Perfect time to cleft graft

I have never cleft grafted anything before, but I’m ready to go.

When would be the perfect time to start cleft grafting my 3 or 4 year old dwarf apple trees?

I’m in NC - zone 7

The big thing is for the tree to be actively pushing and full of moisture. I wait until the leaves are “as big as a squirrel’s ears”, but continue for another month. Here that means starting the last week of April or thereabouts.

Apples aren’t so temperature sensitive as some of the stone fruits; the cuts will callous over at much lower temperatures than say, peaches or apricots.

Big thing is that the graft not dry out, so wrapping the whole thing is important.

Good luck!


In my case, the sooner the better because of all the other orchard task that seem to hit at the same time. Wonder if I could start just as soon as the leaf buds start to open? Also, would it be safe to go ahead and saw off the old leader now?


I grafted my apples when I saw buds just start to swell. They seem pretty forgiving as far as timing in my limited experience.

l think so- but you do want the sap to be flowing. If thinks aren’t waking up too quickly and you feel a need to push things a little be extra careful to prevent the scion from drying out. Wrap it well, of course, make sure the cuts are well sealed with wax or tar, and consider slipping a plastic bag over it. If it’s very warm and sunny you may want a foil cover instead, to keep from baking it.

I just bought some Wilt Stop to spray on a couple of scions that are popping too soon (last year’s cleft graft) in the hope that it will help prevent winter kill if it gets very cold again. Your question makes me wonder if that product wouldn’t be useful to spray on new grafts.

Just got a response from Bonide, and they say don’t do the Wilt Stop thing. Oh, well.