How to Use One Plant to Grow Another

Overview

Three ways to propagate a plant are to plant a seed, graft a cutting onto new roots or to root a cutting in a process called cloning. Of these three, only grafting and rooting a cutting use one plant to grow another. Rooting a cutting requires no practice. Though you may need to practice grafting until you can perform a graft successfully, once you have mastered the process, you can place the parts of one tree onto another to make a hardier plant.

Cloning

Step 1

Sharpen your pruning shears to avoid injuring your cutting.

Step 2

Select a section of plant that is located near the terminal tip of a branch. Position your shears near the point where a new leaf emerges, known as a node. There should be three nodes between your shears and the tip of the plant. Separate your cutting from the plant with a horizontal cut across the branch.

Step 3

Strip the leaves away from the nodes on the lower 2/3 of the plant. Dip the tip of the plant in rooting hormone.

Step 4

Fill a potting tray or 4-inch container with peat moss. Water the peat moss until it is as damp as a wrung-out sponge. Insert the base of the cutting into the potting medium and sink the cutting 2 nodes deep into the soil.

Step 5

Cover the potting tray or container with a plastic freezer bag and place the container in a sunny window.

Step 6

Remove the freezer bag when the cutting develops roots.

Grafting

Step 1

Take cuttings from desirable trees to serve as the tree tops of your grafted trees (scions) in fall after the trees go dormant. You should take your cutting from 5-year-old wood or younger. Your cutting should be from a branch that is no larger than 3 inches in diameter. Cuttings about the diameter of a pencil work best.

Step 2

Store your scions in a plastic bag such as a gallon freezer bag filled with damp peat moss. Place your cuttings in a refrigerator or unheated shed where temperatures remain a constant 40 degrees.

Step 3

Time your grafting for spring after the root-stock tree begins to bud out. Cut your scion's base at a 45-degree angle if it is less than ½ inch in diameter, or into a blunt wedge with one side of the wedge thicker than the other if your scion is greater than ½ inch in diameter if the scion is thicker than ½ inch in diameter.

Step 4

Graft scions that are less than ½ an inch to small root-stock plants by selecting a root-stock plant with a primary stem that is the same size as the scion. Cut the root stock's primary stem in a mirroring angle and press the root stock and scion together. Make sure that the bark layer, also known as the cambium layer of each plant touches on one side. Secure the union with grafting tape. Remove the tape once the graft heals together.

Step 5

Graft scions that are larger than ½ inch to the trunk or a low-lying branch of the root-stock tree. Saw the trunk or branch away at a point less than 4 feet from the ground in a smooth area that is free of knots. Loosen the cambium from the bark with a cleft chisel or screwdriver. Do not tear the cambium. Slip the pointed end of the scion into the pocket made between the cambium and the trunk of the tree. Secure the union with a grafting emulsion.

Things You'll Need

  • Pruning sharpeners
  • Pruning shears
  • Rooting hormone
  • Peat moss
  • Seedling tray
  • 4-inch container
  • Watering can
  • Plastic freezer bags
  • Grafting knife
  • Grafting chisel
  • Grafting tape
  • Grafting emulsion

References

  • NC State Univeristy Extension: Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings: Instructions for the Home Gardener
  • NC State Univeristy Extension: Plant Propagation by Stem Cuttings: Plant Propagation by Leaf, Cane, and Root Cuttings: Instructions for the Home Gardener
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Grafting and Budding Fruit Trees

Who Can Help

  • University of Missouri Extension: Grafting
Keywords: grafting plants, raising plants, growing plants

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."