Grafting

Tree fruits do not come true from seeds and are difficult or impossible to reproduce from cuttings.  The most common technique for fruit tree propagation is using budding or grafting techniques.  Commercial nurseries use T-budding for apple and pear propagation and patch grafts for stone fruits.  For hobbyists and novices, bench grafting is usually the most successful.   All of these approaches join two plants.  The upper part of the graft (the scion) becomes the top of the plant or the variety of fruit tree.  The lower portion (the rootstock) becomes the root system.  By grafting, we get the desired qualities of the rootstock (disease resistance, adaptable to certain soil characteristics, tree size) and the scion (fruit cultivar, such as ‘Fuji’ or ‘Golden Delicious’).

 

Bench grafting. Scion wood (1-year-old shoots) should be collected in late winter, with care taken to select shoots that are approximately the same diameter as the rootstock.  Matching cuts are made to both the top of the rootstock and the bottom of the scion wood.  There are grafting tools commercially available that assist the beginning grafter in consistently making these matching cuts (see figure below).  The appropriately cut scion and rootstock are combined and held together tightly with grafting bands so that the cambium (area immediately under the bark) of both pieces can heal and develop a union between the two plant parts.  Late winter bench grafts will have time to heal and begin to develop a strong graft union before buds break and begin to grow in the spring.

A graft made using a "lock and key" or “Omega” grafting tool to make matching cuts to the scion and rootstock.