How to Plant a Grafted Tree

Overview

There are several methods by which trees can be propagated by grafting. Three of those methods--budding, cleft grafts and whip grafts---are the most common. The other four---stub, awl, approach and veneer grafts---are used mainly for special decorative or maintenance purposes. Most fruit trees are propagated by grafting. Rooting cuttings is slow and not always successful. Other reasons for grafting include size control (dwarfing) and hardiness. Some ornamental trees are grafted to obtain a sturdy, tall trunk.

Step 1

Dig the planting hole twice as wide as the root system. Dig deep enough so that the graft union (where the scion joins the rootstock) is 2 to 4 inches above the soil surface. Do not disturb the soil in the bottom of the hole, unless the soil is severely compacted, or the tree will sink lower as this soil compacts. Keep the graft union 2 to 4 inches above the soil surface or the scion may put out roots from the graft union. If this is happens, the advantages of the rootstock will be lost as the scion begins to grow on its own roots. This can also cause crown rot

Step 2

Drive two sturdy stakes into the planting hole so that they stand about 6 inches on either side of the trunk. This will prevent strain on the graft union while the tree is still young. Apply rubber, soft plastic or cloth ties so that the trunk is supported but still able to move slightly. A small amount of flexing will help strengthen the trunk.

Step 3

Systematically inspect the graft unions on all your trees three or four times a year. Cut back with a sharp knife or pruning shears any roots that appear from the scion and any shoots that appear from the rootstock so that they are flush with the bark surface.

Tips and Warnings

  • If a new tree comes with a root ball (soil and roots) remember that it will be extremely heavy. Get help to move it so you do not injure yourself.

Things You'll Need

  • Spade
  • Shovel
  • Garden hose
  • Support stakes
  • Sledgehammer
  • Knife or garden shear

References

  • UC Davis: Fruit Trees: Planting and Care of Young Trees
  • University of Tennessee: Planting Fruit Trees

Who Can Help

  • Planting and Early Care of Fruit Trees
Keywords: rootstock grafting, budding plants, cleft graft, whip graft, graft union, scion grafting

About this Author

Peter Garnham has been a garden writer since 1989. Garnham is a Master Gardener and a Contributing Editor for "Horticulture" magazine. He speaks at conferences on vegetable, herb, and fruit growing, soil science, grafting, propagation, seeds, and composting. Garnham runs a 42-acre community farm on Long Island, NY.