Ready to graft. . .I think? Still have a few questions and concerns!

This will be my first time grafting and despite reading a bunch and watching videos I still feel pretty uncertain about a few things.

I hope I will still have a decent chance of success on the ornamental pear tree I’m wanting to work over. It has leaves out about 1 inch or so in size – it exploded with the warm weather and rains we’ve been having here in VA. (And I was laboring under the impression I shouldn’t graft if there was any chance of the temp getting near to “freezing” as in 32 degrees., like a 34 degree temp one night. Now I know the term is used to mean colder and longer than that. oops.) I was wanting to cleft graft. . .is it too late for that and I should switch to bark graft instead?

The apple trees I’ll be working with are at green tip to half inch green and I think they should still be fine to cleft graft…

But I have a concern about my scionwood. This is my first time all around and I stored the scionwood with the ends wrapped in wet paper towel in a sealed plastic bag in an empty crisper drawer in my fridge. Only after doing that for a few weeks did I read about veggies being a danger (I knew about bananas and apples and I don’t store them in my fridge anyway). . .would having carrots and lettuce in a separate crisper bin be enough to hurt the scionwood? :confused: My more immediate concern is that I may have kept the wood TOO wet, as there is a fuzzy/moldy look to some of the apple buds. The pear looks ok to me anyway. Should scrap some of this before I start? (Pear on left and apple on right)

Is it ok to cut a 12 inch stick of scionwood into two? Will the 6 inches be enough (or too long?) All the videos I’ve seen only show a small stick of scionwood and don’t show if that is trimmed from one original piece or if it’s been cut in two. I only have 1 stick of scionwood of each variety I wanted to graft so I was hoping I could cut them in two.

Also, I have parafilm, toilet ring wax, and pruning sealer compound. I read someone where that I should seal the whole cut area with parafilm before covering with wax or sealer because wax shouldn’t get in the cut. is this correct?

I surely appreciate all the help I receive here. I hope I will start to gain traction with my knowledge and eventually be able to return the favor to other newbies. :slight_smile:


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Two or three buds on a scion is fine for grafting. You could make two or three grafts with a 12 inch scion. Some people might make more. Parafilm the complete graft area and scion is good.

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You may want to clean off the wood (maybe a chlorox wipe or bleach), but I don’t think it looks bad. I’m not sure about Ethylene damage. I keep it all in a separate fridge, but that may be overkill. You can’t do much about it now, so just give it a try. It’ll probably work anyway.

I agree, 2-3 buds is plenty.

I don’t think you’ll have any issue grafting to the pear at this point. I just started last weekend and while you are ahead of me, I don’t think you are 2 months ahead.

I had fine success with cleft grafting in May last year. I continued into June, but started to see lower success rates then. Maybe something like 95% (mid April)-> 80% (late May) 30% (June), for apples/pears, the easiest. Others, like Persimmons, actually need warmer temps.


I’ve had good success with cleft at that stage as well so I’d bet you’ll be fine (I haven’t grafted pear though). I agree with BobC and BobVance that 2-3 buds is plenty. One thing I’d recommend that I learned my first time grafting is not cutting the scion in 2 (or 3) beforehand. I took some long scions and cut them up and then tried cutting the wedge for a cleft graft. I wasn’t very good and ended up whittling the scions down to almost nothing and barely had anything left for grafting. If I don’t have much scionwood, I leave it as long as possible, cut my wedge on the bottom, stick it in the cleft, and then cut it off leaving 2-3 buds and using the remaining wood to cut the next one for grafting. I also find it easier to cut the wedge with a longer scion.


Being new at grafting myself I have a non-technical suggestion that has been really important for me to do: find some newer branches to remove from a tree in the woods or wherever (I have many alders along the creek) and create some scions similar to the ones you will be using to graft. Practice with the non-essential items, even grafting the scions back onto the original tree (new cuts). By the time you make 5 grafts each in two sessions you will have a more realistic idea of the whole process. The reason for two sessions is to give yourself time to reassess the whole situation. I did this the other day getting ready to try grafting a variety of apple scions and I thought, I need some kind of a tool belt, instead of just a two-pocket coat; but I didn’t want to take the time or spend the money without really looking into the options…then I remembered I had a cloth carpenter apron with many pockets, that was perfect. I also decided I shouldn’t try to place a graft where I can barely reach, so I got some cord to pull some higher branches (above deer level) down to a comfortable level. Practice a bit…very helpful.


One issue that I think you would face with this approach is that it is a lot easier to put parafilm on the scion BEFORE you have it in the cleft.

I usually cut it to 2-3 buds, put the parafilm on, then sharpen the scion. If I screw up too much, then I just graft with 1 fewer bud.

Then, I put the sharpened scion near the branch I want to graft to and figure out which orientation to use to cut the cleft. I do this since most branches aren’t perfectly circle, so it gives you options. Once you see which way gives you good cambium match-up, make the cleft and finish the graft.


Along with Bob and knowing my own capability very well, I wax or parafilm my scions first and I leave about an inch on skinny stuff and 1.25" or 1.5" on thicker with (3) buds above. Sometimes I use (2) buds.

