Scion: The part of
a plant used for grafting upon the rootstock.
Rootstock: The root-bearing plant on which the Scion will be grafted.
Parafilm M: A stretchable, wax like tape. The product has been widely
used for routine laboratory work for many years.
Some varieties of plants do not come true from seeds.
Difficult or impossible to reproduce from cuttings or other propagation
Using a rootstock better adapted to the prevailing soil and climate than scion
Dwarfing rootstock can be used to greatly reduce the size of the tree.
To increase the supply of new varieties rapidly.
Change a tree from an old to a new variety.
Grafted fruit trees have earlier fruit productions.
Multiple grafts to produce a tree with several varieties or flowering plant
with several different colors of flowers
Rootstock can be selected for characteristics that the scion may not have,
such as resistance to root rot or is tolerance to parasitic organisms; such as
nematodes, insect larvae or other subterranean pests.
What is Grafting?
Grafting is the process of joining two or more different plants and enabling
them to grow as one. The upper part of the graft (the scion) becomes the top of
the plant; the lower portion (the rootstock) becomes the root system or part of
the trunk. Although grafting usually refers to joining only two plants, it may
be a combination of several.
What are the limitations?
Not all plants can be grafted. Plants of the same botanical genus and species
can usually be grafted even though they are not the same variety. Plants with
the same genus but of a different species may often be grafted.
For the most successful grafting only chose closely related plants to form a
compatible union. Generally, this means apple-to-apple, rose-to-rose.
Incompatible grafts may not form a union, or the union may be weak. A poor union
results in plants that grow poorly, break off or eventually die. Trial is the
only way to determine plants compatibility. Some rootstock and scion materials
are difficult to get and some plants are not as easily grafted. This can often
result in a quite high percentage of loss. This explains why some grafted trees
are more expensive.
How to Collect and Store Scions?
Scion wood can collected when available. It should have a diameter of 1/4 to 3/8
inch. Length of scion can be from a few inches to more than 2 feet. Defoliate
the scion and wrap the entire scion cuts, buds, and stem in stretched Parafilm
M. Wrapping scion with Parafilm M beneficially conserves the internal moisture
of the plant tissue. Parafilm M stretches; therefore, a little goes a long way.
Cut the Parafilm M into two one inches strips.
If the scion cannot be grafted when obtained, store the scion in a plastic bag
in the refrigerator with moist paper towels until performing the graft. If
wrapped in Parafilm M the scion can be stored for many weeks. Do not store in a
When to Graft?
It is best to graft in the spring, from the time the buds of rootstock trees are
beginning to open, until blossom time. The usual time is April or early May. But
this should not limit you from grafting at anytime of the year. Graft when
scions become available.
What Tools and Materials are Needed?
Knife. A good quality knife, able to hold a sharp edge, is the key to good
grafting. Special grafting and budding knives are desirable. Keep material to
sharpen the knife handy.
Fungicide Spray bottle of Alcohol. Label spray bottle.
Label for identifying the rootstock and scion (Name, variety, and date of the
Defoliate the scion and wrap the entire scion cuts, buds, and stem in Parafilm
M; (remember to stretch the Parafilm M) the buds will grow through the Parafilm
M without damage or restriction. (Note: Parafilm M is heat and photosensitive
and decomposes when exposed to direct sunlight for longer than a few minutes.)
Store in a cool location.
There are many different types of grafting techniques. The cleft graft is one of
the most commonly used and the simplest type of graft to perform.
1. Fungicide tools and hands - spray hands, grafting knife and pruning shears
2. Match the scion and rootstock diameters precisely; this maximizes the chance
of matching the cambiums.
3. The defoliated scion from a healthy plant should contain at least one
completely dormant node on second-year wood which has had all soft, active
4. The stock should be an actively growing seedling (do the grafting during the
warmer months in Florida grafting can be done year round).
5. (See diagram below) Cut the scion (A) and fashion its base into a thin,
narrow wedge. A large contact surface area will increase the rate of healing.
(Hardness part of a cleft graft) Do not touch the cut surfaces, or allow them to
6. Cut the rootstock at right angles to the stem in mature wood preferably close
to a node. Make (B) a single vertical cut down the middle of the stem. The cut
should be the same length as the wedge of the scion. Make sure that all cuts are
straight and precise; use a very sharp grafting knife (Rock the knife back and
forth use care not to cut yourself). Do not touch the cut surfaces, or allow
them to dry out.
6. Force (C) the wedge into the slit which was made in the rootstock; no gaps
should be apparent. Always match the cambium layers on one side during the tying
process; dont worry if both sides are not matching
7. Wrap the graft with stretched Parafilm M. Ensure that all points are covered
with Parafilm M. Air and water must be excluded from the graft-point if a
successful union is to occur.
8. Wrap the (D) graft firmly with Grafting tape, tying from just below the graft
and working up. Care should be taken not to force the scion from the stock when
traversing the join. Clothespins can help hold the graft together while wrapping
with grafting tape.
9. Label graft with name, variety, rootstock and date of the graft.
10. Place the plant in a stress-free environment such as a shaded (50-90%) area.
11. Examine regularly. The dormant nodes should burst in about 3 to 4 weeks.
Remove any buds that develop below the graft point.
12. Remove the grafting tape at a later date.
Some reasons for Graft Failure:
Rootstock and scion were not compatible.
The cambiums were not meeting properly.
Scions were upside down (Some plants can be successful grafted upside down).
Grafting was done at the wrong time of the year (Most plant can be grafted
Rootstock or scion were not healthy
Scions were dried out or injured by cold.
The scion was displaced by storm, birds, or other means.
Insects or disease attacked the graft.
The graft union was girdled because tape was not cut or released in time.
But the main reason for Failure is not trying!
About the Author: Charles Novak is a rare fruit lover living and
gardening in Florida.