How to Root-Graft Fruit Trees


Seeds of hybrid fruit trees do not produce true-to-type fruit, which is achieved only through cuttings. While some cuttings root on their own to grow into individual plants, that is not always the case. Gardeners graft roots to such cuttings so they survive initially and eventually grow their own. The grafted roots are planted below the soil level while the cutting is above it. The grafted roots weaken and die, as the plant's own roots grow and develop and begin to nurture the tree. Such a graft is called "nurse" or "root" graft, and is very common with apple trees.

Step 1

Cut several healthy twigs or small branches on the fruit tree that are at least a year old. Each twig should be at least 5 or 6 inches long with the diameter of a pencil and have two or three visible buds on it. Harvest these twigs, also called the scion twigs, in the winter, when the tree is dormant.

Step 2

Store the scion in a cool place until spring to prevent it from drying. Fill a zipper bag with moist sphagnum moss and place the scions over it. Put the bag in the refrigerator.

Step 3

Cut the root stock or a branch on the host tree that is 3 to 4 inches long and the same diameter as the scion. Make a sharp, straight cut to separate it from the tree, ideally in spring.

Step 4

Hold the scion firmly and make a 1½-inch cut at a 45-degree angle. Cut a tongue or notch into it, 1/3 of the way upward from the end of the cut, which runs through the center of the scion without splitting it into two pieces. Cut the root stock in the same way, so it is a mirror image of the scion.

Step 5

Join both the pieces together so the notches interlock with each other firmly. Nick any edge so they unite better. This point where they join is called the union.

Step 6

Wrap grafting tape over the joint securely to encourage both the parts to fuse and grow as one, and prevent nutrients or water from seeping out of the cut. Place the grafted trees in a cool, dry place such as moist sawdust until it is ready to be planted outside.

Things You'll Need

  • Gloves
  • Sharp knife
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Zipper bag
  • Grafting tape
  • Moist sawdust


  • Cass County Extension: Grafting and Budding Fruit Trees
  • University of Kentucky Cooperative Extension: Budding and Grafting
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Methods of Grafting
Keywords: root grafting, fruit trees, grafting fruit trees

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