Scion Length

Am intrigued to notice lately more and more very long scions some people are grafting, some look the better part of a foot. Is this something new? I recall reading, hearing years ago when I learned that you normally left two, maybe three buds on the scion. Is there any downside to the longer scion, other than needing more wood? If the longer scion accelerates fruiting I’ll start doing it immediately. Learning new things all the time!


All I keep are two or three.It seems like more energy is needed with the extra length.One bud will start a new tree. Brady

When you get free scion wood like my customers do, you might not care how many buds are needed. I was taught that more than 3 buds and you increase the risk of the scion wood drying out before forming callous, but I see a lot of successful grafts with much longer pieces. I will stick with two buds per, though.


Hambone. I’m a long way from being able to say what works the best but I did graft about ten long apple and pear scions this season. The length was 10-18" and some was grafted as far back as January 1. Some were double interstem grafts that was about 16".

-The ones that was completely wrapped with parafilm started growing first.
-The grafts were with long W/T grafts for stability.
-The scion with one year wood started growing first and a couple with second year wood are still dormant or dried up.
-Of the three interstems 2 of 3 took

Auburn- Double interstem makes you expert in my book. I see on your profile you grow Red Rebel and Yates apples. Can you tell me what you think of their taste and disease tendencies?

Hambone. The Red Rebel and Yates are new to my orchard and have not fruited yet. The person I got both from gave me an apple off the yates tree. It was a smaller size apple with a sweet taste. I like the taste but I’m sure from a marketability standpoint it would be inferior to the newer varieties. Bill

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I usually use 5 inch scions from water sprouts. However Burbank grafted with short scions but mentioned that long scions might be better. Anyone out there ever try 2-3 foot full water sprouts for grafting? Might be a fun experiment!

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I’m testing a couple now. I should know more soon.

Your spurs in two years will be mostly on the scion stick. Not that it’s a big deal because in three years you will have plenty of new spurs. I have grafted one foot or so sticks and have lots of spurs on them in the second year. Grafts I did two years ago are growing spurs out of the grafted wood. Short scions have one or two spurs, and longer ones have six or eight. The sticks grow from the furthest bud first and that one usually takes off with the longest growth. The rest of the buds grow shorter in my experience and form spurs.

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You will have to brace a long water shoot pretty good. All the new growth will brake the graft when a bird lands or in the wind during a storm.

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I just grafted a bunch today and was wondering this very same thing. Last year (my first year grafting) I followed a very old book that stated as Alan more or less said, at least 2, no more than 6. This was for apples BTW. I grafted in very short stuff last year less than 5" in length, the average being more like 4. I got around 6’ of growth on many of them. Sometimes (actually a lot of times) I start off with something longer, but it just keeps getting shorter until I’m happy with the cut. I’d never make it as a professional…lol.
My gut tells me that shorter and fatter is better, but like others, I too see a good many grafts that are longer and seem to be ok. The big thing is that I don’t think there is a benefit to longer wood and a number of things that could be bad about it.


i agree with johnnysapples: the shorter the scion, the higher chance of success(granting that the buds are not damaged).
longer scions aren’t just mechanically disadvantaged(the longer the lever, the stronger the force it will exert on the fulcrum/counterweight, plus the fact that being longer has a higher likelihood of getting snagged by other stems/landed on by birds, etc.), but are also subject to higher resistance, since resistance to flow of fluids concurrently increases with the increase of distance the fluid(in this case–sap) must travel.


Very well said.

Interesting topic!
I think there may be a lot of forces at play within a scion.
One thing is certainly the viability or health of the scion. That could include what time of year it was harvested. Another would be how it was stored. Another would be where on the tree was it harvested, meaning was it from vigorous growth like a water sprout.
Do hormones within the growing tips control growth. We know watersprouts contain more of those kinds of hormones. They grow fast. Now having said that, when pruning generally, we cut into that fast growth by about half the length to FAVOR that sprout. Seems wrong but it works. I often have discarded the top and bottom third of a water sprout for my scions. That is if I have plenty.
The theory that there is resistance within the long scion to the flow of fluids may not be true. We know sap flows in maples when the day warms up. Could it be the scion exhibits a drawing effect when warmed up to draw the sap up. The longer scion may have an advantage there.
Only careful experiments can tell us what is happening and true.

I noticed on Stephen Hayes videos that some but not all of his grafts have support sticks all over to keep the grafts from getting damaged. I will have to look and see if those were all bark or as he calls them rind grafts. I find cleft grafts to be much stronger. I will never forget watching from the kitchen window when a robin attempted to land on a newly established bark graft. It slipped sideways and was lost. Needless to say robins were not my favorite bird for at least a day.


The pump that gets the fluid up to the top of a tree is atmospheric pressure. It happens through capillary reaction, so the length shouldn’t matter on fluid getting to the top innless the graft is compromised.

I used 3-bud sticks on my recent grafting outing. Because of that my grafts were generally 3-5" long. I did this for a couple of reasons. One is because I read and heard most people recommend small pieces of scion wood because it’s more stable. Two, because of necessity. I had a very limited amount of wood available and I had to stretch it as much as possible.

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I had one stick a foot long last year of Northern Spy. I did eight single bud grafts to stretch my wood out. Like Brady said it only takes one bud to grow a new tree. I was using a grafting tool which makes one bud grafting easy, otherwise I use a stick with two or three buds.

I’d like to see someone experiment with long and short throughout an orchard and note what the ultimate results are. Grafts of any given length vary in speed in which they start and overall growth so you’d need quite a few (long and short) to compare and draw any conclusions.


I would also, but I suspect the shorter lengths would ultimately prove advantageous for all the reasons jujube mentioned.

oh…BTW…I top worked one of my plums with your wood yesterday. I went for the “hail Mary” and didn’t even leave a nurse limb. I hope they work out. I didn’t feel like I got into the flow of things until nearly dark last night when I stopped. My early cuts were absolutely hideous, I just couldn’t seem to make a nice cut . I should have done the plum last. H’man…I’d like to send you some of this tape I use, it works so damn good. I think you would really like it. You can pull stuff together so flippin tight with it and it’s so easy to work with.