Grafting, leave the terminal bud or cut it?

When you folks graft, do you leave the terminal bud or cut it? This would only apply of course when the scion is a tip piece and still has the terminal bud. I know it can be ok either way, but would it be better to nix it for easier wrapping and to hold off bud break a bit since apples seem to open their terminal buds first? I don’t recall ever reading anything about it, but it seems most photos seem to show a cut piece without the terminal bud.

That’s an interesting thought apple. That reasoning seems sound to me and may gain someone a bit extra time. To follow it completely through, perhaps using scions from the base of the shoot might help since some of these are the very last to break bud.

Yeah…buying time was what made me think of it. I grafted all day today and it’s really a bit early here. Last year I grafted on Earth Day (I think that’s the 22nd) and things were further along then. I’m hoping that the wood won’t start breaking bud before there is a little more growth pressure. The bark is not yet slipping here, but it’s very close.
I cut them off, but I could see benefits both ways when I think about it.

On a different note, I was thinking about the grafting knife thread all day today. You are right, it really is nearly impossible to get a good clean cut with a razor knife. Like you said, it isn’t long enough to allow you to really lay the blade down flat into the wood. Furthermore, I’m thinking that one sided blade would be the ticket for making the taper cuts I did today. Razor knives will work and they’re definitely plenty sharp…just not the right design. I’m going to get one next year but I hate that seemingly none of them are lock blades. Maybe a decent straight blade with a sheath will do.

I’ve wondered about that too.

I did do 2 tip grafts this year on columnar trees. They took fine and are now growing enough that I think they are conjoined with the understock.

I wondered if there is an auxin role in callous healing, I know my experience with fig cuttings has been that ones with the terminal shoot cut off always seem to root faster. I dont know if that can translate to grafting, however. Maybe the growth tip has some sort of influence, but I dont know pro or con.

yeah, this is exactly what I was getting at. It seems that maybe it’s possible that the terminal bud is programmed (for lack of a better term) for growth priority and that may be detrimental for grafting purposes. I just want the scion alive and being adequately sustained until enough vascular tissue has formed to allow for growth. I’d be curious to know if there are any differences in cellular structure or chemical accumulation of some type in the terminal bud. I notice that I never see the professional grafter 63impala “poking sticks” in trees with the tip buds in place. Maybe they do and I just haven’t seen it.

I thought about that today when grafting an Apricot with a tip piece,but was thinking there might be just enough to do another graft,so I made the cut.The other thing I had in mind was something I read about scion wood being better towards the middle of a branch.
If there is another tip piece when grafting again,I won’t cut and see what happens. Brady

Good idea…I plan to do the same.

I read the buds are closer together at the last third. You have more room to make cuts with longer spaces between the buds in the first 2/3. With cherry they say to prune the last third off when pruning because the buds are so close together. I’ve grafted the terminal ends of apple. I got a bunch of spurs and short growth from the end bud.

On some of the types of peach and nectarine I wanted to graft onto my peach tree, I could only get tiny skinny little scions. So on two of them I grafted the tip leaving the terminal bud. Both have “taken,” it seems. The nectarine has pushed out on all three buds, and the terminal one is no farther ahead than the others. On the peach scion, only the terminal bud is pushing out, and it’s a flower bud. So…small sample size, but a little bit of data for you.

Speaking of buds and spacing: While grafting both yesterday and today I found myself looking for pieces with wider spacing between the buds so I could make taper cuts for cleft grafts. Last year I vividly remember two grafts (also cleft) where I cut through a bud making the taper cut. In both cases what very little remained of the bud sent out a shoot from within the graft itself. I was wondering if maybe there is a benefit to the bud being cut through in this way since it is comprised of fast growth cells that like to divide. Any opinion on that?

The reason I was trying to avoid them is that I find the buds to be much harder (or maybe denser) than the regular wood and it causes the knife blade to want to rise up and over the bud as opposed to slicing through it. For the most part I had an awful time trying to make nice flat, even and smooth cuts. Part of my issues is it was hot and windy and I find myself wanting to work fast to avoid drying of the host wood and scion wood. That’s probably not all that necessary but my gut keeps telling me it is.

I noticed a two year old apple cleft graft has a bud swelling on the scion part of my graft too. I’m not sure if it happened afterwards or some bud wood was there when grafted.
I got a bunch of free scions two years ago from a commercial orchard. The only guy there didn’t know what apples grew on what trees so this year I have lots of surprises to figure out. He did tell me that they changed by rows. At the time I just wanted to graft wild apple to get fresh eating apples and didn’t care of the variety. It wont be to hard to figure out when I compare my apples to the ones they sell at there store. I did about twelve honey crisp grafts, and about twenty Northern Spy yesterday. The anticipation of the magic is so much fun! It makes your trees so much more personal.

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The vast majority of my scion are mid stem and don’t have the growing tip.
This one was a graft with a growing tip, a columnar type.

It’s grown just as well as any of the others. I also have 2 others with the same experience.

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Bear…is that pear or apple?


I’ll have a similar guessing game soon–My parents had an apple tree that only fruited in the first two years, probably 40 years ago. It probably didn’t fruit after that because it didn’t get sun, fertilizer, water, pruning, etc. My remaining parent has no idea what kind it is, as he’s really lost his memory. So this spring I grabbed a few dormant twigs and I’ve now got it grafted to my big apple tree. It will be fun to find out what it is. My mother was a great cook, and I’m curious as to what type of apple she wanted to grow for herself. Uh oh, now I’m tearing up…


I use a carpet cutter with a replaceable/reversible blade to get a nice long taper cut every time. I’m a newbie here, trying to figure how to upload photos.

I use the terminal bud for grafting if available unless it is obvious that it is a fruit bud. If it blooms I just snip off the buds. My opinion is that the terminal end id sealed for you and should not suffer moisture loss while waiting on it to bud out.

I guess I was sorta thinking that since it’s programmed to grow out that it could play out prematurely. By that, I mean use up it’s stored energy for outward growth push before the vascular tissue had developed to such point as to have the ability to sustain the growth.

I also found the terminal buds are seemingly the spot mold most likes to grow in storage. They are so delicate to try to wash adequately, what with all the wrinkles and folds etc. I found myself clipping them off a lot and asking myself “why exactly am I doing this”. Not having any real good answer prompted the thread posting.

Revitalizing an old thread: I’m wondering if anyone has new data acquired since the initial question? I thought of this yesterday on the first grafting day of the year. This also occurred to me when starting fig cuttings. One advantage to leaving the apical bud is: turning the graft into a branch (lateral?) instead of a group of branches. It seems desirable in many cases. Would an apical bud and a new ‘central leader’ develop if the original was removed?