Parafilm vs. Polyethylene for grafting

This year I did about 150 bench grafts, mostly apples plus a few pears, using just parafilm. At this point it’s looking like about 95% take rate. I did some frameworking on a few trees and think a more rigid tape would have been better there since keeping the optimal amount of tension on the parafilm is harder under those circumstances.

So the polyethylene tape is more of an alternative to say elec tape when tightly securing joint together, but not to be used to wrap up the scion for moisture retention?

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you can ratain moisture with PE or electrical (mostly vinyl) tape. It’s a little harder though. And the stretch needed might debud if doing T or chip bud. So with those you usualy wrap around the bud. For W&T however it can make quite the airtight seal.

I however prefure parafilm

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I parafilm the graft and scion, and then strengthen it at the graft with electrical tape on top of the joint only.


I.have seen that tape- i bet it works fine, same as strips of plastic bag but easier. Would need to be removed sooner than later, don’t wrap entire scion with it. Buds cannot break through.
I used buddy tape, dont know why that length, but its about what i needed for each graft. I cut the tape in half though, narrower is better for me. I did use that over the whole scion.

I guess if you did wrap entire scion with PE for moisture retention, you would have to remove once the buds started to swell…or just use parafilm.

People have also used wax, dip the whole scion before cutting/grafting. The wax pops off the area you graft.

Cato the elder described trying the pieces together with willow and covering the union with wattle, a mixture of dung and clay.

Huh, i have a roll i bought perhaps 15 years ago that’s still completely fine. I do keep it in the back of a cupboard, though.


Fran, see my post on the budding “buddy” tape. I highly recommend it. Also the temflex RUBBER BASED electric tape is very easy to work with. I’ll send you some of both to try with your package.

I use a TINY piece of the buddy tape, your 2.5" section would last me 3-4 grafts the way I’ve been doing it.

Thanks Ryan!

Yesterday i read about
your grafting tool experiences.
Pic are mine…neither very good, although I did manage to get one or two decent cuts with apples last week.
Crushes pears…tried using on girlfriends Bradford pear yesterday, but went back to clefts and one side graft.

And now i read your buddy tape post thank you informative stuff.
On this site I asked a question yesterday about grafting Paws with flower buds on them did you see it?
Warm weather this week. I hope my prematurely bark grafted persimmons show signs of life.
Thanks again for putting together a grafting package


Buddy tape is expensive but goes a long way. The 2" serrated pieces are convenient for especially delicate work otherwise parafilm is fine and ¼ the price. The 2" pieces can be cut in half and still be sufficient- where a 1" square can still stretch to 6 or 8"

This type of grafting tool has worked well for me on pencil thickness scions. Cuts pretty clean unless scions are really small. This design seems to be available from a variety of sources:

Looking through this topic, I think that anything that meets the three goals of firm approximation of cambium layers between scion and stock, prevention of movement of graft until it thoroughly heals, and prevention of dehydration of scion, will do the job. There is no one right method.

This year, I continued to use strips of used polyethylene 1-gallon freezer zipper bags for the first two goals. I don’t measure, but cut them about 1/2 inch wide. For the third goal, I cut separate strips from thinner plastic bags. I use a single edge razor, on a cutting board, to cut the strips.

I tie the zipper bag strip into a knot below the graft, wrap flat and tight up beyond the graft union, then down, then repeat so there are two layers of binding. While wrapping, I hold the stems against my thumb to steady it for a tight seal. I tie the end of the strip back below the graft union using the end of the original knot. I make it as firm as I can without breaking the strip. Then I repeat with the thinner plastic strip, to cover the scion and end of the scion. I wrap so there is an opening at each bud.

This year, I grafted about a dozen apple grafts, all but one whip and tongue. One was cleft graft because the scion was as thin as a spaghetti noodle. I also grafted two chestnuts, one pear, and three cherry, all whip and tongue graft. Every graft took, which has been true for as long as I have been using this method. I think the apple and pear sticks “want” to heal and grow, which helps.

For the whip and tongue grafts, I try to cut stock and scion so there is a fairly long stretch of cambium contact, about 1 1/2 inches. The cut to make the tongue is about an inch. This year I wore a glove that is sold for cooks who use mandolin to prevent cuts, and used a single edge razor blade to make the cuts. The sharpness of the blade was very helpful and the glove prevented cuts in my fingers.

Years ago, I watched a video of Stephen Hayes / Fruitwise doing grafting using strips of plastic bags. He was much quicker than I am, but also much more experienced. This might be the video. He used saddle grafts, but I’m more comfortable with whip and tongue. Looking at that, I think his plastic strips are thinner than mine, and I pull mine tighter, but each person needs to do what works for them.

The plastic strips do need to be removed when the graft is fully healed. I found some that I forgot until the following year, Those grew, but were almost girdled and they were much less vigorous than the ones where I removed the plastic on time. They rebounded after I removed the plastic strips. I try to do that when there is about a foot of growth.

