Introduction: Whip Grafting

Grafting is one of the oldest methods of plant propagation and is standard practice today for various types of fruit trees. Whip grafting is an easy technique for the beginner, and has yielded good results for me with apples, apricots, plums and cherries. There are several other grafting techniques - bud grafting, cleft grafting, and bark grafting being some of the common ones.

Why is grafting important for the home orchardist?

  • This is a useful technique for people with small backyards. Instead of a tree bearing a large quantity of the same variety of fruit at once, you can spread the harvesting season (since different varieties ripen at different times) and harvest multiple varieties of fruits, with different flavors, shapes and sizes. Over a few years, I have been able to graft nine to twelve varieties on each of my apple, plum, peach and apricot trees.

  • Some fruit trees cannot reliably be grown from seeds, because the seeds do not retain the characteristics of the parent plant. Grafting allows us to grow the identical fruit.

  • By using the appropriate “rootstock,” one can control the size and growth of the tree, and also select rootstock that’s suitable for the given soil conditions. For example, the San Francisco Bay Area has a lot of clay soil, which does not allow for easy drainage of water, and can cause diseases in fruit trees. There are various varieties of rootstock that tolerate such soil conditions.

  • Certain varieties of fruits require pollinizers, and, instead of planting multiple fruit trees, one can simply graft a variety of pollinizer on the fruit tree to be pollinated, thus eliminating the space and care needed for an entire fruit tree.

Not every fruit is easy or possible to graft. For example, figs have challenges with grafting, because of the sap they release. Some folks have come up with novel solutions to graft figs, but I haven’t tried them yet. I propagate figs by rooting them… would love to write an instructable on that process sometime.

Sources of Scions:
a) If one of your friends or relatives is growing a fruit you like, you can take a cutting and graft it
b) If you establish rapport with the manager of the local nursery, he/she may let you take some cuttings
c) If there is a local orchard or farm in the area, you can find out when they prune their trees, and they’ll likely let you take cuttings
d) Residents of some western states can become members of the local chapter of the CRFG (California Rare Fruit Growers - Link) and participate in the annual scion exchange, where you can get access to hundreds of varieties of fruit.
e) The USDA (U.S. Department of Agriculture) maintains a live “Germplasm Bank” of thousands of fruit varieties (Link), and you can contact the local resource for scions.

When to do whip grafting? I graft varieties when the trees are just coming out of dormancy, from mid February to mid March, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Compatibility
We need to observe compatibility between the scion and the host branch. For example, while there is high compatibility between stone fruit (peaches, apricots, plums and nectarines), you can’t graft a peach on an apple. Similarly, there is strong compatibility between apples and pears but you can’t graft apples on oranges and vice versa.

Different varieties of citrus (limes, lemons, mandarins, oranges, etc.) are highly compatible with each other, but different grafting techniques are followed for them, such as bud grafting, since citrus isn’t deciduous i.e. does not go dormant as the stone fruit do.

Step 1: Collecting Scions

In January I collect the varieties I want to graft on to my fruit trees. I cut the branches to fit a plastic sealable bag, and put a damp piece of napkin in the bag to keep them from drying out. I label each bag with the name of the variety and type of fruit, and place the bag in the fridge (not the freezer).

If the scion dries out before the graft is established, the branch will die, so we need to do our best to keep the branch from drying out. Before the scion is grafted, we keep it "wet" by placing a damp napkin in the bag, and, after the scion is grafted, we keep it from drying out by covering it with latex paint or grafting tape.

The images are from the 2014 CRFG-SCV (California Rare Fruit Growers, Santa Clara Valley Chapter) Scion Exchange. Hundreds to thousands of varieties of scions are available at such exchanges!

Step 2: Making a Place for the Scion

When it’s time to graft (mid February to mid March), I match the diameters of the scion and the host branch. I can match the diameters of the sips using a vernier caliper, or just visually. Matching the diameters has been yielding good results.

Why is it important for the diameter to match? The nutrients are carried with the "cambium layer," placed just below the bark. The better the contact between the cambium layer of the scion and the host branch, the better the likelihood that the graft will succeed.

I use a sharp blade to cut the host branch to prepare it to join the scion.

Step 3: Checking Diameter

This figure shows the host branch and the scion wood that would be grafted on the host. The two are of approximately the same diameter. This is one last step to check the diameter, to make sure the host and scion are approximately of the same diameter.

In some other grafting styles, it is less important for the diameters to match, because of the way the scion and host branch are put in contact.

Step 4: Cutting the Host Branch

I use a sharp blade to cut the host branch at an angle, and I will cut the scion at a matching angle so that the two would join. While some people like to use specialized grafting knives, these commercial knives work well for me; I don’t have to sharpen the blades, and I can easily buy new blades for them. I like to make a single cut, to keep it straight, and a longer cut provides greater surface area for the joint, improving the likelihood of a good contact between the host branch and the scion.

