Basic questions about grafting apples

I think i know which type of grafts (bench/whip) i will be trying but i have questions about the process in general i guess.

I have 20 M.26 root stocks coming and then some apple scions but I never grafted before.

Is grafting done while the root stock and scion is dormant?

Could I start them in 4x9 tree pots?

I have no clue where they would get planted so could I transplant them to a 4x8 raised bed then bare root them this time next year to permanent location or would bigger pots be better?

If the grafts take they would leaf out pretty soon? Like within a couple of weeks or does it take months to know?

How long until the first small harvest in general?

And just because i know myself… Can I air layer one of the root stocks for more root stock?

I also bought E.Plum scion to graft on to my new E.Plum tree which has 3 main scaffold branches already could i cut one of those branches off closer to the trunk and then do the same whip/bench graft on that branch VS the root stock like i would be doing with apples?

This is by no means the best discussion on grafting on this site, but I knew how to find this one right away, and it contains some good links to others’ thinking:


Scion must be dormant. Rootstock may be — as in the case of making a bench graft. Or grafts may be applied to trees in the field “when the bark slips” or when the first leaves are “the size of a squirrel’s ear” (when the trees are just emerging from dormancy).

If you’re making bench grafts with dormant rootstock, you need to protect them from drying out. You can put the bench grafts back into storage with unused rootstock, or you may pot them up and force them out of dormancy right away.

  1. Grafts made outdoors on trees just coming out of dormancy don’t “take” right away. The rest of the tree may leaf out long before the graft shows signs of life. Never give up hope. The graft needs to re-establish tissue connection with the rootstock, and this can take weeks. Of course, hope begins to wane after a month.

  2. Bench grafts in pots need to be protected from late freezing weather. They are not hardy, but you can hover over them indoors, watching for signs that the grafts have “taken.” Hovering probably increases the chances of success with this method.

  3. Bench grafts on bare roots may be planted outdoors after danger of late freezing weather is past. They are semi-hardy because they’re still dormant.

You can plant bare-root bench grafts in an outdoor bed after danger of late freezing weather is past. You can plant potted bench grafts in an outdoor bed after danger of frost is past. Outdoor beds are great for protection against predators. You can move them after one or two years. After planting in permanent locations, cut them off at belt height to compensate for root loss and to force branching at about three feet. You’ll loose about a year of growth, but you’ll have had the comfort of hovering over them for a season or two.

Grafts on dwarfing rootstocks like M26 are “precocious.” The come into bearing in about half the time of a full-sized tree (four years or so). The more dwarfing the rootstock, the more precocious the grafted tree. You may see flowers in the first year. That is because there was a flower bud on the scionwood. Pinch off the flowers, not the leaves. You may see flowers in the second year. Pinch these off as well. You may see flowers in the third year, and you can save one to see if it will set fruit. Do not be disappointed if it doesn’t. You may expect flowers in the fourth year but not many. Once again, you may save one or two. You’ll get more in the fifth year, but thin the crop aggressively until the tree is “established” (in six or seven years).

Layering is a possibility. I have not done this particularly successfully. I gather that what you want to do is get the rootstock growing and then cut it off to force it to branch really, really close to ground level. Once the branches attain some height, you mound loose soil as high as you can over them and give them a season to root in the soil. Then, you dig the branches individually.

P.S.: Here’s a Growing Fruit link to two stooling-bed videos. The second shows how tedious it is to layer rootstocks in the backyard. The first shows how mind-bogglingly expensive it is to produce roostock in commercial quantities.


awesome! thanks so much! I practiced my cuts last night on some willow and peach wood i had laying around. I need to get a sharper grafting knife but the cuts where pretty straight so thats good.

A couple of follow up questions about the graft itself - we are lining up the cambium layer which is the brighter green layer just below the bark right? so if we line up the bark on at-least one side we can assume the cambium is also lined up?

and then what about grafting E.plum scionwood onto an existing E.Plum tree. This tree is young with the 3 scaffold branches. Would it be better to cut back one of these laterals to a knub and then do a bench graft connecting the new scion to the old existing branch or would i do something else to attach it to the trunk? maybe a bud/bark graft?

You got it! The cambium is really thin, though, so it’s difficult to see and tell how well it is aligned within a graft before wrapping it up. You just have to jump in and do it. When grafting a narrow scion to a wide rootstock, keep the scion and rootstock flush on one side to give the union the best chance of success. Note that the graft will take quicker the larger the amount of contact between the roostock and the scionwood cambium, but in reality it needs to touch at only one point where the cells are raw. Work quickly and keep your fingers off of the cut surfaces.

Sorry I can’t help you with stone fruit.

Perfect - Fingers crossed! Thank you.