Beginner Grafting Guide

We have plenty of threads on specific trees, materials, and techniques, but not a general guide for the beginner to learn the basics that I am aware of. I am currently that beginner, so I hope this inspires others to try their hand at grafting and offers the tools and technology to be successful once proper techniques are developed. I will be linking other posts I’ve bookmarked and linking outside articles that have helped me to develop an understanding of the processes along the way, both biological for the tree, and the actual techniques our members utilize to achieve a successful outcome.

Terminology overview
This very helpful article by Flowers By the Sea Nursery has great definitions for plant Patent, trademark, cultivar, variety and some history of plant patents.

It is illegal to sell or propagate any cultivar under patent protection (a 20 year period from the time of filing in the USA) without prior consent from the patent holder (usually a small royalty fee is given to the patent holder). Some people /nurseries are EXTREMELY protective of their patents (search for club apples) and other people just ask you for a dollar per tree:

An important note on patents- At the time of this writing they are not enforceable across country lines. If you are in Canada you can propagate USA patented plant material to your hearts content, as long as a patent wasn’t ALSO made for your home country too (and vice-versa). PLEASE do your due diligence regarding patent legality. Lots of hard work went into developing cultivars for all of us to enjoy. Trademark laws are, to my knowledge, enforceable across country lines.

It IS legal to propagate trademarked cultivars as long as you are not selling them for profit under the trademarked name. Trademarks can be maintained indefinitely, unlike patents which expire. Sometimes the entity which trademarked the name uses the common name of the cultivar, which can cause further problems and confusion First Name Given for Autumn Brilliance Serviceberry

Another common example is Pink Lady™, the same tree as Cripps Pink apple.

Scion - cutting from a tree which contains vegetative buds used to graft a desired “clone” of the parent tree. Usually the best scions have newer vegetative (not flower) buds which can easily be propagated

Cutting - a branch of a tree, shrub, or vine which is capable of producing asexually by rooting

Rooting - The process of callous forming within the cambium layer of a cutting which when successful results in the formation of a new root structure (and consequently a “new” plant

Cambium - The actively dividing and growing cell layer of a tree (there are exceptions to this) right underneath the outer bark

Rootstock - Usually a seedling of lesser quality fruit, used to graft a higher quality variety above ground. Many rootstocks are also propagated clonally based on desirable characteristics (disease resistance etc)

Grafting- the process of splicing two pieces of living compatible trees together at the cambium layer to create one new, improved tree

Bench graft - A rootstock with one or two buds of an improved variety, the least expensive option both in time commitment and financially. However, this graft will take the longest time to produce fruit. Another benefit to a bench graft is the ability to train to a certain form from the start (espalier, Belgian fence, central leader, modified central leader, open center, etc).

Interstem - An additional small section of scion (usually placed without the intention of developing buds) which can either provide graft compatibility between more distantly related rootstock /scion combinations, or may provide another desired quality (such as grafting a section of dwarfing interstem between a semi-dwarf rootstock and a vigorous scion to slow down the growth of the scion; Think M111 (semi-dwarf) apple rootstock > Bud 9 (dwarf) >Wolf River (vigorous) scion. In this case M111 would provide a healthy large root system and Bud 9 would even out the high vigor of Wolf River (if that is a desirable use case).

Top Work (graft)- Cutting off the top of a developed tree and placing scions on the new, much larger rootstock via grafting

Chip Bud- grafting a single bud along the bark of another tree

Whip and tongue (WT) graft - typically performed on similar sized rootstock /scion combos and is known as a sturdy and reliable graft for many fruit species

Bark graft- A scion is placed within a hollowed out section of bark, usually a much larger size than the scion

Cleft graft- a simple graft which is used for a larger rootstock and smaller scion to maximize cambium contact with a “V” shaped notch How to Make a Cleft Graft

There are many other types of grafts, if you have one to add please let me know. This seemed like a good beginner list though.

