First grafting attempts - Practice Lemon

Since this spring will be my first time grafting trees, I figured I’d better get some practice in. I’ve been practicing the cuts on twigs, but the only way to tell for sure if I’m lining things up right is to try it live. I have a long-suffering lemon tree that I’ve grown from seed that is due for some pruning. So I figured why not graft some buds/twigs to itself on branches that I will probably remove anyway. Better to make mistakes here than on my apples, pears, eyc. Posting here to keep myself honest and track progress, but any comments or critique are welcome. I’ll also include my novice observations.

Tools and materials:
1/2" parafilm
sheepsfoot pocket knife

First up is a chip bud. Taking the bud off was easy, but I ended up cutting clean through the branch on my initial destination, as well as the second choice. Lesson learned: small twigs are tricky for this method. Once I selected a slightly thicker twig, I was able to cut a spot that matched very well with very little effort. I lined it up, then tilted it very slightly (per fruitmentor youtube recommendation). The accidentally removed twigs were used in the next two attempts.

Next, is a so-so cleft graft. I was unable to achieve as full insertion depth, even after making my cleft a little deeper. I think the top of my cuts were either curved or too steep. I lined up the cambium on one side as best as I could, then gave it a slight tilt to increase odds of contact.

Lastly, a quite poor attempt at a whip and tongue. The joining surfaces ended up offset from each other, and the union was pretty wobbly and hard to wrap with parafilm. I have the least confidence in this graft of the three. Clearly, I don’t understand this graft as well as I thought, and I’ll have to hit the books and the practice twigs some more if I want to use it.

Out of the three attempts, I liked the chip bud the best. I think this method makes the most sense to me and that I understand it best. It’s also the one I’ve practiced the most, so it’s not so surprising that it went the most smoothly. Cleft graft I liked OK, but I definitely need more practice. As I mentioned before, I really need to revise my understanding of the whip and tongue graft. I predict that the chip bud is most likely to succeed and the whip and tongue is least likely. We’ll see what actually happens.

My other observations are:

  • a sharp knife is helpful (duh)
  • 1/2" parafilm covers territory faster than I thought it would when I saw it on the roll
  • lemon twigs require a lighter touch than the oak I’ve been practicing on
  • I can see how a single bevel knife could be helpful, but it doesn’t strike me as necessary
  • wrapping the top of a twig after grafting seems dicey. I understand now why others here recommend wrapping or waxing it before grafting

I think you’ll see some successes- looks to me like you’re doing pretty well, anyway.

Since you seem interested in comments I’ll share a few, but they’re free and may be worth what you’re paying!

  1. Your tools should be fine. I also use a little screwdriver to hold clefts open, and I have a wooden mallet that I use to drive the knife into the end of the stub when I’m cleft grafting -the little taps seem to give me more control that rocking the blade back and forth, so I don’t split the wood.

  2. A bit of wax or glue over the end of the scion is good to help it stay hydrated if you don’t want to wrap first, which I do recommend.

  3. Chips almost teach themselves, don’t they?! But budding isn’t much harder, with a little practice, as long as the bark is slipping well.

  4. I’ve been cutting my scions pretty thin for clefts lately; I have trouble making trim enough cuts if the thick part of my wedge is very thick. And I like it if the rootstock doesn’t have too big a gap in it. I was taught to make the cuts on my scions in one swipe, but it doesn’t work that way for me- I end up whittling on them.

Whip and tongues take some practice, but once you get it it’s pretty straightforward. I’d suggest just doing a simple whip w/o the tongue. Make the cuts on the scion and the rootstock with your nippers, align, wrap and label. Then if you care to refine it a bit you can start cutting the tongues, but a lot of very good grafters don’t think it’s that much better than a simple whip, if at all.

Here’s a link to a discussion we had a year or two ago. Be sure to scroll down until the bark-grafting pictures show up. Basic Tips For New Grafters #2: Different Grafts (Discussion Needed)

Good luck and have fun!


want to post this quickly
just for a idea you could always also grow lemon quince
(tastes like lemon with sugar added lemonade ()

Not easy to find your post (browsing) I saw it,
but PC was stolen so thought I’d drop in while at the library.

