Apple grafting experts: what do you recommend?

I would like to replace our 7 year old White Winter Pearmain on M-111 with a newly arrived Black Limbertwig on same – here in our southern CA warm winter zone 10. The WWP has yet to drop its leaves (typical) but I expect bud swell and blossoms in April. There will be a King David adjacent to the Black Limbertwig for cross pollination.

Some of the options I’m considering:

  • pull the whole tree and replant with Limbertwig
  • stump graft with single leader at 10" from base
  • bud graft 3-4 scions to trunk above 10" and remove existing scaffolding
  • stump graft at 20" with multiple scions
  • splice graft onto shortened scaffolding

Your thoughts?


What’s the trunk diameter, just out of curiosity?

“stump graft” — do you mean bark graft on a stump? If you decide top-working (instead of replacing the entire tree), bark grafting is the way to go. Also, if you’re happy with the current tree structure, I would keep the existing scaffolding — I think this corresponds to option #4 on your list.


#4, like @Stan says. Bark graft is fine, can also do double or quadruple cleft grafts but not single, since the original scaffold branch won’t callous over very quickly with a single. If you like you can graft different varieties to each scaffold branch, perhaps with overlapping bloom dates to ensure pollinating.



3" at 10" height, 2" at 20" height - with two intervening scaffolds that could be removed.

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For those bark grafts, do you use grafting tape alone, or?

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I don’t claim to be an expert, but for what it’s worth, I agree with this approach. I’ve done it several times and it’s worked well for me. I used multiple cleft grafts, but I imagine that any graft that you’re comfortable with is fine. Apples are pretty forgiving.


If the apple trees are that small of diameter i would cleft graft them they will heal faster than bark grafts. Try the method i use with a butcher knife Grafting large Callery and BET pear rootstocks in 2022. I’ve got to ask how old is the current tree? Think you will say less than 10 years. If this was an old apple my opinion would change since old apples have less vigor and can die when you top work them.


I would framework the tree vs top working. Smaller cuts on the scaffolds heal quicker and if you already like where they’re distributed then why not used them, it’s a few more grafts to make but easier on the tree. It’s late (early?) in the year for budding, I think in CA you’ll want to graft around March/April. Using the tree is better than replacing with a new one, gets you some years ahead with it’s established root system - unless you just want to change the rootstock for another reason.



That’s true if you leave 1/2 or 3/4 of the tree it will put you back in apples in 2 years in Kansas instead of 3 or 4 years. Thats a good point if the branch structure is really good why change it?

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In your climate, perhaps in the upper 1/3 of CA too. But 20 years ago I observed no difference between those two when stump grafting avocado and citrus. I’ve no experience with apple so I’ll give your recommendation some consideration. :slightly_smiling_face:

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If it’s any consolation i have no experience with avocado and very little with citrus. Apples and pears on the other hand i have grafted thousands of times. Here is a couple of more threads for reference on the method. You will notice the larger circumference trunk i bark grafted aka rind grafted in the second thread.

The original thread below i posted i think is a closer match to your situation

My method is parafilm and rubber splicing tape for extra pressure.

In my experience, bark grafts typically grow faster and better than cleft grafts.

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I’m shocked the 3" trunk are closing on your bark grafts the first season like cleft graft do. That must be something unique to California type climate. This is a few months after the cleft graft was done on this pear. I’m looking forward to seeing this documented because with 2 people saying they had that experience i’m very interested. California has twice the growing season so i understand this tree would be bigger in that climate and heal twice as fast. The methods i documented are highly effective for top working here.

The easiest thing to do is to cut the tree to a stump and let it grow a single new leader by pinching back the competition at the point of the cut and favoring the straightest most vigorous shoot, then do a splice graft to it the following season, which should grow like a bat out of hell (where the hell did that expression come from?)

In the long run, it should give you a productive tree as quickly as a more immediate and complicated graft will, and might even speed up the process.

Today I removed 2 lower scaffolds, raising the future interstem to 20".

Looking west

Looking east