-Am I legally allowed to graft?
ABSOLUTELY! As long as you are not infringing on patent protected plants, go for it! However, before grafting wild trees, check local laws and regulations on whether it is legal in your area (or maybe just frowned upon). For home or personal use, graft to your hearts content. As mentioned above, you cannot legally sell trademarked varieties without permission, or you may sell it under another name.

-How does grafting work exactly?
Grafting, simply put, is the combining of the cambium tissue of the scion and rootstock materials to form one tree. The cambium layer is VERY THIN, only a few cells thick, so lining up the bark of each respective piece is critical. As long as one part of the cambium makes enough contact, the graft will take and form a new tree.

-Should I graft; or propagate a cutting?
Good question! It depends on a multitude of factors. Some species are easier to root cuttings (pear) than others (pawpaw) but some people prefer different characteristics afforded by certain rootstocks. These can be disease resistance, dwarfing, increasing vigor, or many other factors. My advice is to make a plan before making a decision on if/ what to graft and where you decide to put the tree will determine the vigor, cultivar etc.

-Tools and accessories

Grafting is an art. It takes practice to get good at it, and some species are more forgiving than others. The standard tool is a knife and a good sharpening stone.

Based on my understanding, ease of grafts taking for selected cultivar groups are as follows:
Easiest: Apple, Pear
Medium: Cherry, Citrus, Jujube, Plum Pluot
Hard: Pawpaw, Persimmon
Hardest: Chestnut, Heartnut, Pecan, Walnut, Peach

I am not sure about: medlar, quince, mulberry, che, avocado, banana or others (please let me know and I can edit to place these in the correct level of difficulty).

Here is a discussion about the importance of sharp grafting knives

Some people use a cheap utility knife with replaceable blades (always sharp!) and others use a cheap sturdy Swiss Army knife. You probably have something around the house that will work great once it is sharpened properly.

The long and short of it is that higher price doesn’t mean you will have better results, but a quality knife should last a lifetime if properly cared for. Practice makes perfect, and wear a glove! This guy has a great setup. Ignore his first attempt, skip to the second one for a good Whip and Tongue demonstration using his tool safely with a glove and duct tape for protection:

Alternatively to knives, other options exist like this Craftsman utility cutter (available used on ebay)

And tools built specifically for grafting (I recommend the zenport style on a budget as modified by @Barkslip in the following post)

Also see the following for bench grafts and bare root if you want the highest possible likelihood of your grafts taking

Obviously a hot callus pipe can only be used on trees not yet in ground unless you get very creative with the concept.

-Techniques for grafting
Many techniques were defined above.
@SkillCult has a great YouTube series on grafting that goes into more detail than my post and has good instructions on various techniques.

Other great resources exist as @Hillbillyhort and @mamuang have shared with me!

-How to seal a graft (grafting tape)
There appear to be two primary reasons for wrapping a graft. The first is to seal it from the elements and protect the graft union from rainwater etc. The second reason is structural stability while the graft union heals to prevent any birds, wind, deer, or other factors from breaking the scion from the tree. For both of these, there are a multitude of products as well as DIY solutions available.

It seems based on all of the discussions I’ve read on the subject, that the hierarchy is approximately as follows for graft sealing quality /ease of use: plastic bread bags cut in strips> cheap plastic rolls (nylon?, not very stretchy but still available) > parafilm (grafting specific) >parafilm M (medical, higher quality) >buddy tape (perforated or non, your preference). Using melted wax fits somewhere up top as well

This appears to be a “you get what you pay for” item, with buddy tape being the most expensive but best available option for protecting graft unions from drying out. Reviews of grafting designated parafilm indicate it is not as strong or long lasting as the stuff actually made for medical use (but both work!) I see it as worth it to get the better tape (and I did) because the 6 cents versus 3 cents per graft is negligible compared to the cost of scions and rootstock

