Selecting graft wood

It is time to begin gathering graft wood so I figured it’s a good time to begin a topic of insights on selecting and storing scion wood. I will start with a couple of ideas. First, the best material is one year wood of water sprouts for me. Check the development of the buds, well formed buds have more energy reserves and/or require less energy to get where they need to go, sometimes buds are poorly formed on the sprouts base so look for that.

Another idea- some varieties bear on last years wood every year or every other year. If you can avoid using shoots with flower buds you will have better results, even if you remove flower buds promptly. For some varieties the bulbous nature of flower buds make them obvious with a little experience, for others, like N. Spy flowers are hard to see, but Spy doesn’t flower on 1 year wood in my experience.

I have much more to add, but that’s a start. Maybe someone else will fill in what I might have written and save me the trouble. I’m sure others can make contributions I’ve never thought of.


Nicely done Alan. Thanks for sharing.

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Do you usually pick scion wood from SW exposure or any where it is adequate size?

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I do prefer well lit wood, the idea being that the more stored energy the better. The theory seems sound.

Does skinny wood normally grow slower after take than thick water sprouts?

I like working with thicker wood, but how quickly it grows probably depends more on what you graft it to. I graft to water sprouts mostly and if you stuck a thinner piece towards the end of that it will not be slowed much. However if you graft a thin piece on a thinner water sprout it will likely grow quite a bit slower.

I don’t bench graft, incidentally and mostly graft to make my nursery trees bi-varietal and to provide myself and clients new varieties in established trees. I do a lot of grafting, but not a lot of different types of grafting. Almost entirely splices. There is certainly room on this topic for input from other grafters with more experience than me with other types of grafting.


My comments are specific to black walnut. Walnut is among the most difficult species to graft. By properly collecting and storing scionwood and making good quality grafts, I get 90% success.

The best takes are with one year old scionwood that has a large terminal bud. The terminal bud will trigger growth even when other conditions are unfavorable. Proper size and condition scionwood is best collected from vertical growth near the top of the tree. I often cut a limb off the tree so I can get the vertical growth at the tips of the branches. Don’t collect scionwood after several days of sub-freeing temperatures. Wait until at least 3 days have passed with temps above freeing during the day and no lower than 28F at night. Cut scionwood with a couple of inches of 2 year old wood at the base of the stick. This gives plenty of room to whittle to make good grafts and leaves extra moisture in the wood. Two year old wood also makes an excellent base to attach the scion if using any type inlay graft. I store walnut scionwood in a refrigerator crisper drawer in gallon ziploc bags with moist promix BX, a peat based seed start mix. Promix is sterilized before packaging and tends to prevent fungal growth during storage.

The only other suggestion I’ll make is to learn to make inlay side grafts. Walnut tends to bleed if you cut the top off so I make an inlay graft into the side of the tree. Cut the scion with about 3 to 4 inches of wood to contact the stem of the rootstock. Attach the scion tightly using a couple of 19 ga. wire nails. (nails are sold by beekeeping suppliers as 1 1/4 inch frame nails) After two weeks, I cut the top out of the tree a couple of feet above the graft. This forces the graft into growth and prevents flooding under the scion. As the graft grows, I tie it to the stub of the tree for support. It is normal to get 5 feet of new growth from a graft to a 1 or 2 inch diameter established rootstock.


It is possible to graft apples and pears on the same day you harvest wood just before first growth of the scion wood and I suppose early spring is the best time to cut wood so it is stored for a shorter time- but be mindful to harvest stonefruit wood a bit earlier because it seems to come out of dormancy in the fridge if you wait until the last minute. Surprisingly, I’ve still had success with stonefruit that is already pushing green when using parafilm to entirely cover the scion.

I harvest apple wood from Jan. on because I’m pruning at sites I won’t return to later on. I haven’t figured out what the minimal amount of wrapping is needed so I just resort to overkill. After cutting the wood into 8" lengths I wrap bundles of about 12 sticks with a layer of Glad Press’nSeal- the most expensive and strongest of food wrapping products and twist the ends and finally twist by holding the whole bundle for complete tightness.

