How to Start Fruit Trees

Overview

Many fruit trees are hybrid trees that were developed to produce a plant that is more resistant to diseases and require fewer pesticides or fungicides to produce a high-quality fruit for commercial sale. These fruits do not produce the same type of fruit tree when they are planted from seed. In order to propagate a hybrid fruit tree, you must graft a bud or branch of the tree onto the rootstock of another tree.

Collecting Scions

Step 1

Collect scions from the young growth of trees that are less than 6 years old in fall once the tree goes dormant. Select trees that are healthy and disease free.

Step 2

Place your grafting knife in a section of the scion that is free of knots or defects in the wood. Cut the scion straight across the branch.

Step 3

Place the scion in a plastic freezer bag filled with one cup of slightly damp peat moss.

Step 4

Store the scion in a refrigerator set to 40 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the winter to keep the scion viable and dormant.

Whip Graft

Step 1

Prepare the tip of a scion that is the same size as the rootstock. The whip graft is used when scion and rootstock pieces are both less than ½ inch thick. Cut the scion's tip at a 45 degree angle with one long slash of the grafting knife. The cut should be about 1 ½ inches long.

Step 2

Cut a tongue into the end of the scion by placing the knife halfway down the initial cut. Slice into the scion along the grain of the branch. Make your cut as deep as the first cut.

Step 3

Make an identical set of cuts into the rootstock. The scion and rootstock should fit together along these cuts like two pieces of the same puzzle.

Step 4

Press the scion and the rootstock together. Align the two pieces so that the bark of both pieces touch. Tie the two pieces together by wrapping them with grafting tape.

Step 5

Remove the grafting tape after two weeks when the two pieces have healed together.

Cleft Graft

Step 1

Make the cleft graft when you must attach younger scions to an older rootstock and the scions are up to 2 inches thick. Prepare the scion by cutting it into a blunt tip with one side thicker than the other.

Step 2

Saw across a branch or the trunk of a rootstock tree to create a stump.

Step 3

Create a cleft in the stump by placing a grafting chisel across the middle of the stump. Make an incision by striking the back of the grafting chisel with a mallet. Do not let the stump split. Instead make a controlled incision.

Step 4

Open the cleft with a screwdriver and slip the point of the scion into the opening. Align the scion so that the edge of the bark layer of the scion touches the edge of the bark layer of the rootstock. Cover the union with grafting emulsion.

Side Graft

Step 1

Make a side graft for scions that are between ½ inch and 1 inch in diameter and a rootstock limb that is larger. Prepare the scion by cutting a blunt point into the tip of the scion. One side of the scion's tip should be wider than the other.

Step 2

Select a rootstock branch that is smooth and free of knots. Make an incision into the branch that extends at a 45-degree angle into the heart of the branch.

Step 3

Bend the branch backward to open the incision. Insert the pointed tip of the scion into the incision in the rootstock branch and close the rootstock branch around the scion. Make sure that the bark of the two plants touches along the union.

Step 4

Cover the union in grafting emulsion.

Step 5

Cut the rootstock branch away approximately 2 inches above the union and cover with grafting emulsion. The scion will become the branch's new dominant leader.

Things You'll Need

  • Rootstock plant
  • Scion plant
  • Grafting knife
  • Plastic freezer bag
  • Peat moss
  • Saw
  • Cleft chisel
  • Mallet
  • Screwdriver
  • Grafting tape
  • Grafting emulsion
  • Collecting scions

References

  • University of Minnesota Extension: Grafting and Budding Fruit Trees
  • University of Missouri Extension: Grafting
  • NC State University: Grafting and Budding Nursery Crop Plants

Who Can Help

  • Alabama Cooperative Extension Service: Budding and Grafting Fruits and Nuts
Keywords: starting fruit trees, grafting trees, propagating fruit 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."