Maybe you’d have no use ., but thought I’d put it out here since others may use it.

is this out doors or protected in a green house.
(just wondering (as I will not reply for a while, but will read follow ups.)


IMHO parafilm is not strong enough to get a good tight wrap and your take % will be reduced. I use 4 or 6 mil clear vinyl budding tape which is stronger for citrus. I’ve done hundred of tee buds but also do the occasional chip bud. Also do bark grafts for large root stock. I use parafilm to wrap scions on whip/tongue and bark grafts so they don’t dry out. I don’t use cleft on citrus except for kumquats. Tee budding/bark graft doesn’t work so well on kumquat to trifolaite for some reason. And kumquat budwood is usually pretty small so cleft works good. If the bud wood is big enough I do a chip bud. Leave your buds wrapped up until spring as citrus won’t grow in cool weather unless in a greenhouse. I don’t use a pocket knife for grafting. I like a nice thin fixed blade florist’s knife sharpened very sharp. CitrusBuddingPage1 - mrtexascitrus


@marknmt thanks for the encouragement and this. I’ll have to check out that thread and try out some plane old whips.

@mrtexas Not in a greenhouse, but a nice sunny room inside. This tree usually puts on a flush of growth in Jan or Feb, and there are some buds that look like they’re thinking about it now. Also just checked and the bark seems to be slipping pretty well, so we’ll see. This is its first full winter in these digs, do who knows what it will do. Noted on the parafilm not being stretchy enough. Since I’m new at this, I suspect the choice of tape may be my smallest issue. As for the knife, mine is about 1mm at the spine. Is the floral knife much thinner than that? Thanks for all the input. I’ll definitely use it, especially if I get more serious about citrus grafting.

@Francis_Eric I admire your dedication to commenting. I hope you manage to get your pc back. My lemon is not in a greenhouse, but I bring it indoors in winter. There’s enough lemon quince growing around town that I don’t feel the need to grow my own.


But be sure to note what MrTexas said about needing more than parafilm to bind thoroughly.

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Yes, and I’ve seen others say that. I’ve also seen some say it’s fine. I find this interesting. That’s part of the beauty of my low stakes trial. I’m going to start with this and see what happens. I’m sure I can buy additional materials later if I need them. What do you like to use in addition to or in place of parafilm?

@mrtexas is this the same as the vinyl tape?
PVC Grafting Tape - Organic Growers Supply

Parafilm is great for sealing in moisture, and that’s essential, and it doesn’t have to be removed because it degrades in a season. But it’s hard, if not impossible, to stretch it tight enough for most grafts. So people have different ways of doing it. You can wrap your buds and grafts with budding/grafting rubbers either before or after the parafilm, and they’ll generally break down too. Or you can use a tough tape (you can even cut strips of plastic bread bag if you want to experiment) but it will need to be cut through. Paper masking tape works, but it never seems to come off and looks crappy. Vinyl electric tape, Temflex, they all work.

How would you like an experiment? Find some tough vegetable stuff like palm leaf strips, rafia, or some barks and use it as the binding part of the graft, and then cover it with, say, beeswax, tree sap (pine resin?) cow pie, or whatever. See if it doesn’t take. Remember, grafting has been around a heck of a lot longer than plastics, and those folk back when figured it out. It might work or not, but that would be true anyway, and at least there’s a decent chance of success …


It’s funny you should mention that. I have all those materials handy (except dung, but I’m full of it so that shouldn’t be a problem) that I’ve made, processed, or collected as part of my primitive skills hobby. I’ve considered grafting that way, but I figure I should try the standard modern methods first, and play later.

