Grafting Info

aspenacres(5b BC)November 22, 2012

I've never grafted but want to try. What tree species can be grafted? I know fruit trees can be grafted but what about starting out with something there's lots of? For example, could an aspen be grafted onto a cottonwood? I've heard evergreens can be grafted too but it's rare. Could a spruce be grafted onto a fir? These are just some ideas because I've only ever heard of same species being grafted, not similar species. There's a Norway Maple about a block away with several grafts of different cultivars on it. I'm just curious. Thanks.

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famartin(z5 NE NV)

Well, first you have to understand that similar species generally means trees within the same genus. Thus, spruce and fir cannot be grafted (they are separate genera).

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 5:49AM
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There are probably charts available online, and certainly in books, which list compatible species for grafting. The same sources should provide necessary guidance about the best style of graft and time of year.

Learning how to graft using easily available plant material is a very good idea. The skill comes in the selection of scion wood and rootstock, plus making accurate cuts in order to closely align the two. In this kind of practice, the results aren't nearly as important as developing those necessary skills.

Many special varieties of evergreens are grafted onto more common rootstock. Grafting is, however, a skilled art much more commonly practiced in Europe than the US, except for fruit trees.

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 5:54AM
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aspenacres(5b BC)

I can't find any charts but thanks for the help. I did see a pic online though with a blue spruce grafted onto a Norway spruce. That was kind of neat. Could you take say two completely different pines for example scotch and ponderosa and graft them? They're both still pines. Also, cottonwoods and aspens are both poplars so would they work?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 1:53PM
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aspenacres(5b BC)

Also, what technique is easiest and works best?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 8:09PM
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You can graft the scotch to ponderosa because they are both in the genus pinus.
Same with Cottonwood and aspen because they are in the genus populus.
The side veneer graft is a good one. See video..


Here is a link that might be useful: Grafting clip

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 8:27PM
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aspenacres(5b BC)

So I assume spring before the buds start to swell is the best time to graft? Can the tree be bigger than the one in the video? Is veneer grafting better than cleft grafting?

    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 8:42PM
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I am some what new to grafting myself, but late winter should be good.. Trees can be larger then the one in the video... The cleft graft might be easier, but works better on fruiting trees and such.. For conifers I like the side veneer because it allows you to keep the rootstocks upper foliage on the tree after the graft, thus providing energy. Dax posted a great amount of information on grafting a few years back..Google, "grafting conifers"..Its the one with the title "how to graft" in the conifers gardenweb forum...Check it out.


    Bookmark   November 22, 2012 at 9:22PM
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aspenacres(5b BC)

Thanks. Could I graft onto a tree that's already planted? I assume the poplars are a lot easier to graft than conifers.

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 2:28AM
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Yep.. Check out this video.

Here is a link that might be useful: Outdoor graft

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 9:39AM
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aspenacres(5b BC)

Thanks. That helped. I've always heard that tree paint is bad, in this case is it alright?

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 2:03PM
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terrene(5b MA)

This is an interesting thread. I have been thinking about grafting a certain crabapple because the birds flock around it every fall. It blooms a plain white bloom, but usually makes a lot of berries which are bright red, about 1/4 inch diameter, must be the perfect size and tasty.

So would I look for a crab seedling and graft a cutting from the bird tree onto the seedling? How does one select the seedling?

What kind of tape does the guy use to wrap around the scion in the video?

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 4:01PM
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@Aspen - People use to paint wounds when they cut branches off trees, years ago. But that practice has somewhat changed and most people just cut the branch and leave it alone.. But on grafts they use that paint or a wax or rosin which is necessary to keep the wound dry. You don't need it on abies and hard pines though, just the grafting tape, cause they produce enough sap. I think it is similar to parafilm tape they use now a days, which is also necessary on most grafts.

@terrene - You would look for a crab apple seedling that is around a foot or two tall. It doesn't have to be anything special just the same species as the bird tree, or any apple tree of the malus species. It should also have the same trunk diameter as the scion.. You don't want a scion larger then the rootstocks trunk.. Most people use grafting tape or budding tape. Then cover that with a parafilm tape, or wax, rosin or that paint stuff..


    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 9:45PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

"But on grafts they use that paint or a wax or rosin which is necessary to keep the wound dry."

Actually, it's the exact opposite! The wax and other substances keep the wood from drying out (and loosing viability).

    Bookmark   November 23, 2012 at 10:00PM
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Whoops! New to grafting myself. Thanks brandon.


    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 10:30AM
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terrene(5b MA)

Thank you for the info! Okay so is the grafting tape paper or plastic? Is it like that little white plumbers tape?