I use the Glad product because it is much stronger than stretch wrap which I use for the second layer, wrapping in a label with permanent marker that can be seen from outside the bundle. I place these bundles in resealable freezer bags and write the varieties on that- I fit at least 6 bundles per bag, right up to the top. I place several of these bags into a kitchen garbage bag with a moist cotton rag at the bottom twisting the top and storing it in a cheap beer fridge without automatic defrost (great for storing apples, too, but not at the same time). Defrost pulls moisture out of wood and fruit.

It is often suggested that scion wood be dipped in a diluted Clorox mixture and dried before wrapping, but I never bother to do this and my wood ends up fine, but that still seems like a good idea.

Obviously, most of you do not store as much wood as I do (I only use a fraction of it but I never know what I will need, not just varieties but also diameters). I do quite a bit of grafting for my nursery and orchard management business. If you are storing much less wood you will need to change your organization of wood and label the first wrap and storing a few varieties in each bundle.


I won’t be cutting many scions this year, but I think I’ll experiment with wrapping the scion in parafilm before I cut it off of the tree. That kinda precludes the bleach treatment though, unless you carry a mister or damp towel with you; might be kind of a bother if sterilizing is important to you. But this is with apple and pear.

Press and Seal is good stuff. I imagine you could cut strips of it in place of parafilm- maybe even wrap the entire graft in one snug package.

For me, one of the biggest problems was peach scionwood coming out of dormancy in the fridge. I’ve tried collecting it late, so it didn’t have to stay in the fridge as long before grafting, or collecting it early before it met it’s chill requirement but still had some problems. The biggest help has been to set the temperature of the refrigerator just at the point of freezing. I keep a thermometer in there.

Actually the wood freezes a little, which doesn’t bother me, as long as it doesn’t stay frozen for months at a time. I’ve had wood stay frozen for months at a time and it burns it and kills the buds. Now, if the wood is frozen, I take it out of the fridge once every few weeks and let it thaw enough to defrost, then stick it back in the fridge. I’ve been able to keep peach wood dormant that way for a long time. In case someone is unaware, do not try to store scionwood in a freezer. A freezer gets much too cold for peach scionwood. I use a dedicated “dorm” fridge for my scionwood. You can find these things at garage sales pretty cheap, and they are manual defrost, which helps on the humidity.

Before I had a dedicated refrigerator, I tried everything to try to keep the wood from coming out of dormancy in the fridge. I tried storing the wood in a sealed bag, then putting it in a container of water in the fridge. I tried putting it in various compartments of the fridge. But no matter what I tried, the wood always wanted to come out of dormancy. I think part of the problem was that the constant opening/closing of the fridge is a lot of what brings the wood out of dormancy. A dedicated fridge is the best solution. It also helps the marriage, as spouses aren’t battling over the temperature setting, the one trying to keep the temperature colder to protect the wood, while the other trying to keep it warmer to prevent the food from freezing.

As Alan mentioned, just because the scionwood does start pushing growth before grafting, doesn’t mean all is lost. It’s just harder to graft successfully with scionwood which has broken bud, but not impossible.

This year I just got done collecting wood I’m shipping to others. I wanted to collect it while it was in deep dormancy, so it doesn’t advance too much during shipping. In the past, I have sent wood before it met it’s chill requirement (in Dec.) so it wouldn’t advance during shipping, but I can’t remember how that worked out for the recipients (Anyone want to comment on that?) My opinion is that it’s best to ship scionwood when it’s naturally cool in Jan. or Feb. so the shipping environment naturally has a little refrigeration. But, I probably wouldn’t want to send it during a really cold spell in case it sat in a mailbox at subzero weather.

Sometimes I’m limited on the quality of scionwood I can collect. I agree waterspouts can make an excellent scionwood, but due to my pruning regimen, I generally don’t have any waterspouts available by the time I collect scionwood.

A lot of people dip the scionwood in various anti-fungal solutions (chlorox, copper) but keeping the wood extra cold, or at barely freezing seems to help a lot against mold, so I don’t treat the wood with anything before storing.