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Glad to see you are getting so practice in this time of year.
People have different methods / thoughts about grafting.
Here are mine …
A good quality steel, “razor sharp” ,dedicated ,single bevel , knife is key to success .
A properly sharpened knife,( single bevel) allows one to make flat cuts , that fit together without gaps.
Try to learn to make the proper cut in a single pass. ( one plane)
" not" whittling on a bad cut, just start over.
I find parafilm to be sufficient binding / sealing for most all my needs. Learning to use parafilm is a skill in it self.
First, there are some “bad batches” of it that just won’t work !
Best used at room temperature , a cold wind makes it brittle.
It needs to be pulled/stretched to the point " right befor " it breaks to work good., to seal., laying flat.
Practice just pulling and wrapping to see how tight you can pull it before it breaks.
Then over the Union itself , twist and pull it so that it forms a kind of rope ( not flat) to bind the union together .
This usually provides sufficient binding for all but the strongest winds, or birds kicking scions off.
In fact it’s usually all I use. , because it does not need to be removed latter, most other things do.
A razor sharp knive causes less tissue damage, faster healing
A single bevel will help making flatter cuts , that fit together better without gaps.
Also I like the whip with the tounge., as it holds itself together while you wrap. More cambium contact. Stronger. Can be a challenge to learn , but worth it.
May be early for citrus grafting,as usually they don’t push growth until closer to spring.

But I am glad you are practicing , getting ready !

Picturing the snowman in your yard , with knife and scion in hand


Thanks! I hadn’t thought of twisting the parafilm. I just tried that, and you’re right, it does let you crank on it quite a bit more. The first thing I did do after getting the parafilm was to wrap it around some unsuspecting pencils so I could get a feel for how it works. I can see why some would like more tension before it breaks. It reminds of me of fly tying with silk thread, where there’s a thin margin between tight enough to actually hold things in place and breaking the thread, as opposed to some of the modern threads which you can crank down on with impunity. There’s a lot I like about parafilm, but I definitely see @mrtexas and @marknmt 's point about the breaking strength.

Definitely making sure my knife is as sharp as possible. I have so many pocket knives that I don’t use that I’m loathe to buy another one for this. That being said, I have a standard-issue Victoronix knife about the same size as their grafting knife that I’m considering regrinding to a single bevel. The single bevel strikes me as being less of an issue for chips than for other types of cuts, but I obviously don’t know. What are your thoughts on that?

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I learned this year that cheap rubber bands are not enough to hold many grafts together. I will be using cordage on future grafts because it is cheaper and more available to me than grafting rubbers. I bought beeswax to seal things in. I thought the ancient method was beeswax and cheap/disposable cordage, since both are products/biproducts of an orchard.


I’ve used store bought rubber bands, but prefer grafting rubbers made for the purpose. I still have the original package I bought some years ago. Midwest Vineyard Supply

I imagine you’re right about the ancient methods; I always just figured that people made do with what they had. How has the beeswax worked for you? You must mix it with something or heat it?

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I heat it in a can and dribble/brush it on. We will see how it survives the wet winter here. I have 2 Nanaimo peach and 2 La Crescent plum grafts that survived. My failed grafts were Beauty & Toka plum on sand cherry and Shiro plum.


Off subject, but please post reports on that Nanaimo peach as it comes along. There’s a shortage of information here on that one. :slightly_smiling_face:

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Quote (" The single bevel strikes me as being less of an issue for chips than for other types of cuts, but I obviously don’t know. What are your thoughts on that? ")
Well , good question.
I don’t have any double bevel knives around anymore. So ?
? Don’t know?
I cut the place where the chip will go first.
And usually leave that on the blade, to judge the size of the chip ( with bud) that I need to cut to fit the spot.
Cut the chip with bud, leaving it too on the blade…
Then just slide it into place.
If it fits, it works .


Here is my florist knife and vinyl budding tape. Why do I use it? I went to a budding class in 2000 and bought the knife and tape there. Have bought dozens of rolls of tape since then. Works for me. I also use parafilm to wrap scions so they don’t dry out. Some like buddytape which is $35/roll while vinyl is $2. IMHO it is not able to wrap strong enough for me, but that is just me. I graft mostly citrus and persimmon but have done pecan and jujube as well. Don’t much graft citrus anymore. Can’t bud them and sell them as it now has to be done in an expensive screen house. I bud a few citrus for friends here in the citrus greening quarantine zone. The knives can be bought in bulk for $1.50 each plus postage.




Thanks for the links! Those look like good prices if I decide to go that route. With the vinyl tape, can you wrap right over the bud like with parafilm? That’s part of the appeal for me (plus the fact that I already have it in hand).