First timer grafting... advice welcome!

Hi! I’m in northern Ohio (Toledo area, zone 4) and I’m planning on trying my very first grafts soon. Specifically, I’ve got a couple feet of personally-significant cherry scions I collected back in February. They’ve been in the fridge, in ziplock bags, with a damp paper towel. They are pretty thin, which is part of my challenge. I’d say probably 1/8 inch.

I intended to graft them onto a monster of a cherry tree in my yard, but it came down in a recent wind storm.
So… I’ve ordered some mahaleb and some krymsk 5 rootstock. I’m intending to bench graft them. I haven’t seen the rootstock yet, but I imagine it’ll be substantially bigger than my scion wood.

I’ve read a bunch on here about grafts, but most people seem to agree that what I’m trying is some of the harder scenarios… My plan is to cut with a new razor blade, and use a rubber band, with toilet ring wax and medical parafilm to bind and seal the graft.

So, any suggestions on:
What grafts should I be expecting to use? (I figure I can start practicing on random trees / branches)
People say to keep bench grafted plants at a specific temp for a length of time, but all actual info I see on that is mostly about apple - generally, I guess, I have no idea what to do with my plants once they are grafted… Plant them? Pot them? Wrap them in damp shredded paper and forget they exist for a couple weeks while keeping them at exactly 62.5 degrees? Okay, I made that up, but you get the idea. I’m basically clueless. Help me fix that?

Thanks in advance!

  1. Storing scionwood. Damp paper towel is just a mold collector. Completely wrap your scions in parafilm, this will work much better for keeping them fresh until you need them.

  2. Grafting tools. Good knife is important, especially if your wood is not ideal. Victorinox grafting knife is sold for about $17, and it’s a fantastic knife, very sharp and high quality steel. Wrap the entire graft area with parafilm (no wax is needed, assuming the scion itself has already been wrapped in parafilm) and tighten with a rubber band or, better, with rubber splicing tape (for thin wood, cut it in half lengthwise).

  3. Graft type. In your situation, I would make a cleft graft and make sure the scion’s cambium is well aligned with that of rootstock on one side. I’ve made such grafts with tart cherry scions that were as thin as 1/16", and they took.


If you use a cleft graft I would suggest splitting the larger rootstock off center so that the width of the cleft matches the diameter of the scion. Done properly there will be cambium contact and healing on both sides of the scion.

Z grafts are also good for mismatch sizes.

As for the toilet ring wax, you won’t need that unless your understock is too large to properly seal with parafilm.

A box cutter with a sharp razor blade can work just fine. The challenge will be making a perfectly straight cut without scooping the scion.

One of the key points is to hold the knife at an angle to the scion so that you are slicing rather than chiseling. Here are a couple videos that illustrates the process: Grafting Day 28 and also Grafting Lesson #7


I checked on my scions the other day, and they DID seem to have a bit of mold on the paper towel. I wiped them down gently, and threw away the towels… hopefully a little mold won’t have killed my scions.

I’ll pick up the victorinox knife - who doesn’t love a new knife?

Cleft did seem like one of the simpler grafts, too, so hopefully I can get the hang of that.

Thanks, Dan! Videos are one of my favorite ways to learn, so I really appreciate these links. I particularly like seeing the skillcut series in there, I’ve watched a few of those and will now proceed to watch more of them :slight_smile:

A bit of bleach in some water can help. Weather still on the iffy side in the Toledo area. Hopefully this week will start warming up in your area. Cherrys a hard one for me to graft, they probably like a bit of warmer weather than what we are having here in Ohio right now.

No doubt! Snow last night here, then into the 70s later today and for the rest of the week… the weather’s all over. But I’m only doing a handful of grafts, so my options are wide open - I can set these up indoors as needed until the weather is “right” for them - or I could if I knew what “right” was :slight_smile:

I’d prefer to pot / bag these once they are grafted so I can relocate them and tend to them as needed, but I figure how feasible that is will again depend a bit on how substantial my rootstock is when it arrives. I can manage a dozen 4"-5" pots while I wait to see what lives and what doesn’t, but if we’re talking about a couple gallons apiece right away that is starting to be a lot of space to take up in the living room!

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You can pick and choose from some of this…

wrap your scions in parafilm prior to pairing them to the rootstock but leaving enough room on the scion to perform your cuts.

tie your scion with the rubber band and then use parafilm to cover any remaining part of the scion that’s exposed and to cover the entire area of union.

after each graft is finished and have wet bath towels on hand, roll each individual graft into the towel so that the roots are covered and that the union area is not rolled inside the towel. You can roll one graft after another into wet towels.

Once you have all of them done (I assume you’re not doing more than 20-25?) put them all inside (1) large container and give them as much sun as possible in your living room.

A heat mat will help but it can also be problematic in that the soil dries up quickly if you don’t pay very close attention. You should life the pot up to feel if it’s becoming to light every day or every other day.

Your media should be damp but not moist.

You would probably be best suited… actually I would just go ahead and recommend that you get clear poly to drape over the grafts to provide extra humidity and warmer temperatures. You should use stakes so that the poly does not rest on top of your grafted trees. Tuck the poly under the pot so it’s a completely sealed environment.

Open the poly every other day or so to allow fresh air in.