In the entire process described here, cutting the host branch and the scion properly (for a good joint), is what takes more practice.

Step 5: Cutting the Scion

I cut the scion at a matching angle so that it would join the host branch. Sometimes it takes a few cuts to get to a good march. The goal here is to connect the cambium layers of the two pieces of wood, so that nutrients would flow from the host to the scion.

In the entire process described here, cutting the host branch and the scion properly (for a good joint), is what takes more practice.

A modification of the whip graft of the "whip and tongue" graft, which I plan to describe in a different Instructable.

Step 6: Joining the Scion and the Host

When placed together, the host branch and scion should match. The goal here is to connect the cambium layers of the two pieces of wood, so that nutrients would flow from the host to the scion.

Once I have achieved a good fit, two more objectives remain:
a) Providing mechanical stability between the host branch and the scion: I tie the two branches with a piece of rubber band or electrical tape.

b) Keeping the scion from drying off. I apply paint over the joint and the entire length of the scion, to prevent the scion wood from drying off. Household latex paint works well. Some folks use grafting tape, parafilm tape, or plastic tape to cover the scion.

Step 7: Labeling the Graft

I put a label near the graft to identify the variety and the date, and I record on a spreadsheet when I grafted what variety on which tree.

The attached spreadsheet shows the various varieties I have been able to graft on my fruit trees over the years, and the image shows how I'm able to harvest fruit year-round by having a wide variety of fruits, and extending the growing season of each type of fruit.

Step 8: Example: Apricot Graft

I did a lot of grafting on this apricot tree and it bears eight varieties of apricots. The images show the growth in a few weeks to a few months.

If you look in the center lower third of the picture you can still see the graft union. It's amazing how much growth has taken place in just three months.

Step 9: Example: Apple Graft

I did a lot of grafting on this apple tree and it bears twelve varieties of apples. Between two dwarf apple trees, I'm able to get about twenty varieties of delicious apples.

If the scion is from last year's growth, it will likely have buds, which will form flowers in the coming spring, so you can get fruit a few month after you graft the new variety. If the scion is from older growth, it will likely not have buds, so you'll likely have to wait another year for the scion to grow branches and bear fruit.

Step 10: Example: Peach and Plum Grafts

Grafting has allowed me to do various interesting things, for example, I was able to "define" trees with:
- a white peach and a yellow peach, and a white nectarine and a yellow nectarine, one the same tree
- the top half of a peach tree growing one variety, and the bottom half growing another
- many varieties of plums growing on the same branch
- so many varieties on apple trees that each branch is a different variety

The different varieties of fruit lead to different shapes / colors / sizes / ripening times for each branch, and this looks really neat!

Step 11: Key Success Factors

To have a high success rate, you need to get the following right:
a) For deciduous trees, time the grafting process so that the grafts are in place before new growth appears in spring
b) Make sure the host and scion are compatible
c) There must be good contact between the host and scion, so that the cambium layer can transport nutrients to the new branch
d) There should be good pressure at the joint, for mechanical support and for maintaining good contact between the cambium layers
e) The scion must not dry out before or after the graft
f) You should cut branches immediately below the graft so that the nutrients are pushed into the grafted branch instead of getting divided among various branches

Comments

author
wubb (author)2016-10-10

THANK YOU for posting this.

author
jclemensberger (author)2015-12-14

I hope you've learned to make longer cuts than you've shown in the photos here. Two to three times as long, otherwise you'll have no strength or stability in the graft while it's taking and it could be easily broken off by the wind or by birds. Plus, a longer contact area would increase the percentage of takes, and also give you more area to wrap (thus increasing the strength of the graft).

author
Pfarmkid (author)2015-03-05

My great grandather was a master at grafting trees I'm told. He to lived in Santa Clara. Had a ranch ther but it is now a subdivision. It's Pfeiffer Ranch Road and Graystone Ln area.

author
kamalhyder (author)Pfarmkid2015-03-24

I live close to Santa Clara and this is such a wonderful area for growing fruit!

author
AnnN1 (author)2015-03-16

I grafted an apple tree on Saturday, march 14. How will I know if it took or not? Is it pretty obvious after a few weeks?

author
kamalhyder (author)AnnN12015-03-24

If the graft starts to dry out you'll know it will not succeed. If it continues to look fresh, and starts to bud in a few weeks, and the buds don't dry out in another few weeks, you'll know the graft has taken.

author
hucky27 (author)2015-03-24

Can I graft a cherry or even a peach to a wild plum tree?

author
kamalhyder (author)hucky272015-03-24

You can likely graft a peach to a plum tree, but certainly not a cherry.

author
klindner (author)2015-03-08

Crud, I've been bit by the grafting bug.