You really need to go cut a bunch of wood from the forest and figure out how much room you need to save below the buds on each scion to perform your cuts.

I’d recommend you do 100 cuts on forest wood before you do any cuts on your real scions. Choose a soft wood species like willow. Don’t choose something hard as steel like dogwood, i.e. Have a look around and see what you have available and Google if you don’t know if it’s soft or hard. Willow is perfect though.

I guess for the matter of truth to it all, you may have large enough ornamental pear and apple wood available to practice all your cuts.

Get into the practice of having your scions waxed/parafilm covered in advance of attaching it to tree or to a bareroot seedling. You’ll have much better success in the long term because your scion won’t wiggle out of “match.”



I went outside this afternoon and spent about an hour practicing cutting on some apple wood from a branch that I had already decided was going to be trimmed off. I was not too happy with the knife I was using but it could just be me. I really couldn’t seem to get an actual “wedge” so that concerns me, the knife cut smoothly but getting an angled end without getting it too thin and it breaking wasn’t doing so good. I will post pictures in a little bit of some of my attempts to see if any are coming close to what they need to be. How long ought a wedge to be, anyway? I’ve seen people talking about cutting 2 inches into a larger branch for the cleft but would the wedge then be almost that long?

The advice from several of y’all about pre-wrapping with parafilm is something I’d never heard before but it makes perfect sense. Then I could just wrap parafilm around the entire graft and not jiggle the scion.

And this may sound silly, but while most all the videos and pictures of cleft grafting onto a larger branch (2 inches-3 inches) show 2 or sometimes more scion slips put in, are all allowed to grow (if they do) or is the idea just to hedge the bet and choose only one to keep later?

Do you mean like up/down vs. right/left? I guess you’re saying look at the cut section of branch and look to see if the cambium appears thicker on one side?

I dont parafilm the whole scion, just the area of the graft, then I smear the rest of the scion with toilette wax.

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He’s saying, look at the direction your scion will grow.

Hedging your bets is the answer to your question above that. Wait a full year or leave them for a couple years to produce extra scionwood if you want it or think someone else will. There no rush to remove the extra’s but you do need to remove the others before they get too large. And you can choose the best of the bunch to keep.


When you cleft, you usually have one of two scenarios: the sounds are way smaller than what they’re being clefted onto are there fairly close to the same size. If they’re actually about the same size as the rootstock then you’re just stuff a single one in. If not putting two scions in can help you to hedge your bets, but I can also serve to fill more of the big gaping hole you split into the rootstock with wood.

Generally speaking the next year when things leave out you go back and cut the less vigorous one because apparently two scions growing out of the cleft can make for a very weak juncture long-term

Just remember JoAnna there are so many ways to graft and you’ll find yourself doing combinations of things especially when you’re with friends that graft and you’re sharing tools and supplies.


I don’t do cleft grafts very often. And didn’t see what @markalbob wrote until after I finished my response. I was thinking about multiple scions as bark grafts so I didn’t know multiple scions on cleft’s could make a weak juncture, long-term.


To be fair that’s only what I’ve heard I’ve never actually experienced anything long-term with clefts.

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Bark grafts rock @markalbob


I have never had good luck with Bark grafts, admittedly mostly because I have no patience at all so I’ve already done my grafts earlier in the year. The couple times that I actually waited till bark was slipping well they did OK. What I don’t like is they seem to be much more wobbly and I’ve been afraid of them getting knocked loose by wind or birds or other branches.

I find cleft graphs ugly and slow to heal compared to whip and tongue, but they work just fine when I don’t have matched rootstock and scionwood sizes. I do a variety of things depending on time of year and what kind of materials I have but probably three quarters of it is whip.

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Quote of the year.

I hear ya. Whip and tongue is great. I got probably 99% takes of whip and tongue peach to peach; pluot to peach; plum to peach; plum to plum; About any combination you can think of on (2) five-gallon peaches; (1) 3-gallon peach and (1) 5-gallon plum… in my greenhouse/from Wal-mart.


Not right/left or up/down, but which of the 360 degrees has the best cambium match. If the branch is a perfect circle, then it doesn’t matter, but that isn’t usually the case. If you hold it up and the branch is too thin for the scion, then you can always move further down the branch and try again. That is why you should start slightly further out than you think you need- it is easier to cut more off, than to add to it :slight_smile:

Yes, I was referring to when the diameters are almost the same, which is my preferred method. I do get decent results with double-cleft grafts (2 scions, one cleft). I haven’t cut the other one away and haven’t noticed any issues so far. At most, when things are a bit crowded, I cut one back, hoping to make a fruitful side branch.

I never mastered the Whip and Tongue- 95% of my grafts are clefts and double clefts. I’ve played with a few other the others, but none seem as straight forward for me as the cleft. I’m not all that skillful/precise in working with a knife, so if I get the wood stuck together and my skin un-pierced, I consider myself lucky.

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These are some of my attempts. I really didn’t think any of them were right but like I said my knife (or my hand) couldn’t seem to make a true wedge. Are any of these close to working?