Grafting: can you hedge your bets?

I keep coming up with the same question while grafting. I’m grafting onto a young but established apricot and peach at this point. I know that many people advise one to strip all the growth on the branch below the new graft so that the graft gets all the nutrients and growth. But isn’t it true that if I completely strip the growth, that will leave the branch permanently “blind” below the graft? I’m not expecting all of my newbie stone-fruit grafts to take this year, and I don’t want to be left with major scaffold branches that are stripped bare. Any advice? Could I hedge my bets but cutting all growth below the graft down to say, stubs, or twigs with one eye left on them? Or is it only with pome fruits that you can permanently stop all the eyes from growing, and with stone fruits they always have the potential to sprout new growth? Thanks.

That’s what I did and with a 100% take. I wanted those short limbs for future graft points on my frankentree. There is no need to strip everything off, in fact, 67chevyimpala (professional grafter) warns against it to avoid flooding the grafts.
I think it would be advisable though to limit competing vigorous growth, but honestly I’m not even so sure about that. I removed more growth than what I added in the way of scion wood.

You want to strip the limb you are grafting on. If the graft fails the limb will sprout adventitious buds, they are the “backup plan” trees have in the event of bad freeze etc.

I don’t think flooding grafts is a problem on fruit trees. On vines it can be a problem but you just cut below the graft and the extra sap heads out the cuts. The opposite problem is the problem with amateurs, they leave on too much competing growth and the grafts don’t take.


Scott what determines the amount of potential flooding that may or may not take place? The amount of growth on the limb or the circumference of the limb (in other words the size of the highway)? I kinda look at, or envision a tree like a main water trunk line with smaller branch lines breaking off of it. All these branch lines (pipes) have holes everywhere growth exists. If I plug these holes (cut / pinch off) all growth then to me that increases available pressure at the scion. Now sure, that’s great for growth, but at what point does this become an issue i.e. flooding. I’m not at all debating the wisdom of removing vigorous competing growth (I fully get that), but in the interest of avoiding flooding AND unnecessarily removing other growth WHY does it become necessary to “strip” a limb completely? If it’s a 1" limb it is way more than capable of supporting both with no downside as I see it. Am I thinking wrong here? When I say “both”, I mean the scion and some existing growth. I absolutely believe some should be removed and certainly anything sizable and vigorous.
I removed a lot and left short 5" long limbs with growth on them for future grafts (a good many of them) and got more than 6’ of growth from all scions grafted and continually pruned back the existing growth to focus growth pressure to the scion(s).

If a guy who has successfully and professionally grafted for decades and does a quarter million or more fruit trees a year says it can be a problem, then I’m inclined to believe him. Especially since I’ve never, ever seen anyone online or elsewhere with anywhere near the knowledge or skill level in in-situ grafting as he clearly has. A lot of folks talk a lot about it, but he does it.

Thank you both for your replies. Clearly there are some differences of opinion, but that’s what these forums are for! I’m sure both scott and impala have grafting experience, perhaps on different types of tree projects. I’m certainly not quibbling with anyone, and I’m willing to strip whole scaffold branches, but I just want to be very specific, since different types of trees may require different treatment. I’m going to ask further questions about stone fruits and pomes separately. I have trained my trees to the open center form. I’ll post a photo of my apricot, with two bagged grafts at the tips of limbs, about 4 feet high. (I would have grafted lower down if I could have found thick twigs to match the scions.) Pardon two things–lack of weeding which makes it hard to see, and the fact that my grafts seem like they’re dressed up for a vigilante outing! Ugh. In the first picture, should I strip all the little lateral twigs all the way down to the base of the tree? @scottfsmith will they grow back later on an apricot?

The second picture is a close up of the little twiggy laterals on one of the branches that are grafted on top. I should remove all of these right down to the branch, is that the proper technique? Again, they’ll grow back?

Then on my old apple tree, good form would require that I get rid of everything (all the fruiting spurs, etc.) except the two grafts, right down to the main scaffold branch?

