I have a air-layer I took from a wild/feral Morus Alba or hybrid mulberry in zone 6b WV last year.
I planted it in ground this year. Next year I’m going to cleft graft over it with Varaha from Peaceful Heritage Nursery. Will it be compatible?
Will it be difficult to graft?
depends on cultivar, i guess. i tried grafting illini everbearing 5xs to my wild alba. tried different times. scoring the bark below the graft to bleed off sap. used cleft graft and none made it. others have had luck but so far i havent.
I grafted mulberries for the first time this year and despite using scion that already had significant bud swell and grafting onto fully dormant root cuttings (basically the opposite of what one should do - graft dormant scion/buds onto active rootstock) 3 out of 5 are still doing well and putting on good growth. I would say based on this limited experience that they’re definitely easier than apples (which themselves aren’t too hard). Definitely easier than trying to root mulberry cuttings.
Scoring the bark to bleed sap is a waste of time. How much bleeds out? A few drops. Do a chip or T bud. That allows you to retain leaves above the graft until the graft heals. Those leaves over several weeks will “bleed” off 1,000 times more water than a few cuts.
Figs have an issue, like mulberries, with flooding out grafts when growing rapidly. T buds and chips work under those conditions, cleft grafts don’t. Clefts don’t have leaves above the graft to pull off water.
I had no issues with bark grafting several mulberries this Spring. I cut a number of alba or hybrid sticks from a mulberry in the yard in the winter. I threw them in a pot and put a light on them. Some of them took. I lost a couple when I didn’t acclimate them to light. I have two left and T-bud grafted them yesterday. We’ll see if it works but I think it’ll work.
The biggest problem I’ve had with mulberries is that the graft takes but the bud often dies.
Usually I have the best success when using as many as 3 buds per graft. But given how vigorous mulberry is, that is a really long scion stick to graft.
I definitely dont have a success rate as high as either apples or figs. Apples are nearly foolproof. (95%) Figs are almost as easy (85-90%) . Mulberries are even worse than persimmon. (70 %)
Interesting. The ones that appear to have failed for me are as you described; the graft took, but then the bud died. Oddly, I accidentally snapped off the living bud while grafting one (it was single node scion pieces), but I decided to just leave it and see what happened. The bud-less scion didn’t look promising, but then it started pushing growth and is now the best looking of the successful grafts in that batch. It almost makes me want to snap off the buds as standard practice moving forward.
I’ve grafted my Girardi mulberry to other seedlings a fair number of times over the years and here is what I think I’ve learned, but of course it isn’t thoroughly tested so take it with a grain of salt. Timing and graft type seem to matter more than with other types of trees. @fruitnut suggested chip and t-bud which make sense and I’ll have to try. I have seedlings that pop up in the yard and I graft them and find that I can get 80% or better success if I graft them early using cleft grafts, which I think are less likely to flood with sap than splice or whip and tongue. I also make sure to wrap them extra tight to keep the connection in place even if there is more sap. I think @TNHunter used staps on his bark graft above to really tighten it up.
With the early grafts I think the sun warms the black tape I have on the grafts and gets callous going before sap is really pumping which helps with the sap issue. I remember years ago one of the members here did 3 mulberry grafts in late February, I think in zone 6, and several people warned her it was too early but she later showed all 3 made it. I’ve had a lot more failures on later grafts than on early.
I still get takes with rootstock that is actively growing with cleft grafts and tight wrapping but a lower percentage. I’ve tried whip and tongue grafts but had much less success, perhaps because the sap flooding might be more of an issue. After a few failures of whip and tongue I just stopped using them in favor of clefts, but maybe others have done okay with those. Bark grafts will work on larger stocks, but I do think getting them really tight will help.
Here is a late-season graft that I did 2 cleft grafts on and one is growing well. Whenever there are forks or other branches I always put on more than one graft to increase chances. This will get dug out this fall when dormant and given to my wife’s nephew who tasted the Girardi at my house and has been asking for a tree ever since.
Yes early grafting of figs and mulberry helps avoid the graft flooding issue. When the plant just starts growing the roots aren’t as active yet and aren’t pumping as much water. So graft flooding is less or even non existent. Wrapping tightly also helps by maintaining contact between scion and root.
On a really actively growing rootstock the roots are pumping water like crazy. Cut off the top, slap on a cleft or similar and the sap floods the union. Doing a T bud or chip allows you to keep the leaves until the graft heals. Therefore less flooding. I still wrap those tightly.
I’ve also wondered if variety makes a difference for mulberries with grafting. I’ve noticed that some seem to root easily and others, like Gerardi, nobody seems to be able to get to root. Given how variable they are for rooting, I wonder if there is variability in how easy/hard they are to graft as well. Good luck with your T-buds.