Grafting offers more uniformity in presentation, a plant that blooms sooner, and a wider range of species than would otherwise thrive in your climate. Too bad grafting is such a difficult, failure-prone chore, right? Not so. Once you understand what factors into a successful graft, you can enjoy all the benefits of the procedure--including the look on your friends' faces when they see your gorgeous plants.
General Good Practice
Make sure that the knife you use to make grafing cuts is razor-sharp.
When collecting scions, cut them from the donor plant with a clean, smooth cut, using the entire knife blade from base to tip.
Prevent any cut surfaces from contacting soil. Discard any scions that fall on the floor. Soil teems with microorganisms that could infect the graft.
Hal Vanis, with the Southern California Camellia Society, finds that grafting in late January works best.
P. C. R. Drummer, writing for the Newsletter of the American Magnolia Society and practicing horticulture in Winchester, England, says that magnolias are most commonly grafted in the spring.
Root Stock Preparation Tips
Vanis recommends cutting root stock high and leaving a healthy branch below the graft.
For magnolias or other large-leafed flowering trees, use stock with a large root ball. Drummer recommends a root ball of at least 7 to 8 inches across. Vanis prefers a three-gallon planter to prepare his camellia root stock.
Scion Preparation Tips
Cut scions young, but not too young. Their exterior should be woody. The ideal stage for rose scions is "when the flowers are fading and dropping their petals, but before the buds have swollen for the next growth flush," according to Dr. Malcolm Manners.
Dr. Manners also recommends removing all leaves from your just-cut scions to prevent wilting.
Keep scions viable by sealing them inside a plastic bag with a moisture source such as a damp paper towel or some moist peat moss. Keep this bag out of the sun.
Scions will stay viable in the refrigerator for several months as long as they stay moist.
After cutting the scion, soak it in fungicide to protect it from infection. Vanis prefers Heritage "because it covers a broad range of fungi." Drummer recommends a fungicide called "Benlate." Whatever you use, follow package instructions, diluting the solution as directed. Use a spray bottle to apply more fungicide just before placing the scion and just after.
Keep grafts humid and sterile by creating a "mini-greenhouse" with an upside-down Styrofoam cup or a plastic bag covering a wire frame. Spray the inside of this "mini-greenhouse" with fungicide solution. If using a plastic bag, cover with a paper bag to shade the graft.
If you left a branch below the graft, water and fertilize lightly. Vanis recommends burying Jack's Secret tablets around the edge of the planter to strengthen the root stock.
If you wrap your graft with budding tape or parafilm, Dr. Manners recommends not unwrapping for at least 3 to 6 weeks in warm weather, and longer in cold weather.