How to Propagate Fruit Trees

Overview

There are a number of way to propagate fruit trees. A few trees propagate well from seed. In other cases, root cuttings or air layering may work well. However, for almost all fruit trees, grafting is the preferred method of propagation. By grafting a piece of an existing tree to a root stock optimized for your local growing conditions, you can create a tree that will do better in your environment than trees propagated with other methods.

Step 1

Collect 1/4-inch to 1/2-inch scions from the donor tree when the tree is dormant and temperatures are above freezing. In general, February and March are the best times to collect scions from fruit trees. Collect scions created during the previous growth season. Older scions may not graft as well.

Step 2

Make a smooth, diagonal 1- to 2-inch cut from one side of the root stock to the other with a sharp hobby or utility knife. The root stock should be about the same thickness as the scion.

Step 3

Make a second cut, called the "tongue" cut, starting about halfway down your first cut. Make this cut straight down to the bottom level of the first cut. Cut, don't split, the wood.

Step 4

Prepare the scion in the same way. Make the cuts the same length to ensure good contact between the root and the scion.

Step 5

Slip the scion into the root stock so the tongues interlock.

Step 6

Wrap the graft tightly with masking tape to ensure good wood-to-wood contact.

Step 7

Cut off the scion above two or three buds. Leaving more than two or three buds will stress the graft and could cause the graft to fail.

Step 8

Wrap the graft with grafting tape. Cover all exposed wood areas.

Step 9

Place the grafted roots in moist sphagnum moss and place the moss and tree in a sealed plastic bag for 7 to 10 days at room temperature.

Step 10

Place the tree in a refrigerator after 7 to 10 days until the risk of frost has passed outside.

Step 11

Plant the tree outdoors after the risk of frost has passed.

Things You'll Need

  • Fruit tree scions
  • Compatible root stock
  • Sharp hobby or utility knife
  • Masking tape
  • Grafting tape
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Plastic bag

References

  • Iowa State University Extension: Shade Perennials and Tree Grafting
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Grafting and Budding Fruit Trees
Keywords: fruit tree propagation, fruit tree grafting, tree grafting

About this Author

Christopher Earle is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colo. He has been writing since 1987 and has written for NPR, The Associated Press, the Boeing Company, Ford New Holland, Microsoft, Active Voice, RAHCO International and Umax Data Systems. He studied creative writing at Mankato State University in Minnesota.