herd, but I'm curious how it translates to plants and trees.

Pecans must be grafted to know exactly what pecan your tree is going to produce or you will waste 20 years of your life and then find your tree does not have the pecans like the seeds you planted. Oklahoma State University has a large photo of the pecans produced in an orchard of 100 trees. The owner planted all Stewart pecans, then waited about 20 years. The resulting tree's pecans were of all different sizes, which is not what he wanted. You must plant to grow a tree, then graft it with the scion from a donor tree. The pecans produced will then be exactly like the donor tree's pecans.

Progressive Farmer (author)  caledonian6 years ago
Grafting can create improved varieties of trees. You can take a trait you like in one plant and graft it to a plant not containing that trait. Take pecan trees for example; trees grafted with improved varieties yield nuts with larger kernels and thinner shells. Grafting can also yield trees that can produce nuts at 7 years of age-compared to 14 years for native seedlings.
Isn't that plant genetics more than graphing.
Generally speaking, grafting is done because it's easier than trying to breed a plant for more than one trait at a time. So you breed a rootstock resistant to insect damage or drought, and the scion for the trait you actually want, ie flavor or color. Roses are frequently grafted to keep them from running, otherwise they might get bigger than you want. With dioecious plants like kiwi, male branches are grafted onto a female plant, eliminating the need to grow non fruit bearing plants. Rare or new cultivars can be propagated faster by grafting onto already established specimens than from cuttings. I skipped a bunch of other important reasons. But I think you get the gist of it.
mrbob10006 years ago
so... i oculd make a sasafrass tree that has pine tree branches... ULTIMATE CHRISTMASS TREE! this will rock
I'm not sure about that combination, but usually you can only graft between two similar trees. I've seen someone who had a citrus tree with several oranges, grapefruit, and lemon varieties growing on it. It was a sight to see when it fruits.
Heh - yeah, it doesn't quite work that way. :-)

Graft incompatibility is still poorly understood, but it is clear that the plants have to be fairly closely related. That multi-citrus tree is a great example - those are all species within the same Citrus genus.

I believe I've also seen trees advertised that yielded both apples and pears on different branches - apples and pears are both from the Maloideae subfamily (along with quince, loquat, and some others).

The Maloideae (apple subfamily) are part of the Rosaceae, or rose family, along with other fruits such as strawberries (subfamily Rosoideae), and peaches, almonds, and cherries (all subfamily Prunoideae), but a strawberry-apple or cherry-rose tree would be quite an accomplishment, I think.

Sasafrass and pines aren't even in the same Division. Sasafrass is a flowering plant ( Angiosperm), whereas pines are non-flowering seed plants ( Gymnosperms), which puts them something like a quarter billion years apart, evolutionarily speaking - there's no chance you'd be able to graft those successfully.

(This lecture brought to you by Botany for the Humor Impaired, Inc.)
finton Patrik1 year ago
That's right Patrik.
Incompatibilities can be sometimes overcome with an intergraft (or intermediate graft). This is a short piece of scion from a species, or even a variety, that the ones you are trying to graft are both compatible with.

It's a fair while since I did my Horticulture degree, but if I remember correctly a peach > plum graft would not necessarily work but a peach > nectarine > plum graft would. Sometimes, within a species, variations do not always graft well on to a given rootstock, so quince > plum1 will not work but quince > plum2 > plum1 will.

However, one would be pushing it to graft at the Family level, so apple > peach would not work and definitely not mrbob1000's chimera, except on the Island of Dr Moreau!
Ahh, good 'ol BHI Inc. You guys sure know how to take the fun out of algae.
Soulsbane2 years ago
I heard that a whip and tongue graft is really good or even the best. Do you think so? Can you show us a whip and tongue graft?
Wafflicious6 years ago
sassafras is hott wood
Patrik6 years ago
In Step 1, do you cut down the exposed wood of the rootstock, after peeling the bark down? It kind of looks like that in Step 3, but I don't see it mentioned. Larger photographs might help as well. Other than that, nice instructable - we don't get much horticulture around here!
Progressive Farmer (author)  Patrik6 years ago
Yes, you would cut the 3-inch section of inner bark once you peel the outside bark down. Thanks for noticing the error. I have added this to the step.
pyro136 years ago
I was wondering, can you graft houseplants? I have some philodendrons and another vine I don't know the name of, would it be possible to graft them?
AWESOME! Man, all your stuff just RULES! Great job, the pictures are great.Super great.
cool! Nice pictures :)