Grafting Apple trees


If the difference is too great between scion & stock, I go to the cleft graft. It has worked far better for me than saddle or ‘V’ grafts. I’ve even made it upside down, with the cleft in the scion if it is especially hard wood.
Using stock again if a graft fails is what prompted my first try at cleft grafting. Best thing to do is try - & try again each year. I’ve done 100s of bench grafts by now in an orchard near town, & scores of grafts to stock or trees in the pot/ground.
BTW, if you feel adventurous, try rooting the upper part of the stock you cut away. I pinch off twigs/buds on the part that will go in soil, score/scrape a line or two about six inches, dust with rooting hormone (there are also wet/dipping products that work as well) put it into a pre-made hole. Press gently around it, keep it moist (not wet) and in either strong indirect light or very early morning sun. Even Geneva 30 works this way. Budagovsky118 is a slam-dunk.

Luongo43: Good to see you are beginning. Look for maximum cambium contact. Be patient. I have ruined more than one graft by pulling tape off before the callus is strong. Girdling is a much lesser problem than my blundering in that way.
An example: I made a cleft graft of Winekist, which puts out wire-thin twigs, onto a root stock that came up from a tree that had been cut down. For weeks and then three months I kept checking to see of the twig/scion was green & flexible. Yep. It opened buds in July and still was ready for the following winter in time.


I’m a real rookie and had difficulty this year. What worked best for me, esp for larger scions, was a simple whip graft, a rubber band, and then covered with parafilm. @KSprairie gave me some tips which were a real help to me. Wrap the scion in parafilm before grafting to get ready, then wrap the union, above and below, once placed together. Try not to exceed more than 2 layers of parafilm on any bud.

I have seen some place the rubber band first on larger stock to hold in place, and some over the parafilm to secure the package.


Years ago I worked at a commercial nursery. They did thousands of whip and tongue bench grafts in march on crabs, apples and pears. After the graft finished, the entire graft covered tightly in masking tape. Then they wrapped cotton butcher’s twine tightly over the tape and covered the area with wax. Let callus for a few days in a 55 degree room and put back in cold storage until they could be planted in May. It worked great! I suppose instead of cotton twine, a grafting/budding rubber would work just as well.

I am so happy with cleft grafting, modified cleft grafting and chip budding that I never bother with whip and tongue grafts. Lots of different ways to graft so try a few and see what method works best for you. Sometimes even an ugly graft can turn out in the end and leave you surprised once it actually does leaf out and survive. Amazing how tough plants really are.


I’ve used parafilm and covered with electric tape for strength. i too prefer the cleft graft . it isn’t the ideal graft but it works for me.


I’ve got some B118 just as you suggest. Snipped and stuck in potting soil (with no hormone).

Last year they died a month or two later, probably got dry.

And, if I can, I will use a ‘side graft’ as a whip & tongue…rather than a cleft for the sionwood that isn’t the size of the rootstock. I’ve also had good luck with saddle grafts almost down to the size of a toothpick.

I just think the cleft leaves an ugly scar that I can avoid with some other options.


Yeah, cleft grafts can be unsightly. I seem to be the only one to notice when family or friends inspect my little orchard.


I have used cleft grafts for most all of my grafting this year. I have bark grafted a few but cleft seems to be working for me and the scion/rootstock size difference doesn’t seem to matter if using this graft either. Lots of forgiveness in this type of graft it seems as well.


I’ll have to agree with you that the success rate with cleft is in the same ballpark as the whip and tongue. (But those scars are ugly.) (( I do assume they heal over eventually ))


Being new to grafting I so wanted to try whip and tongue but after seeing how easy it was to use the cleft graft… I kinda just decided to go that route. It was very easy to split the receiving end and then cut the wedge on the other side. We shall see how ugly the union of them turns out I guess :laughing:


I’ve done cleft a lot and I agree that they are easy and ugly. I’ve done my first whip and tongue grafts this year and I have to say a good fitting whip and tongue is a beautiful thing!!! I’ve had a few make me curse when I didn’t get the tongue right. I know the instructions say to cut the tongues 1/3 of the way down the whip but I couldn’t see why that was logical until I started cutting them. Essentially that puts the tongue cut right down the middle of the scion/branch.


If anybody has pictures of their grafts would
Love to see them to compare to mine. Thanks for all the feedback on the forum, makes me happy to know I’m not alone.


The fist year I grafted I recorded enough info that I was able to figure my graft success rate for the different types of grafts I did (this was all apple and pear). Saddle graft was the most successful, followed by Bark; Whip-n-Tongue; and cleft. This has to be taken with a grain of salt because that year bark grafts far out numbered other techniques. However, I still see a better “take” rate with saddle grafts over whip-n-tongue, and whip-n-tongue still beats cleft. However, saddle grafts are such a pain to do that I rarely do them anymore (they take longer too).


Maybe one of these days I’ll get a better way to do pictures…but I’ll just say this, you really want to show off, take the Budagovsky root with a perfect whip & tongue graft of a much lighter colored wood, and it really makes an impression!

When there isn’t a scar, except for the coloration of the wood, it’s rather awesome.
(And I guess the same could be said for same colored root and scionwood….with a perfect whip and tongue you might not be able to see that it had been grafted at all.)

But, nobody is perfect every time, and you certainly don’t have to be to succeed.


curious what is considered the strongest graft? with my heavy snow here its pretty important. i guess it also depends on where the branch is on the tree that you are grafting to.


I suspect that from a ‘structural integrity’ standpoint, that a well-done W&T is probably the strongest…
After the first year, in most cases, it’s probably a moot point. I do mostly side-veneer bark grafts, and they’re certainly easier to dislodge during that first critical year than are the W&Ts.


@Lucky_P When you do a side graft, how do you avoid ending up with a weak crotch/narrow angle between trunk and scion?


So some of my crafts have popped, some are still waiting to open and some look like they will not take. I expected this my first year. The grafts that have taken, do I remove any greenery below the graft Union? The grafts that don’t take, anybody have experience with stooling? Thank you In advance.


Do remove greenery below the graft union on grafts that have taken. But don’t give up on the ones that apparently didn’t take - they may yet surprise you. Still, a definite indication that the graft has failed is when it shrinks back - it has at that time dried out, and it will start to look like a dried-out stick, with lines running the length of the scion. It’s done and you might as well remove it and (if your lucky) regraft with new wood.

Sounds like you’re off to a good start!


I’ve not gotten in a big hurry to remove growth below the graft union.

If the graft fails even after it appears to succeed…you need a bud or two down below or the rootstock may die also. (Has happened.)

Suppose I have 3 or 4 buds growing ddown below the graft, I’ll pinch off a couple of the most vigorous, and revisit the situation in a couple weeks. Stephen Hayes videos helped with the decision I adopted a couple years back.


This was my first year grafting apples and I did it as an emergency save a piece of a dying tree. I put three grafts on three different trees. It looks like two have taken. On one the three buds that were on the scion are all growing. I’ve pinched off one of them. Do I leave both growing or pinch another off. One has a bit longer growth than the other but both seem to have decent growth. On the other graft that has taken both buds are showing growth but both are blooms. Did I need to watch for that when I cut scion? (I’m not experienced with looking at buds vs spurs.) And what do I do about it?