You may have given me a great solution to a problem. I have a peach, plum, and two apricot trees, and often 1 or two will have a good year, and the others not, I'm just going to graft all of them onto each other, so if only 1 or 2 have a good year, we still get all the fruit. :D

author
kamalhyder (author)klindner2015-03-10

Thanks for your comment. I have successfully grafted stone fruit (peach, apricot, nectarines, plum) and have enjoyed the result.

author
rschechter (author)2015-03-09

Just the encouragement I need to experiment on my orchard. Thanks.

author
kamalhyder (author)rschechter2015-03-10

Thanks for your comment. You won't know until you try :)

author
NathanSellers (author)2015-03-06

This is pretty cool. Does cross-grafting work? For instance, could I do a nectarene with a peach?

author
kamalhyder (author)NathanSellers2015-03-07

Nectarines, peaches, plums and apricots are from the same "stone fruit" family and you can cross-graft these. For example, I have a tree where I have grafted two varieties of peaches (yellow and white) and two varieties of nectarines (yellow and white). The article has a picture of that tree.

author
kakashibatosi (author)2015-03-06

Is it possible to grow multiple types of citrus fruit on the same tree?

author
kamalhyder (author)kakashibatosi2015-03-07

You can certainly graft multiple varieties of citrus on the same tree. The procedure is different from what I've described here - bud grafts or "T" grafts are generally used for citrus, and you can find a lot of information online about that.

Moreover, citrus isn't deciduous and (unlike the plants described here) doesn't go into hibernation during winter. I generally graft citrus in the May-July period.

author

Wow, this is so cool! Thanks for sharing the technique!

author
Suleymankutluer (author)2015-03-05

Thank you very muck !

author
dyiguy (author)2015-01-10

Lovely instructable! I have it in favorites for year and now ready to start.

Do you have to take the scions in January or can it be done the same day when attaching to the source? I wonder because both trees are in our garden.

author
kamalhyder (author)dyiguy2015-01-10

Thank you for your kind comment. If you have access to the scions you can do both the same day. The best time to graft is just before the buds break in early spring.

author
stripedstarfish (author)2014-02-03

great i'ble> thank you!

author
Twotails86 (author)2014-01-13

I planted a peach and apple tree last year, and I have access to cherry and pear trees. What combinations between these would work well? Would this also work for grapes? Thanks

author
kamalhyder (author)Twotails862014-01-13

Of these combinations, the only one that would work would be planting pear on the apple tree. Grapes aren't compatible with any of the fruit you mentioned here.

author
Twotails86 (author)kamalhyder2014-01-17

I guess I should have specified. Can grapes be grafted onto other grapes? For example, could a Niagara be grafted onto a Concord vine?

author
7nflgirl (author)2014-01-13

What a wonderful instructable! I can't wait to try this as I have a small yard and this would allow for a greater variety! Thank you so much!

author
graydog111 (author)2014-01-08

Very good i'ble. I have been grafting pecans for years and mostly use the "Four Flap" method. There is a lot of grafting info at Oklahoma State University's website here:
http://pods.dasnr.okstate.edu/docushare/dsweb/Get/Document-1034/HLA-6230.pdf

They also have a list of vendors selling grafting scions.

author
londobali (author)2014-01-08

Very well presented, thanks for sharing.
Your orchard looks amazing! :D
I remember we here in Indonesia also got some class lessons and practical sessions on grafting, rooting, etc in basic school.. but it was never explained too much or it could be that i wasnt paying too much attention on the subject.. either way, nice to read your instructible on it..
I'm following you, so keep up the good work! :D

author
cody1000 (author)2014-01-08

thank you. i'm going to try a bing and a pollinator.
i'm not sure what a pollinator is but will look it up and ask my local nursery.

author
kamalhyder (author)cody10002014-01-08

If you search online for "cherry pollination chart," you'll be able to find combinations that would work together.

author
cody1000 (author)2014-01-08

what would be good on my fruitless cherry tree?

author
kamalhyder (author)cody10002014-01-08

A good place to start would be a nice variety of cherry, such as Bing, Rainier, etc. and a pollinator. Sweet cherries varieties are good for eating, while sour cherry varieties for better for baking.

author
El Muerte (author)2014-01-08

We actually learned this in elementary school when I was a kid (8 yrs old).

author
ned103 (author)2014-01-08

Grafting is amazing. I don't know how it was done as it was an already established tree when I saw it. But, my grandmother had a tree in her back yard that was grafted. One third of the tree produced oranges, one third lemons and the final third grapefruit. It was cool as a kid seeing 3 different fruits all on the same tree. My grandmother has long since passed and the house has been sold. It's been since about the 80's when I last saw the tree. I wish I took a picture of it then. At least just to show it now.

