Grafting fruit trees, roses and several other plants quickly propagates a specific variety, creates certain qualities in the grafted plant or repairs damage. Grafting aligns the cambium layers of two different plants that grow together to form one plant. Different grafting methods succeed at different times or growth stages. Greenhouses and cold storage extend the effective grafting season.
Collecting Scion Wood
Scion wood is the piece of the desired plant that will graft on top of the rootstock. Collect scion wood while the plant is dormant, but not when the wood is frozen. Either graft immediately or place the scion wood in a plastic bag with sphagnum moss and store at cool but not freezing temperatures. The scion wood will remain viable for a few weeks under ideal conditions, but not until the next season.
Timing of Grafting
Grafting is generally most successful if done shortly before growth starts. This is in the late winter or spring, depending on species and climate. Both the scion and the rootstock should be in dormancy or the graft may fail. Also, if there is a long period between grafting and growth, there is a much greater chance of desiccation of the scion and rootstock. Wind, rain, snow, animals or people may also knock the scion loose.
Grafting in the Greenhouse
Rootstock for grafting in late fall and early winter must be potted. Place the plants outdoors until they become dormant. After about six weeks of dormancy, bring them into the greenhouse and graft them. As growth starts, the rootstock and scion knit together. This works only on species that will break dormancy after a short chilling period. Nurseries side graft potted evergreens in winter to create dwarf types.
Fruit trees are budded, where a single bud of the scion wood is used rather than a section of branch. T-budding must be done in early summer to early fall while the bark slips, or comes off the layer underneath. Chip budding can take place any time a mature scion bud is available. To chip bud, cut a bud off the scion branch and place it in a cut of the same size on the rootstock. Completely cover it with paraffin or grafting tape to keep it from drying out before the growing season.
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