How to Save Apple Scion Wood

Overview

The success of apple grafting depends first on working with vigorous scions--cuttings taken from apples of the desired cultivar and put in cold storage until needed. Healthy apple scions store as long as three months at the right temperature and moisture level. Any variations from that critical balance of temperature and humidity could cause freeze damage, dehydration or infection with mold.

Handling Scions

Step 1

Collect apple scions in late winter when trees are still fully dormant. Best weather conditions include temperatures slightly above freezing, after several days of below-freezing conditions.

Step 2

Clean pruning tools thoroughly by rinsing in a bucket of water containing 1 tbsp. chlorox per gallon of clean water. Rinse tools before and after collecting wood from any individual tree. Unsterilized tools spread infections through the orchard and may pass fungi or bacteria to the scions.

Step 3

Choose healthy shoots from outer and upper branches or sucker shoots growing from above the graft junction on the apple tree's trunk. Scion wood should be last year's growth--the newest wood on the tree. Cut shoots from 1/4 inch to 3/8 inch in diameter, clipping the wood off at the branch collar, the swelling at the junction with the main branch.

Step 4

Divide scion stock into sections short enough to fit into large ziptop plastic bags. Gather a small bundle of scions in one hand and wrap the ends of the cuttings in a damp paper towel. Roll the bundled scions in a sheet of newspaper and place the entire bundle in a ziptop bag. Seal the bag.

Step 5

Refrigerate the sealed bags at just above 32 degrees Fahrenheit until needed for grafting. Storing in the freezer compartment could kill the scions. Storing in the same refrigerator as fruit and vegetables could abort the buds on the scions, ruining any chances of successful grafting. Higher temperatures reduce the useful lifetime of the scions.

Tips and Warnings

  • Don't take scions from low branches. Lower branches often show the least vigor, and only the fastest growing wood provides good scion stock. Don't collect scion wood from suckers growing below the graft junction or from suckers sprouting from roots. Only wood from the grafted portion will bear fruit of the same type and quality as the parent tree.

Things You'll Need

  • Limb lopper
  • Pole trimmer
  • Pruning shears
  • Bucket
  • Chlorox
  • Tablespoon measure
  • Water
  • Paper towels
  • Newspaper
  • Ziptop bags
  • Refrigeration

References

  • Missouri Environment and Garden: Collecting and Handling Scion Wood
  • Purdue University Extension: Late Winter Scion Wood
  • North Carolina State University: Grafting and Budding Nursery Crop Plants

Who Can Help

  • Iowa State University: Whip or Tongue Grafting of Apple Trees
  • Century Farm Orchards: Photos of Good and Bad Scion Wood
Keywords: save apple scion, apple grafting scions, collect apple scions

About this Author

James Young began writing as a military journalist in Alaska and combat correspondent in Vietnam. His lifetime fascination with technical and manual arts yields decades of experience in electronics, turnery, blacksmithing, outdoor sports, woodcarving, joinery and sailing. Young's articles have been published in Tai Chi Magazine, Sonar 4 Ezine, The Marked Tree, Stars & Stripes, the SkinWalker Files and Fine Woodworking.