That is a problem with all the summer pruning I do also, but I just leave some straight shoots strictly to harvest for graft wood later. I sometimes do it on clients property and am surprised no one has asked about my “carelessness”. My problem with peaches is that the nice shoots in mid summer often branch out further and become useless for splicing scion wood. Trees in my nursery actually are more reliable for nice thick usable pieces.

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I would submit the conjecture that in wood stored in good conditions, one does not need to worry about mold, assuming this mold is not a fruit pathogen.

There are millions of different kinds of fungus. There are some that are beneficial to a plant. There are some that are detrimental. But the majority just kind of hang out and coexist.

Any beginning student of biology or microbiology have doubtless performed tests of household objects (or even our own skin) that show all are hosts for many varieties of bacteria (or fungus), the great majority of which are harmless.

If anyone knows a test that proves otherwise, I’d like to hear it, but my own limited experience + common sense seem to indicate we don’t need to have sterile scion wood unless disease is a concern.

Anti-bacterials and anti-fungals all work by somehow killing living cells. It is almost impossible to target this process exclusively against the undesirable organism. Instead, it usually damages both, killing the undesirable organism while causing acceptable damage to the desireable organism.

So every time people sterilize “just in case” they are actually doing some amount of harm to the desired organism.

Rather, it seems to me that sterilization should be done with the knowledge of the individual situation rather than as a matter of routine.


I cut leaving a bit (1/4" to less) to cut off once I return inside and then I place the scions freshly snipped ends off once more in water for 20-30 minutes. Then I remove them (one cultivar at a time) and drop them in a communal bowl with a bit of chlorine in it for a minute or two and then I lay them on a towel under a ceiling fan until dry (30 minutes usually does the trick).

At that point I’ve always put them in ziplock bags anywhere in my fridge that I have space, albeit a crisper is the correct place.

I definitely like the idea of either waxing them immediately after leaving enough room on each piece that I don’t plant to cut down further into shorter sticks or, parafilming them. Wax however is far easier. Of course you can’t write on wax but you sure can put them in a ziplock.

I think this year I’ll wax them prior to bagging them.

I want to add that last year @JustAnne4 picked up on waxing scions and my mixture rate last year (I screwed up and somehow doubled what I used to do). So those of you that are going to use wax this is the ratio that I use:
Per gallon of water:
1/2 bar of canning paraffin wax for bench grafts.
If you’re going to the field add .25 oz beeswax to 1/2 bar paraffin per gallon of water.

Paraffin canning wax ban be bought at hardware stores or grocery stores. Cut the box in half prior to opening. Inside the box are (4) bars. Now you will have the correct amount for 8 gallons. There will be (8) pieces when you cut the box in half.

Anne used a canning jar on her stove last year. Maybe she can show us again how she did that.

You can reheat the wax mixture for reuse. What you want is a thin coat of wax. If when you dip the scions are beginning to lose a full coat on reheated wax/water, you will need to add more wax. Wax floats so you can always scrape it off the top and reuse it later to fresh water.

I use a small deep fryer to heat my mix. It’s this one:

The correct wax mixture for it is .25 oz paraffin for bench grafting. For waxing scions to take to the field you will use .25 oz paraffin to .1 oz beeswax.

The dial on this handy deep fryer I put a piece of duct tape over it once I found the exact spot where the temperature is 160-degrees F.

To prepare the mixture take the wax + water up to 180F or more and allow it to drop to 160 F and then begin dipping. Leave about an inch of space in the reservoir. Do not fill it all the way up.

Waxed scions may crack in the fridge during storing. That’s no big deal but it’s more likely to happen if you have too much wax on each scion. Since I’ve seen the perfect coat of wax, I don’t believe any cracking will occur if you use the proportions I gave. Believe me, there’s not enough wax; there’s too much wax; and then there’s the perfect amount.

Quickly dip your scions and move to the next one. In less than a few seconds the wax will have set up and you can lay it down or place it into a bag or however you proceed to save yourself extra time/work involved.