Also related - securing scions follows a similar trend. I’ve seen people try using masking tape /painters tape> regular electrical tape> rubber bands> 3M Temflex 2155 rubber splicing tape (I bought at home depot, $2.68/roll) and budding strips, which are a thinner, wider, more stretchable rubber band. I’ve been gifted some budding strips to try and the jury is still out until I try a few more grafts as to whether I prefer temflex or budding strips. I think for small scions using the zenport style tool, I’ll end up preferring budding strips but possibly preferring temflex for any larger caliper trees for top grafting . Temflex sticks to itself lightly, which is good and bad depending on the circumstances. It can also be cut down the middle if you prefer a thinner strip to work with,

3M 3/4 in. x 22 ft. Temflex Splicing Tape, Black

And the budding strips:

If anyone sees any glaring discrepancies or misinformation, please let me know and I will make edits. Also if you have other species to add to the “grafting difficulty level” section, please let me know!


I can confirm that jujubes are very easy to graft. I only grafted one bud by cleft graft, and this is the growth within 1.5 month. The rootstock is a 2 yr old Ziziphus spinosa, that had very small leaves at time of grafting.


Thank you for organizing various threads into one. This is the beginning of grafting time. Your thread arrives at the perfect time.
I would like to add a few things.

Bench graft vs field graft (grafting to rootstocks and/or tree that are already planted in ground.).

Two common budding techniques, T-budding and chip budding. There are good tutoring of both in this forum.

To me, a primary reason for cover a graft union is to prevent desiccation, not only to protect it against the elements (you did mention about drying out).

Before Skicult came along, some of us have learned to graft from an English orchardist, Stephen Hayes. His videos are still worth watching for grafting and other fruit-related info. Another excellent grafting videos are from Kuffel Creek Apple nursery by Applenut, a member here.

Regarding easy of grafting. That can be subjectives. Several of us put peaches and nectarines quite low, just above nut trees.

Pawpaw, persimmon, jujubes, plums, pluots, cherries are about the same.
Thank you for doing this for those who are new to grafting.


I’m still struggling with peach grafts so for me they are in the very hard category. Plums and
Pluots have been much easier so I would put them in the Medium category.


Thanks for the encouragement! I put pawpaw and persimmon as hard because I had read in a few places that they were more finicky, pawpaw in particular because you have to wait until it actually begins to leaf out and wake up to graft.

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I have had better success with T-budding peaches in the late summer than traditional grafting in the spring. The only thing is it usually lay dormant until the next spring. Patience is not my virtue !!

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I am talking about field grafting. For beginners, it is easier to wait until trees leaf out. All of these fruit trees are good to graft at that stage. I an talking about field graft.

Bench graft needs to be done when scion is dormant.

That is why it is important to differentiate if it is bench graft or field graft. For field graft, grafting while trees are about to come out of dormancy can be done esp. apples, pears, cherry, plums.

Again, typically, waiting to see trees left out a bit (often refer to to a size of a mouse’s ear) is best. That applies to apples, pears, cherries, plums, pluots, jujubes, persimmom, etc.

Peaches and nectarines are more temperate sensitive. I don’t go by the mouse’s ear’ rule. I watch for temperature to be at least 65 steadily (65-75) the day of grafting and 3-4 days after is best, in my experience.


That is the kind of information which I think is valuable to have in one spot. I could see another guide on the intricacies of grafting various trees being helpful. Which grafts are recommended for each species, special time of year or bud development requirements etc. Or if someone has that knowledge feel free to add a comment here, I could edit my post to include it too.

Edit: You beat me to it!


Great write up! Grafting is just so much fun especially when the graft is successful. Thank you for putting all the information in one spot.

I really enjoy and find Jsacadura grafting videos to be the best. He shows all the close ups of the techniques and shows the after as well most of the time.

I got a Korean giant pear to take this year so I’m excited!


I will second lots of whats said above…3 most important things for new grafters (myself included!):
1-timing ie active growth for field gradting
2-cambium contact (ie as much surface area as possible and held tight…i find the zenport grafting tool to be great for this as its long v cut but mainly as it holds itself together making it easier to wrap union up tight without graft shifting)
3-preventing dessication (drying out) via wax dipping scions or wrapping in parafilm…i even want to try putting bread bags over hard to graft scions like peaches and apricots (i had about 25% takes last season but would have had much more if i hadnt got eager and removed parafilm…i thing perforated bread bags to slow moisture loss may be a good solution

-depending on species also add temperature and patience (ie peaches,apricots and many nut trees need higher temperatures and are slower to callous)

*if you dont want to use a knife dont use zenport tool or a simple splice cut with pruners! Whatever you feel comfortable with!