I’m willing to take my chances, I just want to make sure I’ve got the right idea. I remember that @alan haigh had mentioned on another thread that he likes to leave more branches in order to have things to tie the graft branches to eventually, but I don’t know if that referred to very different circumstances. @Appleseed70 maybe you don’t consider the tiny laterals on the apricot to be vigorous growth so ou would leave them there? Thanks for your time, folks! --Lizzy

@Appleseed70, the reason why I strip myself is I lost many grafts where I did not clear out the competition. It is absolutely critical for persimmons, and it is very important for stone fruits. This isn’t based on what I read, its based on grafts I lost when the stock out-competed the graft. Apples and pears you can still get takes, but they may not grow well at all which is almost as bad. Been there done that many times. Except for persimmons you don’t have to strip every bud, its OK to leave a few but don’t let the tree get ahead of the graft or its game over. I searched for the guy you mentioned who was talking about flooding but could not dig it up.

@Lizzy, I would strip any competition within a foot or two of those grafts, mainly focusing on things that are same or higher height – those higher things can keep the graft from taking at all, and then can set it back greatly even if it does take. Those little twiggy branches are not serious competition now, but keep an eye on them and remove if they appear to start competing with the graft.


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Thanks Scott!

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Scott…a couple of his videos have been posted here at growingfruit…I reposted someone else’s just a few days ago and that may have been one of them. He has mentioned this briefly at least twice in his videos, maybe more, but not a whole lot. I don’t think flooding is a huge issue at all, nor do I think having a stripped limb is necessary at all, at least under controlled circumstances. I don’t have much experience in grafting for sure, but imo experience is often over-rated. Research and study I’ve found can often trump supposed “experience”. I’ve found this out with one very particularly sharp and hard-working apprentice/intern who has worked with me.
Can you answer this for me, (no research data required):
Is it advantageous to focus all energy into the grafted scion, even when doing so means doing away with some growth you may want to otherwise preserve? I think you absolutely can “hedge your bets” so long as you consider the fact that there is limited delivery available for growth support and one would certainly want to err on the side of providing more than capable growth pressure to the scion. I’m not so sure that means stripping a limb.
Scott, I’m not proposing this as a fact, because really I don’t know this is 100% true (especially on stone fruit), what I’m really doing is asking a question, but in doing so, asking you to consider the aforementioned.

Lizzy…I understand your seeking primarily Scott’s opinion, but FWIW, if I may, allow me to chime in and I’ll listen to others suggestions so we can learn together…ok? In the first photo (foremost graft branch), I’d cut that small branch (closest to the new scion) back to the first bud (cluster of new leaves) since it’s headed in an advantageous direction already. I’d cut also the branches growing toward the center, I think I see at least two. I’d also clean up anything else I even remotely thought not useful.
The most aft branch (also in the 1st photo) is more difficult to see and spatial perception is even harder. I would either fully cut off the upward curving lower limb or trim back it’s growth in a way that benefited good shape while also removing drains on growth pressure.

As far as the tiny laterals in the other pics Lizzy you’re right…I do not consider them vigorous growth, but they may become that after removal of other stuff. I’d remove any of those you felt needed to go or could go. In the last pic it *appears * there are at least two that should go.

For me, other than that…I’d stand pat and like you said “hedge your bets”.
I would not allow any fruit to exist on any small limb that I’d grafted onto.
Opinions, ideas and even disagreements are warmly welcomed.


@Appleseed70, I finally found the guy. It looks like what he is doing is leaving a nurse limb. Many pros don’t do that so I don’t think there is a clear consensus. Here for example

is a WSU website showing apple top working with a nurse limb. They say

Some grafters believe that leaving a “nurse limb” (a modest size scaffold low in the tree) will help the grafted tree through its first grafted season. Others skip this step.

They don’t mention anything about graft flooding here, I don’t think that is a problem on apples ever. The nurse limb is left to keep some leaves on the tree to help it get some vigor that spring. I sometimes leave a nurse limb, but it doesn’t seem necessary to me.


I had always thought another big reason for the nurse limb was when topworking it allowed the tree to survive if the grafts failed for some reason.

@scottfsmith Your quote above is from 2015. Any change to your view on leaving nurse limbs for apple grafting? I’m converting some of my heirlooms to modern varieties. Turning limbertwigs into Keepsake, Sweet Sixteen, Sundance.

I generally have not been doing it, unless there is a vigor issue with the stock. For example it was just moved or it is a re-graft after first round failed.


Sorry, Im posting on a old topic. Deleting