I don’t use parafilm at all any more. It costs too much and Im happy to use the repurposed, free materials. What I do is too slow to be done at a commercial scale, but is pretty nice when outside on a quiet morning with the birds singing.

edit: link to another Stephen Hayes tutorial that employs polyethylene strips.


just wondering, how much does parafilm M cost where you’r at? you say you find it to expensive. But the parafilm M for me comes down to roughly 0.013 euro a strip. roughly 75 grafts for a euro does not seem that expensive to me. The price might be higher if you buy in small amounts. But even at 5 times the price i would not want to go without.
The set it and forget it nature and easy wrapping over buds makes it really convenient for me.

you should be able to get a 4 inch wide roll 38m long (125 feet??) for around 20-30 dollar. This should last you years. And once you have it. you can also use it for other things. Like wrapping cuttings. You could even use it to wrap lids on jars. (that’s where they use it for in laboratory’s to seal off test tubes and petri dishes.

I buy mine at medical/lab supply stores. But I’m sure you can also find some on amazon/ebay. Years ago i bought a meter or 2 on ebay. I think it came down to 5 cents a strip back than. But if you just need a little that might be worth it. If you plan on grafting the next 5-10 years, just get a whole role. You’ll find a way to use it up. Or share some with friends. Or wrap scions you send out.

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Thanks for the info. It may have come down in price since I last bought it, before this original post in 2016 I think.

For myself, I’m perfectly happy with the strips, but everyone has their favorite method, which is great. That way everyone learns.

I agree with Bear_with_me. There are multitudinous methods for grafting. A lot of it become personal preference.

I really like the tool @SpokanePeach uses. We do a lot of grafts at a time, so the tool is much faster than anything I could do with a knife. When you hire labor, time is money.

Note that some version of the tools are more robust than others. @Barkslip has several threads on the tools.

I also happen to like the parafilm as a wrap (not as a grafting tape). It seems to keep the scions just the right level of moisture. I did one round of peach grafting of about 25 grafts, and I think I got 100%, or nearly so. A second round of peach grafts didn’t do nearly as well, but the weather turned really cold after I grafted, so I’m fairly certain it was temperature related. I’ve done a third round, but it’s too soon to see the results yet.

Also, used the tool on 30 cherry tree grafts this spring. It’s a bit early to say, but so far they too look good with a high level of successful grafts.

It took me quite a while to successfully graft peaches. I borrowed lots of bits and pieces of knowledge from other folks before I finally found a method which works for me.

I buy the 2" wide rolls of parafilm, lab grade stuff. It’s like 25-30 bucks a roll. I don’t know how many grafts I get out of a roll, but it’s a lot (maybe couple hundred). Probably costs somewhere around 15 cents per graft.


I might add that myself even if tool or not; it becomes later in the year so bark grafting at a friend’s maybe, etc; you dip the tip bud of each scion in wax and prepare the scion before dipping so it’s short but long enough for you/me/yourself to do a bark graft or even a simple flap graft which is also known as a banana grafts. I have each scion ready to go; that’s how I save them refrigerated if can in a drawer made for produce. the old guy taught me that 20-years ago. he said, keep your scion in the produce drawer

opportunities wake up to graft during July for example after a great deal of rain for a week; bark might slipping and so I try to convey as often I can to keep on grafting.

parafilm has it’s limitations as does waxing as does aluminum foil when it gets hot outside. I’d say 90-degrees Fahrenheight anyways might cook a scion in all three of those

that’s when you keep the scion in the stage of no wax, no parafilm, none aluminum foil; none bagging which is an oven for a scion, tooo…

use white and white only flagging tape to do your graft, work:

Bring water to the tree every week going forward to water it deeply when grafting in these hot temps.
Edit: thanks for the reminder @oscar


if it’s hot outside. (last year i did my last grafts during a heatwave) you can always use slightly diluted water based indoor White paint on the parafilm. When applying it seems like it doesn’t adhere well. But after it’s dried it’s quite good :slight_smile: i did that last year and it worked perfect.

I prefer the parafilm and painted scion over a bare one (with just the tip covered) because during a heatwave the bare scion can dry out super fast, unless the graft is healed already that is ofc.

Also if properly wrapped (no air holes) i don’t think parafilm acts like a greenhouse. Since the thin film is directly in contact with the surface that’s heating up and the air, it can easily conduct heat away.

The only thing that will make a parafilm wrapped scion significantly heat up more than an unwrapped one is lessened evaporative cooling. But you don’t want a lot of evaporation of your scion anyway.

Think about it, if you wrap your finger in parafilm, does it feel less cold or warmer than your unwrapped finger next to it? And what if you keep it in the sun? Maybe it might make 0.1 F difference. But probably not enough to measure or notice.


I forgot one thing. It may not seem relevant but when grafting in extreme heat, the tree needs to be watered weekly.

The other part is the odds diminish late in the year and should the scion grow as shown above (a JULY graft), it still has to wake up again next year.

Oscar, thanks for your help.

7-days is all that is required for a scion to fully knit, btw… as another point of reference.

If you live where humidity is rampant, there’s your free moisture protection to the scions, too.

Lots to know. Lots to learn. Lots to remember.