Tips for Successful Plant Grafting

Grafting is the act of taking a mature branch from one plant and then attaching it to the root system of another plant. There are many advantages associated with grafting your woody plants. Not only will you have a better chance of increased propagation, but you will also see fruit or flower much sooner. Here are some tips that will help you attain better success in your grafting efforts.

Make use of a sharp knife.

Your knife should be sharp enough to shave hair from your arm (do not test a knife like this with your thumb – you might do serious damage). When grafting, you need a smooth cut, and one that is accomplished quickly. Before attempting to make a graft, be sure that your knife is properly sharpened. While it is possible to use just about any knife, there are knives made especially for grafting. They come in left or right handed models, so you can choose the type that works with your dominant hand.

Collect budsticks for use in grafting.

Very young portions of the plant, those that are still green and not very woody, do not make good grafts. Likewise, you should not use very old stems. The stems used should be young and firm, and recently have been producing wood. Budsticks should be carefully attended to. Roses should be cut when the blossoms are beginning to drop from the bush and before new buds are swelling for the next growth. Recalcitrant woody plants should be cut when the buds are beginning to swell with new growth, and most fruit trees are at the ideal stage when the most recent flush has just hardened. Make sure that you remove leaves to forestall wilting and keep the budsticks moist in a plastic bag with a damp paper towel or some peat moss. Do not leave in the sun, or it will die within a few minutes. Set it down in a cool and shaded spot while you prepare the rest of the graft process.

Cut the wood properly.

A poor cut will result in a poor graft. Before actually cutting the plants you will use, get a long woody stick and practice several times to get the hang of it. You should make use of the knife’s entire blade. Begin at the base, and then move to the tip using a single, sweeping cutting motion. Your cut will be smoother and match better between the plants.

Keep budsticks moist.

If you are not storing your budsticks, you need to make sure that you keep the cut areas from drying out. You need to either prepare the budsticks immediately for storage or you need to find another way to keep the cuts moist. You can place the budstick on your tongue to protect the moisture. Just be sure to avoid plants that you have sprayed recently or that are inherently toxic. You will need to get the budstick attached to the rootstalk of the other plant very quickly. So you will need to cut the rootstalk, match the cuts, and wrap the graft all within a matter of less than 15 seconds. Like with the cutting, practicing the technique before actually grafting can be very helpful. Be sure also to avoid letting cut surface, on budstick or rootstalk, come in contact with the soil.

Use clear polyethylene budding tape.

When wrapping the graft, use non-gummed polyethylene budding tape. It should be �½ and inch and firmly wrapped. Stretch the tape to the point at which it almost breaks. You will have to tie the tape at the end. Another wrap that can be used is called parafilm. It does not need to be unwrapped down the road (as tape does) and it adheres to itself so that you do not have to secure the wrap with a tie. In warm weather a wrap should stay 3-6 weeks, and longer during cold weather. You can tell the graft is ready to be unwrapped when a small bit of spongy material appears on all cut surfaces (called the callus tissue).

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