How to Start an Apple Tree Branch


Many apple varieties that are grown commercially throughout the United States are hybrids that are selectively grown for their ability to resist diseases and pests. Fruit grown from hybrid seed will not produce a tree that bears fruit like its hybrid parent, but will instead revert back to one of it's heirloom variety grandparent trees. The best way to propagate a hybrid apple tree is through grafting. Grafting involves merging a hybrid limb cutting with a rootstock from a different tree.

Step 1

Take a cutting from a branch that is the size of a pencil. Make a clean cut across the branch at least 2 feet from the tree trunk. Select a tree that is less than 5 years old, is disease-free and has a history of producing superior fruit. Wait until the fall when the apple tree is dormant to take the cutting. Repeat for multiple cuttings.

Step 2

Bundle all of your scions together and store them with their cut ends in a plastic freezer bag with slightly-damp peat moss. Place the scions in a refrigerator that remains at a constant 40 degree F temperature all winter long.

Step 3

Select a branch to graft your scion to that is the same size as the scion. Cut the branch at a 45-degree angle at a point about 1 foot out from the trunk of the tree. Graft the scions to the rootstock trees in spring after the rootstock trees begin to bud, but before they blossom.

Step 4

Cut the scion at a mirroring 45-degree angle to the rootstock. Sandwich the scion up against the root stock branch so that the bark of the root stock and scion touch.

Step 5

Wrap the root stock branch and the scion branch with polyethylene grafting tape.

Step 6

Remove the grafting tape once the scion heals to the root stock to prevent accidentally cutting into the bark with the tape.

Things You'll Need

  • Apple branch cutting (scion)
  • Apple rootstock tree
  • Grafting knife
  • Plastic freezer bag
  • Peat moss
  • Polyethylene grafting tape


  • University of Minnesota Extension: Methods of Grafting
  • Washington State University: Bark Grafting Step by Step

Who Can Help

  • NC State University: Growing Apple Trees In The Home Garden
Keywords: grafting trees, propagating hybrid apples, grafting apple trees

About this Author

Tracy S. Morris has been a freelance writer since 2000. She has published two novels and numerous online articles. Her work has appeared in national magazines and newspapers, including "Ferrets," "CatFancy," "Lexington Herald Leader" and "The Tulsa World."