Best multi-graft plum tree structure?

Hi, All,
Personally I like plum trees a lot, because their flowers are beautiful, their fruits are tasty, and their harvest seasons start in Jun and end in Aug. Apricot flowers are more beautiful, but the fruits are only available in a very short few weeks. The tastes are good, but not as good as plums. So I am thinking to create a perfect multi-graft plum tree.

I know it’s better to grow multiple trees instead of one multi-graft tree, because it’s very difficult to balance the growth of each scion. I bought a multi-graft plum tree in 2017 with Beauty, Burbank, Italian, Santa Rosa and Shiro. Now two years later, Beauty has completely taken over. I have learned my lesson – best choose the varieties with similar vigor and must balance the growth constantly. But it is still a fun project to try. I am not planning to put a lot of varieties on the same tree. Just need 3~4. If successful, I may expand the varieties to 12 max. The final height should be 10~15 ft high, i.e, semi-dwarf. The structure must be beautiful because I want to keep it on the front yard as a specimen instead of the back yard.

I see the following 3 options (and modified versions). I will list them one bye one below. I know a lot of you are experts on grafting. So based on your experiences, which option would you choose and why? I am hoping to avoid as many mistakes as possible so that it can be a successful “project”. What I really want to learn is the long term results of each option. Thanks!:smiley:

Blue: rootstock
Green: level 1 scions
Red: level 2 scions

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Option 1: Grow rootstock as a whip and graft on its trunk directly.
Grow the rootstock as a whip, then chip graft 4 varieties on the trunk. The branches in green color are level 1, 4 varieties (v2,5,8,11). If they are successful, continue to graft level 2 varieties (red color) on them.
That’s the structure of the multi-graft tree that I bought. Commercial growers seem like this approach. But I don’t like the structure, because the branches extend out at very narrow angles. And it’s easy for one of the scions to draw too much energy from the trunk and totally choke the rest. I also worry that the graft unions may fail under the weights down the road.
pic1

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Option 2: Grow the rootstock with 4 scaffolding branches and graft on branches.
Grow the rootstock until its structure has reached a perfect open center or modified central leader. Just keep 4 branches. Then graft on these 4 rootstock branches with variety 2,5,8,11 (level 1). Allow these main branches to grow and branch out. Then graft additional 2 varieties (level 2) on each one of the main branches.

I am hoping that the vigor of each main branch is similar by maintaining a structure like this. Also the branch angle can be controlled properly. But this does not solve the concern of the weight on the graft union. Each graft union still carries about 1/4 of the total weight.
pic2

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Option 3: Grow the rootstock to fully developed structure and graft on at the end.
Similar to option 2, but this time allow the rootstock to fully develop the scaffolding branches. Then graft at level 2.
This should allow to build a strong structure and the energy draw by each scion may be balanced by the existing rootstock structure, I hope at least. This option has the minimum number of graft unions. Less wounds, less problems, I think.
pic3

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Option 1A, 2A, 3A: Start with a good variety instead of rootstock.
Slight modifications of the above options are using a good variety (such as Burgundy, Shiro etc.) to replace the rootstock, i.e., grow a Burgundy tree, then graft onto it. If the graft fails, at least you still have a Burgundy tree. I see a lot of people doing this. Just top work on an existing tree. If so, which variety is a good choice? A variety with strong vigor such as Shiro or Beauty, or just normal vigor like Satsuma or Burgundy?

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Do you want to have both Euro and Asian plums on the same tree, as in your original tree, or Asian only?

You get structure #1 from commercial growers because they use budding, not grafting. If you’re going to graft (cleft, whip, or bark) rather than bud, this will automatically require going to structure #2 (or #3).

If there is no incompatibility issue, graft unions will be as strong or stronger than any other piece of wood, so this should not be a concern. Most trees that you buy from a commercial nursery are budded, and that bud union eventually supports the weight of the entire tree.

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Hi, Stan,
Asian plums only. It works better that way.

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Then I would go with option 2A or 3A. I would also prefer a high vigor variety for the basis. Shiro, for example, would be a good choice.

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Great! Thanks, Stan!
I was leaning towards 3A because it requires less graft unions. But as you mentioned the graft unions were just as strong as regular branches, I think 2A should be just as good.
Thank you again for your input!
Next I need to think about which plum tree to use as the main trunk. Right now I am thinking a Burgundy or Shiro. Any suggestions?
I have Beauty, so I know it is very vigorous. How does Shiro’s vigor compared to Beauty?
I like the taste of Beauty, but its bark does not look smooth or nice. That is the only downside.

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Since you already have a tree that’s almost all Beauty, I would go with another variety for a new tree. Shiro is plenty vigorous to be the basis variety for a multi-graft tree.

I personally think that there are many plum varieties that are better taste-wise than either Beauty, Shiro, or Burgundy.

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I tried the 5 varieties on the multi-graft tree that I had, I liked them all. Maybe I could be easily pleased. Or simply because they are so much better than the store bought plums. I think I will test more varieties one by one to find those I like most. Just like what @scottfsmith did. His plum report has given me a very good starting point because my climate should be similar to his. I will go with the safe bets first (Spring Satin, Shiro, Santo Rosa and Satsuma), then expand to more varieties.
Because of the pest pressure here, I don’t want to grow too many plums tree. That’s too much work. Ideally I would keep 3 plums trees, max 4. That’s why I wanted to create one or two multi-graft plum trees.

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Hey! We’re in similar climates too then and I’m also multigrafting a plum tree. I chose Shiro as base and its just finished its first leaf - people aren’t kidding when they say its vigorous, this thing grew like crazy for its first year in the ground.

Im planning on grafting on Satsuma, Laroda and Tom Cot (apricot) as an experiment.

Great minds think alike! :sweat_smile:
Good to know Shiro did well for you.Where did you get it from? I am about to get one too.
I did not know Tomcot could be grafted on Shiro. Hope it works. That would be awesome!
Look forward to your report on your progress. I need a year to grow the base tree. Then move on with grafting.

I got mine from raintreenursery.com

Yeah no idea if it will work. I have maxed out on the number of new trees I can plant so I have no other option, haha.

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Yep. Same here.
Even though I still have a few spots available, but I want to / have to plan ahead. Don’t want to shuffle trees around again.