Cleft grafting issues

Mark, thanks for taking the time to share so much information. As I’ve been telling everyone here, i’m learning fast about some of the more intricate tricks of the trade that maybe I’ve been overlooking. I think a big take away for me is the issue of the scionwood drying out both in the fridge and once grafted but I will definitely be more astute on that issue. I also never gave consideration to scion placement onto my trees. I typically go for a place at an easy working height where I can prune back competing branches but maybe I need to set a chair up in my micro orchard to visualize placement. Of course, a nap might occur but I can suffer that consequence. Thanks again, I have taken your advice to heart.

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Roberto ,
I think there is a new member, Jamie whose handle name is @JinMA lives in Hampshire County near you.

After you study grafting video of Steven Hayes and Applenut of Kuffle Creek, you will definitely feel like you can do it.

If you want, PM me, I will send you scionwood of a few apples I have.

After joining this group I learned 4 things that increased my grafting and budding success to a high level
1- start grafting when the leaves are the size of a mouses ear. All my earlier grafts died and I attribute it to the cold nights we still can get up here at that time of the year.
2- wrap the scions as marknmt suggests, before you go out and graft this greatly increases success.
3-wrap the graft union tightly with whatever works, electrical tape, rubber bands, or other tapes. I did this with bud grafting this summer, and for the first time Ever, I managed to get some takes.
4- ( I can’t remember who on this forum suggested it), but the advice to “hold your tongue just at the right angle” seems to work.:relaxed:


I’m glad to see the points about the leaves and the wraps, and especially the part about the tongue.


Is this like leaning into the Nintendo controller to get your car/plane/character to get out of the way of the oncoming bad guy just a little faster? :wink:

But joking aside, folks here give good advice, so welcome! If you have rootstocks or are top-working bigger diameter grafts and think you are having trouble seeing cambium matches, you could also try “rind” (aka bark) grafting. You can increase your chances by exposing cambium on the scion on both sides of where it meets the rootstock or tree. Or that is at least how I rationalize it.

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I think this thread on top working pears I did last spring will help Top working Pears weather permitting

When you topwork high in a tree, is the resulting graft and branch sturdy? I had a horticulture friend, who has a small orchard (but does not graft) tell me that my scion branches would snap off with the weight of fruit if I placed them higher in the tree. Ever since I try to keep all my grafts lower down and I am quickly running out of space. I think the reasoning was that the higher branches don’t get a large enough diameter.

I’m not aware of that being a problem, but with just a couple of trees I can thin pretty thoroughly. I think grafts usually heal well enough to be as strong as natural branches, or at least nearly so. “Frameworking” has been done for a long time.

I do make a point of grafting close to a branch’s origin- If my graft is just a few inches from where the branch is attached I’m happy. In practice it’s usually a little further out because I figure I might mess up the first attempt and have to cut further back!

That said, I think I’d like to try another approach to building a frankentree. Say you buy a whip of something you like, on a good rootstock. At about the four foot height cut the whip and graft a new variety. Train three branches of the original variety as usual, but graft one or two of them over to other varieties. When the second tier develops repeat the process, adding another variety to the top at about the six foot level. Graft over one or two of the young scaffolds to other varieties. Repeat for a third tier, stopping the tree at about eight feet. That would you give you maybe nine varieties on one tree, with the opportunity to stick on an occasional new find here and there.

I hope that helps.


Your frankentree idea sounds pretty good. I have a few young trees that are about 3 feet high with lovely well spaced branches. They are less than ideal apple varieties, working the branches over now while young is a great idea. I find the offerings locally of the multi grafted trees, less than ideal. Most have been bud grafted and without a proper scaffold built first, as you suggest, these trees have been growing skittywompus ( my aunt’s term for unsightly lopsided trees).

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Sorry to have to correct you, but it’s “kattywompus”. My Dad said so. Goes along with “antimagogolin”.



antimagogolin =???

It’s when everything is all askew and akimbo.

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My first season of apple grafting (on wild trees, for practice) only saw about 50% takes. After a few more seasons of practice this year I did 13 grafts on the little trees in my yard, mostly clefts. All of them took though some later died from fireblight.

Here are some factors I think have helped me with success:

  • wrap scion with parafilm before cutting/shaping

  • seal the tip of the scion wood, either ahead of time or after grafting. I’ve using parafilm but I think a dab of some kind of sealer might be better and easier

  • cut scion back to two or three buds. The more wood you have out there the more moisture has to transport through the healing graft to keep it alive.

  • use electrical splice tape, either straight or on top of an initial wrap of parafilm. This stuff is amazing for grafting; you can get loads of compression on the graft very easily, and it comes off without peeling the bark later in the season

  • harvest scion when fully dormant (but not TOO early since it will then spend a long time in the fridge), store well

  • wait until stock is waking up and showing green before grafting

  • focus on cambium lining up, don’t get distracted by the shape of the wood or trying to get two sides to match if they aren’t going to

I have the honor of being the subject of instruction in the pictures from Applenut referenced above :slight_smile:


I agree with everything you said. While you are harvesting scion wood is a great time to seal the ends of the scions to help keep them from drying out. If anyone missed the tips and tricks thread I mentioned a tip I got from a grafting pro and that is if you are harvesting a small amount of wood a quick sealer is a tube of chap stick. Just smear a bit on each end of the fresh cut wood.

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This is by far the best video i have seen on top working cherry trees. He has many videos online.


The dormancy and freshness of the scions can help. Older scions lose vigor and peeter out.

Hi Roberto,

I believe that I’m the new member Mamuang referred to. I’m just a little ways west of you, I think, the other side of the river. Unfortunately, I’m a total novice and so have no suggestions to impart, but I did want to say hi and thank you for starting this thread - it looks like I may have some grafting in my not-too-distant future, and the discussion here has been very helpful. So thanks to you and to everyone else!


I’ve got a cleft graft issue I haven’t seen addressed. This spring I did a double cleft graft on a plum. Each of the two scions was lined up with the cambium on one side of the substantially larger rootstock. One of the scions has taken and is doing great, so far putting out about six inches of new growth. The other scion has clearly not taken. What do I do about the failed scion? Remove it now? Leave it alone? Cut it off? Something else?

I’d pull out the failed scion. It probably won’t matter much but that’s what I’d do.

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if one never took at all I twist them out and tar the area or cover with parafilm just because I am a bit paranoid about clefts drying, although by the following year your surviving cleft should be pretty well adapted on its own. I suppose I could actually be making things worse, trapping something fungal or bacterial in a nice, humid spot instead of in the open, but that’s what I do.

If significant growth of the one occurred I could envision carefully (so you don’t lop off the surviving scion) making like a 45-degree angle cut to remove some of that dead “corner” on the other side of the rootstock and just tarring over that like sealing pruning cuts. I guess I really don’t do all that many clefts, and they do pretty ok, because I’m not sure I took more than 3 or 4 out like that. Been lucky, maybe?