Great thread, great forum i’ve had great grafting success largely thanks to information generous forum members posted and I continue learn more every day! Good luck first time grafters its easier than you think


I would add for beginners to read Hartmann & Kester’s Plant Propagation, Principals and Practice to obtain an in depth understanding of why there are several critical factors that determine success or failure. Also some research into compatibility to know when you need an interstem depending on what varieties you want to graft. And finally I offer several tips that can be useful, particularly if you want to get ahead of the season by preparing in advance.

  1. Create ways to achieve near optimal callousing temperatures of the graft union. If bench grafting potted rootstock, you can use dark callousing by covering the graft to prevent light on the scion over a 1-2 week period while keeping the grafted plant covered in a moist environment.
  2. If you have a greenhouse, use it to you advantage to graft earlier than you could achieve optimal temperatures in ambient conditions.
  3. If you need an interstem, you can graft the scion or chip buds to the interstem and dark callous indoors for 1-2 weeks in a moist container prior to performing an outdoor graft to the rootstock. Once ready store interstem scions in the refrigerator until ambient temperatures are adequate for the type of tree being grafted.
  4. Keep an annual record of when you plants naturally break bud. This and the optimal temperatures curve below will help you anticipate when to start spring outdoor grafting:
    Callusing temperatures of Fruit and Nut trees

Posted on May 21, 2013 by qwertyqweryt61

Many people ask me what are optimum callusing temperatures to ensure a good percentage of viable grafts.

Nectarines/Peaches – 18-26 deg C. ( 64.4 to 78.8F)

Apricots/Cherries – 20 deg C. ( 68F)

Plums – 16 deg C. ( 60.8 F)

Apples/Pears – 13-18 deg C. ( 55.4 to 64.4F)

Walnuts – 27 deg C. (80.6 F)

Grapes – 21-24 deg C. ( 69.8 to 75.2 F).

Do not forget tissue damage for most temperate fruit will occur at temperatures over 30 deg C. (86 F)

Temperatures either side of the optimum will also work, but the percentage take will be reduced. See graph below for walnuts.


Callus graph

Callus formation is required at the graft, therefore temperatures are only needed at the graft. The rootstock and scion can be held at lower temperatures to avoid breaking the dormancy.


I just recently started researching that. Here’s something on Walnuts:

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@Barkslip has the guide on hot callus pipe which appears to be the way to go for bench grafts. I made one as soon as I saw the thread.

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I’m sorry but I’m going to have to allow the thread to continue w/o reading until after a surgery on the 9th of April. The hot callus pipe is as it is advertised, “fantastic.”



God’s best for you in your surgery! Hope you will be back soon.


Thanks @mrtexas I know you have a lot of experience grafting citrus. How would you compare it on the difficulty scale compared to the other fruits I have listed? Are there specific citrus trees with different requirements (orange vs lime vs lemon vs grapefruit etc) and should I break them into different categories?

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Citrus is as easy to graft as pecan, persimmon, pear, jujube etc. Practice, practice! All grafting works better when the tree is growing and the scion is dormant.


Hi there just thought I might share my experience. I am new to grafting fruit trees. This will be my third year at it, on a backyard hobby level. Late last season, very late in the summer almost fall time, I thought one of my peach trees might be dying so I chip budded it onto my other peach and plum trees, and more than half of them are growing now, by a few inches new growth. I can’t say for sure they will keep living but they are now, and they look good to me. I did several whip and tongue peach grafts a few weeks ago. So far I can’t see if they are growing. But my late season chip buds lived through winter and are now growing.


Here is another technique shared, similar to whip and tongue but may provide improved support while the graft union heals based on the location of the “tongue cut”.