Grafting after trees have broken dormancy?

The best advice I’ve seen (here, perhaps?) was to graft just when a tree was starting to push buds and shoots. I seem to get more successfully growing grafts if I follow that rule. I use whip grafts mostly, I’ve never had much success with cleft grafting.

But I also often end up with left over scionwood after trees have broken dormancy and have leafed out fully and are blooming. I didn’t use to let that stop me, especially with trees that bloom early here in S. Calif, such as my Hood and Flordahome pears. But I seemed to end up with grafts that took but then did next to nothing for years, only showing signs of life like a few leaves, or a shoot that went nowhere. In recent years I’ve I started getting grafts that grew 4-10 inches right off the bat, and I think that’s because my timing has improved…but I’m not sure. It might just be better quality scionwood, varieties that match up better with the rootstocks, or some other factor.

I still don’t know if the grafting timing was the most critical element, but I’d like to know what others think of this…and also which are the best types of grafts that can be used after the tree has leafed out and is blooming, if any. I’m talking about deciduous trees, apples, pears, plums, not evergreen ones like citrus.

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To me it hasn’t made that much difference. I’ve grafted in May to fully leafed out trees and had a lot of success. To me easily the most important thing is to have good dormant scionwood. If the scionwood is not fully dormant the grafting success plummets from my observations. Surprisingly the only time I’ve really had any success with scionwood that had swollen buds is with peach. And that is probably attributed to late warmer weather.

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There are a lot of variables on the benefits of early grafting. First of all it doesn’t apply to stonefruit at all, partially because grafts don’t take well until either or both temps are warm enough and trees are in rapid growth. Secondly, apples and pears get their greatest push of growth in spring partially as a result of aphids and leaf-hoppers so if you avoid these pests either with pesticide or because of location, the benefits of early grafting are less but can still be significant in total growth- especially in areas with shorter growing seasons.

I wrote that paragraph half a decade ago. I’ve since learned that J. plums benefit from early grafting.

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I do not agree with Alan about stone fruits not taking well if they are grafted early when the trees have swollen buds only. They do take very well if they are wrapped in parafilm to prevent dissication. During the cold weather they stay dormant but as the weather warms up they begin to grow rapidly. I have 100% take on Asian and euro plums, sweet cherries, and also apples and pears. I have many takes on peaches and apricots although I still determine exactly how much.
Almost all grafts from the last year had flowers this year.
Early grafting might improve the % of takes, but there should be special study on it, at least it does not hurt.
I am not sure about long term benefits of early grafting. Theoretically the early start should result in more growth during the season. Late grafting might cause the graft loosing competition to the vigorous new growth of the main tree. However there many more factors. Grafting on the upright branch will result in the strong growth and grafting on the weak brunch gets a lot less growth. Removing the competing branches below the graft also considerably improves the growth.

The optimum time to graft is a very useful topic. I can’t answer that but I do know grafts can also work when conditions are far from perfect. I’ve had successful clef grafts with 9+ month old scion on a plum tree 4 weeks after petal drop. I received the scion in August for bud grafting and put some of it in the refrigerator. The following Spring I decided to try grafting it rather the throwing​ it out. It was successful!


The real problem here is tent caterpillars, which reminds me I need to order BT spray again before the invasion comes, but do you I ma’am the only success with peaches is with swollen buds, or the only success with swollen buds?
Be quite you wrap them well and shade them with paper, they’re fine on apples and Asians pears for the most part.


Watch SkillCult’s videos on tree training and shaping!

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