author
kewpiedoll99 (author)2014-01-08

off-topic for this i'ble, but since you brought it up: i would REALLY love to hear any ideas you have on rooting figs (and i encourage you to write another i'ble on that subject). our neighbor has an amazing fig tree that he brought from the middle east that he does literally nothing to pamper and it just thrives here in NJ! i would love to get a cutting from it and propagate a new one. its figs are spectacular.

author
kamalhyder (author)kewpiedoll992014-01-08

Figs are very easy to root! I love figs and have a few varieties of rare figs growing at home. I'll write an Instructable on the subject. Fresh figs are so delicious - I'd encourage everyone to have a plant.

author
kewpiedoll99 (author)kamalhyder2014-01-08

Thank you! I look forward to the i'ble on figs. I'll try it out in the meantime (well, maybe I have to wait for spring).

author
ferjanyen (author)kewpiedoll992014-01-08

Hi and see my reply to the grafting instructable. Figs are so easy to grow, get rooting powder, take some cuttings, powder them and pot them in a pot with compost for propagating plants and you can't go wrong. Do cuttings of about 20 ctms long and cut them just at the joint or where the branch part, the v and make shure you have a bit of a shoe shape on the soil end. I also love to grow plants from seeds, lemons, pasion fruit, advocardos, sweet potatoes, etc.Good luck!! Fer.I

author
ferjanyen (author)2014-01-08

Hi and a very good instructable in particular for the non profesional fruit grower but with regards to the figs I have grown figs planting a twig of the same directly on the compost and if rooting powder is used then better still. I have grown figs bearing fruits even here in the hight latitude of South England, well protected from frost and in a sunny corner of my garden. Same with passion fruit, pips extracted directly from the fruit and planted in pots first and when ready in the garden, these gave me some beatifull flowers. Same with lemon trees, from pips taken from fruits.This last ones have to be grafted as not all the lemons trees were fruit bearers. Thanks and good luck.

author
kewpiedoll99 (author)ferjanyen2014-01-08

Thanks so much!

author
delorayn (author)2014-01-08

My grandad used to make V shaped cuts on the trees, so the scion wouldn't have much room to move. I vividly remember a branch of apples on a pear tree. They had a distinct taste, unlike any other apples we had. I would recommend grafting to anyone keen in orchard work, people are often blown away by this possibility. Great instructable and keep on writing!

author
kamalhyder (author)delorayn2014-01-08

That style is called a "Saddle Graft" and also works well. I'd love to write an instruct able on it, as well as "Bark Graft," which has also worked well for me.

author
m8 (author)2014-01-08

Sorry can't find out in this instructable how to whip! Its one of the main point on grafting I thought as using tape etc can contaminate the graft - i use a silk cord for my whipping.

Mike

author
kamalhyder (author)m82014-01-08

Well the exact motion is hard to capture in an image. You can search for some videos on YouTube.

author
Mihsin (author)2014-01-08

The paint bit is new to me, however, seems convincing. Can't wait to try it.
Best regards

author
kamalhyder (author)Mihsin2014-01-08

You can spend more money and use 'grafting seal,' but leftover paint is free and does the job.

author
tkjtkj (author)2014-01-08

Very helpful,thanks! I've not had much luck in the past , no doubt a consequence of my stupidity .. Your ideas will help, im sure!
Question: i notice that your 'angle cut' of the scion was started a bit closer to the end of the scion , causing the 'outline' of the cut surface not to be a full 'elipse' shape, contrary to that of the host branch .. Was that intentional? or might it not matter much ?
and:
Do you ever bother to remove the tape binding the two together?
and:
Do you ever graft to form roots? eg, peatmoss at the site of graft, well-wrapped in plastic ?
and:
Is there a source for a table that would show 'growth/dormancy cycles' for other 'planting zones' ? You're fortunate to be in California !
Thanks again for a good 'structable!

author
kamalhyder (author)tkjtkj2014-01-08

a) I don't have a rule about cuts... just want to make sure there is enough contact between cambium layers.
b) I usually don't remove the tape. It breaks and falls off as the branches grow in diameter.
c) Instead of trying to form roots at the graft, I use a different process called "Air Layering" to get a branch to root. Will write an instructable on it one day.
d) While I don't know of such a table, you can observe your trees to determine when they go into dormancy (leaves dropping in fall) and when they come out of dormancy (new buds and leaves sprouting in spring).

author
anairuiz (author)2014-01-08

Can you also graft avocados? There are several types in my area and would love to have some in my home. I have been growing three from seeds and they are still small but have started to branch out. Can I do grafting in small trees as I have?

author
kamalhyder (author)anairuiz2014-01-08

Yes avocados are grafted. I haven't grafted my avocado tree yet but there are people in the area who have grafted theirs.

author
macmarie (author)2014-01-04

Very informative. I can't wait to try this!

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