Fruit trees do not grow true to name from seeds. Seeds collected from fruit grown on a plant produce hybrid plants. Although these plants will be the same as its parent plant, their vegetative and fruit portions will differ in appearance. This is why all fruit trees are propagated by budding or grafting. Grafting is the process of joining a limb of one plant to the roots of another, so they grow as a single plant. Care should be taken to ensure the upper part of the grafted plant, also called the scion, is compatible with the lower part with the roots, called the stock.
Collect scions (tree limbs) in fall from a healthy tree that is at least a year old. Select scion wood that is 6 to 8 inches long and has up to three buds on it. Make a straight cut with a sharp knife through the bark and nutrient-dense tissue underneath to sever the limb from the tree.
Store the scion wood in a zipper bag filled with moist saw dust or sphagnum moss, and refrigerate until spring, or when the tiny buds on the rootstock begin to open.
Remove the zipper bag from the refrigerator in spring and cut the lower end of each scion at a 45-degree angle. Select a branch on the tree for the rootstock that has the same size and diameter as the scion.
Make a sharp, straight cut on the rootstock, similar to the one on the scion. Use a clean knife. It is essential that both the cuts are identical and match, so the scion and rootstock fit together.
Match and press the cut ends of the scion and rootstock. The point where both meet is called the “union.” It is essential that the bark and cambium (nutrient-dense tissue under the bark) of both pieces meet so the union is successful.
Wind several lengths of grafting tape over the union to cover and protect it, and encourage the scion and rootstock to heal as one plant.
Remove the tape when the scion starts to grow on the rootstock. Train this growing branch into the fruit tree’s leader. Trim other limbs of the tree once the rootstock begins growing vigorously.