When all danger of frost has passed you need to harden your grafts to the outside. That involves introducing them to both sunlight and temperature for a few hours at a time and adding time each day forward as you take them outside and back inside your house. It’s the exact hardening off process done for flowers/vegetables. You can read plenty about that on Google.


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Very well put.
The only thing I do different is, ;
I don’t think sun is of any concern until leafs start to push.
So ,…a warm room with out sun is good , for about 2 weeks,
Just to provide warm temp. To get everything healed up.
A heat mat is not practical here.( solar powered )
And not nessicary, as long as the room is warm 70 or so.
High humidity is good. (Plastic )

I like your tips , Dax

Wow! That’s all very helpful! Thank you! My parafilm is on its way, as soon as it gets here I’ll wipe them all down again and wrap each one in parafilm. Does it matter how tightly for this stage? I know the graft needs to be very tightly covered, eventually.

I follow your explanation of rolling them into wet towels as they are done, so you’d end up with large rolls of towels, with several/many fresh grafts sticking out.

When you say to put them all in one container (I’m expecting to do at most 14, as that’s how much rootstock I’ve got coming) I assume you mean I take them out of their towels? Then… bunch them up into a bucket or large pot, and add some media - any suggestions on what media? Peat?sphagnum?sand?soil? some blend of special herbs and spices?

I’ve got a small sunroom / pseudo-greenhouse I could put these in if necessary, as well as a seed-starter warming mat thing. I’ve read lots of people feel the need to let their grafts callous over in a cooler setting first, should I be worried about this, or just try to get them comfortably warm and damp and sunny and see what happens?

The idea of a little poly “tent” for these is great, I’ll absolutely do that.

Sorry about all the questions; I just like to know what I’m doing, and what better way to learn than a group of helpful strangers! :slight_smile:

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Thanks @Hillbillyhort.

Yep, remove them from the towels and get a bag of lightweight potting media such as Miracle Grow. Just don’t get the super heavy 1.50 bags of soil. Those hold too much water.

When you wrap with parafilm stretch it out first. Get it thin and then begin at the top and work your way down the scion.

When you wrap your union with the rubber band you want it snug but not too tight. Too tight and you end up constricting. Wrap it tight though. Then stretch your parafilm and cover the remainder of the scion and the union (the working area) and go just below so you know the entire union is covered.

Mix your potting media in a wheelbarrow or some big rubbermaid tub and when you crunch up a ball in your hand it should stay together initially but fall apart as you hold it sideways in your hand. It’s lightly damp. You just want it lightweight damp.

No heat mat. I don’t use them at all.

The rest you know.

Take care,


Dax, I’ve had a little experience wrapping too tight! One year I messed myself up and set grafts back badly by wrapping rubbers way too snug- you know whereof you speak.

Like you I also like to wrap my scions tightly with parafilm, but I actually cover the whole thing and pinch off the ends. Then when the time comes to graft I just nip right through the parafilm as if it weren’t even there- any strays and stragglers get wrapped in, or pushed out of the way or just pulled off. I like to think it protects against dessication a little better that way, and it doesn’t seem to make any extra work.

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I wasn’t thinking. I kind of was thinking he’d be grafting soon and the scions would stay in the fridge as is.

I’ve been cutting down trees all day. Some were really big. I’m exhausted!

And I agree if you’re going to keep your scions wrapped in the fridge, don’t not wrap the whole thing! :smile:


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I’m thinking that might be why some of my grafts failed this year. I used rubbers and I did make them tight…:flushed::flushed::flushed:

When I wrapped mine too tight it was ridiculous! After I removed them I could see how badly I’d compressed the bark and cambium. My problem was that I was trying to correct for poor cutting- if ya’ can’t make it fit one way, try another! :-)M


Me too! :persevere:


I found that regular rubber bands don’t last as long as budding strips. So when I use budding strips I make sure I keep an eye on my tight wraps.

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Dax (and hillbillyhort, and Mark, and all) thanks again!

I cut a bunch of sticks off the big cherry tree that came down to practice on; most are clearly too lively to use, but a couple may still be dormant enough to actually graft, so I may even try to save a couple of the best looking ones and give it a shot. Mystery cherries, as I’ve no idea what cultivar they are, but I suspect they are something wild - this tree was like no fruit tree I’ve ever seen; massive and tall…

Anyhow, I figure the rest of what I cut off that downed tree is good practice wood to get the hang of the cleft cuts. My knife gets here tomorrow, and I’m excited to get practicing!

I do intend to be grafting soon - as soon as my rootstock and supplies arrive (within a week, I think). I think I’d have instinctively wrapped bottom to top, so this level of detail is remarkably helpful.

I’m familiar with the normal hardening off process, so no worries there.

I think we’ve all cut ourselves here, some of us significantly worse than others. You may want to visit a half dozen or more YouTube grafting videos until you see a couple of them where they mention locking thumbs and how to do so, One more bit of insurance

Thanks! I’ve heard that phrase “locking thumbs” but haven’t got a good understanding of it yet, to be honest. What I do have is a reasonable level of comfort working with knives, backed up with kevlar kitchen gloves. But I’d love to get the right technique, as I’m sure that’ll make my cuts cleaner/flatter as well.