There’s one flaw to my waxing and storing theory if you will. That is the area you didn’t wax to leave room for cuts isn’t protected. I think what I’m going to do is use Glad Press and Seal on that part and then into the fridge they go. So there’s my story and I’m sticking to it :thinking:



It is here.

But you may want to use his recipe above. This worked for me.

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Thanks, Anne.

Geez I made a mathematical mistake that I edited above. Beeswax in a 1 liter deep fryer should be at a rate of .1 oz to .25 oz. paraffin.



My question, is why do you go to all that trouble- doesn’t just wrapping them work well enough?

Well I think the answer to your question is I’m tuned to do the water hydration and the chlorine dip. That’s how I was taught by a person that was recognized as the best conifer grafter in the United States. He also taught me deciduous grafting.

As far as preserving the scions Alan, you know when I trade with guys like you cutting now and I won’t be grafting until the middle of April (yes I know you know this) I want that wood to stay in as best of shape as possible.

Stan really showed me last year with his leftover scions from California collected weeks ago (some of them) at that time that when I opened them from his parafilm work they were lush green inside. I was actually shocked. I expected a brown-green.

And when I collect for others now or they may need it in a few weeks, I’ll still hydrate anything I cut to be sent. And I’ll tell the person they have been hydrated and on what date. In the past I hydrated them but didn’t tell others I did

I think it’s best to hydrate them now then to wait to do so when (you/I) decide to graft months later. Do it twice even.

Not sure I answered all your questions, but, that’s what I gathered.

The other half of the story Alan is that if I prep everything now… that is I dip them in wax… I’m ready to roll straight out of the bag when I’m either standing in the field or bench grafting. I won’t have to screw around and turn the deep fryer on each time I decide to graft. It’s all taken care of in big swoops.

Best regards,


The best conifer grafter might not be the best person to go to for the most efficient way to store apple and pear wood. All I can say is that I store wood of these species for months and get most grafts to take, nearly 100% on vigorous trees- grafts I lose are almost all on trees with disturbed roots and low vigor. The wood all looks fresh out of storage, no different than when I cut the wood as long as I don’t accidentally unplug the fridge or make other stupid mistakes. I have enough overkill in my triple wrapping, but waxing seems over the top to me.

I don’t graft conifers.

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I was taught to not use water sprouts as scion,the theory being that they grew to fast and don’t have good internal reserves .and often occurs In a shaded portion of a tree. They certainly are straight , and would be easy to harvest , store and use.
I usually select wood from tips of branches , with good growth,( not exsessive) and most importantly in full sun

Any information received by others, even when it is based on actual controlled studies, needs to be put through the filter of ones own experience. Adopt and adapt based on what works for you.

Experienced people can pass on a wealth of useful knowledge, but in the mix will be a lot of clunkers- I know I’ve often been guilty of misreading anecdotal evidence and passing wrong conclusions down the road, but I try to keep an open mind- sometimes things work in spite of the thing you believe is making it work.

One thing I know is that water sprouts are at least as likely to appear in well lit parts of a tree as in a shady ones for most varieties of pears and apples that are pruned as open as needed to produce best quality fruit. Most of my grafting wood comes from the tops of trees as a result of cuts made to maintain the desired height- it is the best lit wood in the trees.

Why would a water sprout grow less quickly in another situation when it is your most vigorous growth when left on a tree? The fastest growing tree in my nursery will usually be the first to establish when I dig it up and plant it elsewhere, and a water sprout is like a sapling connected to a trunk of another tree instead of directly to the soil.

As long as wood has well developed buds on it- and the biggest, fastest growing 1-year shoots are the most likely to have buds not well developed at the base, (probably because it is the last to stop growing going into dormancy) works just fine in my experience. I have gotten as much as 8’ of growth in the first season from such vigorous water sprouts, with the graft union being stronger than the rest of the wood- and my growing season is not especially long.

The only time I use less vigorous wood is when it is all that is available in the tree. Most of my grafts are to water sprouts on the trees I’m adding a variety to, so I’m using the most vigorous wood at both ends. Sometimes I turn the water sprout into a branch, eventually spreading it to more horizontal position or sometimes it becomes the new trunk.