And re: the parafin film/wax/rosin stuff that keeps it moist - is there a household product I can use to wrap around and keep it moist like plastic wrap or would I buy it at the nursery?

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 1:17PM
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brandon7 TN_zone(7)

Many types of tape can be used. The tape must, primarily, last outdoors until the graft takes and form a fairly water-tight seal. Some grafting tape is also designed to break down after the necessary time, thereby making manual removal unnecessary. Pro grafting tape is also often flexible enough to form to just about any surface, may have stretch-activated adhesive to make application in tight spots easier, and may be breathable (to let gasses, but not moisture, pass).

I've seen all kinds of stuff (including electrical tape) used for grafting, but some things definitely work better than others. You could always google 'grafting tape' or something like that, and surely be able to find something that would work well.

    Bookmark   November 24, 2012 at 4:29PM
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terrene: One of the best ways to graft malus (and other species) is to use a cleft graft. I'm sure there are directions online, but, in brief, the rootstock is split and two scions are placed in the gap with the cambium layers aligned. Tape is then used to tightly close the split. The advantages of this method: You double your chances of success with two scions and if both take, you'll have a larger and more symmetrical tree more quickly. In fact, you can graft many scions onto a larger tree - a method known as "top working". You can use a rootstock of larger diameter with a bigger root system because alignment does not depend on equal diameters between rootstock and scion. Alignment of the cambium layers is generally easier, as is the application of grafting tape.

    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 5:57AM
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gardener365(5b Illinois USA)

This is a video I made for oak grafting. For any other deciduous I'd follow the same guidelines for indoor or outdoor grafting. Wax the scions and understocks just below the working area, as I show on this video. You can simply paint the wax on with a brush and often times folks use crock pots to heat up the wax + water.

Conifer grafting requires high humidity and therefore the grafts need to be tented in a heated greenhouse. There are people who field graft conifers, however, they are foresters, generally speaking. Here's a video of a forester grafting in the field.

I have several videos on grafting. Just look me up on youtube once you see that oak video.

And here is a GW thread where I show how cuts are made to the completed graft, and here is a GW thread showing how I constructed my tenting chamber.


    Bookmark   November 25, 2012 at 8:20AM
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I've never grafted but I want to try
It's admirable that the OP wants to learn how to graft. My suggestion is to go to an operation where alot of grafting takes place and work for a couple of months. That way you don't have to reinvent the wheel. (hint: learn some Spanish). Another hint: eliminate wasted motion, don't put your knife down when you wrap up the graft.
The first winter that I grafted I worked for a large, mid-Atlantic area nursery. There was about 20 men at the table. My job the first month was to bring in the bareroot understock, clean it, haul the completed grafts back to the cooler and sweep up afterward. I learned how to sharped the knife with a whetstone during lunch. Some of those guys couldn't read or write but they really could graft. Here are some of my observations/recommendations:
>use the best knife you can afford. Cheap knives must be sharpened frequently, especially with hard woods like syringa, malus, ulmus etc.
>a genuine grafting knife is only sharpened on one side. Use a whetstone and strop, you can make it like a straight razor.
>size of understock & scion is usually about pencil thickness for most ornamentals so cambium matches.
>for bench grafting with bareroot understock use whip & tongue and waxed string. These are fieldplanted before they break dormancy and string doesn't have to be removed.
>pot grafts are used for conifers, magnolias, beech, jap maples etc. The scion is not laid down after making the cut, it is immediately inserted. Use side graft and grafting rubber. Heel them in in grafting tunnel or under double glass, no waxing required. Cut back top of understock in stages. The tunnel REALLY must be looked after in March because it could cook, be sure to vent it carefully.
>When winter grafting all doors and windows must be kept closed during the grafting process. Also keep everything clean as possible including hands & knives.
>All Asian maples can be grafted in August when they really "knit" remarkabely fast. Remove leaves from scion and make side graft, place under mist or fog. I like this method because no winter heat is required. Also no wax.
>When making the cut, the blade is held at an angle, think guillotine, and the whole length of the blade is used.
>The only outdoor grafting that I do is Aralia elata 'Variegata' This is because the understock must be cigar sized or larger. I only use a single bud for this graft and wrap in stips cut from plastic bag starting from the bottom up.
>I can honestly say I never saw anyone get cut while grafting. Instead, I've seen many get cut while horseing around during the break.
>Tending to the new grafts is extremely important, the aftercare is just as important as the grafting process.
Here are a few tried & true tools of the trade:

    Bookmark   December 5, 2012 at 9:20PM
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