How to Graft Rootstocks


Grafting is a process that has been around for centuries. History shows the Greeks and Romans knew how to graft plants, and the process is mentioned in the New Testament. Grafting is an essential part of today's agricultural practices. Grafting is primarily used with fruit trees, but can be used on many other rootstock plants such as flowers, shrubs, and evergreen and deciduous trees. Although there are many methods of grafting, cleft grafting remains the most common method. Grafting can be an economical means of plant propagation.

Step 1

Plan to graft rootstocks before the plant buds, usually late winter or early spring. Both the rootstock and the scion, the twig that will be inserted into the rootstock, must be dormant for grafting success.

Step 2

Select a healthy rootstock plant of the same genus as the plant you're grafting into the rootstock. Different varieties can be used, but it's best to graft plants that are similar.

Step 3

Cut the rootstock straight across using a sanitized knife or pruning saw. Make two vertical cuts with a sharp sanitized knife through the rootstock, tapering the cuts together 2 to 3 inches below the straight cut. Remove the wedge-shaped piece. This creates the "cleft" in which the scion will be inserted.

Step 4

Select a healthy scion that contains a minimum of three buds. Cut a 6- to 8-inch segment. Slice the scion with two vertical, angled 1- to 2-inch cuts on opposite sides of the scion, tapering to a point. Keep the cut end of the scion cool and moist by immediately placing in a plastic bag with wet sand and keeping it out of the sun.

Step 5

Insert the sliced scion end into the cut cleft of the host rootstock. Ensure that the cambium, the layer of living cells between the bark and the interior of the plant stem, on both the scion and the rootstock meet. Protect the joined area by wrapping with grafting tape or apply grafting wax.

Tips and Warnings

  • If applying grafting wax, make sure the temperature of the melted wax is not overly hot, as the heat can burn the plant tissue. Always make sure to sanitize the cutting tools between each cut to prevent any possible contamination.

Things You'll Need

  • Rootstock plant
  • Scion plant
  • Pruning saw
  • Sharp knife
  • Grafting wax
  • Grafting tape


  • A History of Grafting
  • Grafting
  • Grafting and Budding Nursery Crops

Who Can Help

  • How to Graft
  • Grafting Vegetables
Keywords: graft rootstocks, rootstock, scion, grafting vegetables, cleft grafting

About this Author

Rochelle French has been a writer and editor since 1994, providing services for businesses, novelists, and publishers. Her articles can be found on and She holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in history from University of California, Davis and is a published author of six pseudonymous novels.