Tiny scions

Howdy folks. I just got in my order of scions and rootstocks from Fedco. The rootstocks are big and hardy, but unfortunately most of the scions are not much thicker than a match stick. I started grafting and am trying to whip and tongue as many as I can by offsetting the scions so at least a bit of the cambium lines up. On the really tiny scions I’m cleft grafting as pictured.

I’m curious as I’m new to grafting. Are these tiny scions normal to get? I was kind of thinking they would be at least 2/3 the thickness of the rootstocks.


Here is an average scion to rootstock size

Here is one of my hopeful cleft grafts


I would see no problem with these. Line up the cambium, wrap carefully, good to go. With cleft graft in this situation, place a stick on each side and double your chances of success.


This year was the second time that I have bought from Fedco, I was surprised how thin they were this year, although none of mine were that thin, no this is not normal with them in my experience, with pears cuttings at least, I have only bought pear cuttings with them, actually the first time, they sent some thicker than I am used to from other places.

I remember being surprised by the mismatch in rootstock and scion size when I first started grafting. Cleft grafts are a good option to deal with that issue, so youre on the right track. If its still possible to cut a tongue into the scion, a side whip and tongue graft is another good option. These two are what I most frequently use when grafting onto established trees as well.


Remember you only need one bud per graft for it to work out! I think your strategy cleft grafting will work out.

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In my opinion, getting tiny scions is like getting tiny trees and a quality source should be able to provide the diameter the customer wants. Unfortunately, it isn’t a business that has developed clear standards because there is not a huge market, so the providers can be careless.

A tiny piece of wood has very little stored energy, so it is not going to come out of the gate with the same vigor, all other things being equal, as a thicker one. It also provides less margin of error in terms of lining of the margins of cambium.

At any rate, that is my opinion. If you don’t keep your mother tree in fairly vigorous growth the annual wood will be lethargic with less stored energy. A vigorous tree grows he best scion wood.

We should post the best sources for scion wood on this forum based on not just the selection but also on the diameter of wood they sell.


I think diameter is a bigger deal with rootstocks. Trees store more energy in their roots than stems, plus the most mass in a grafted tree will be in the rootstock. A scion needs enough resources in the scion to heal the graft union and ensure survival, after that the rootstock is what will really determine growth. Id rather graft a tiny twig into a rootstock thats been growing in ground for a year than perfect 3/8 in scion onto a rootstock of the same diameter with sparse roots. With scionwood, once its above minimum workable size I think number of viable buds is more important.


When I have that kind of difference in scion and rootstock size… I like to do modified cleft gradt.

It is a pretty easy/simple graft to do… and I had 100% success with it last year.

I have done 4 MC grafts so far this year… and 2 whip/tounge.

When i can get a match on the diameter of scion and rootstock… i prefer to do W/T.

Bit when the rootstock is something like 5/16 to 1/4 inch… and the scion is about half that diameter… I do MC.

MC from last spring.

How it grew out…

A good YT vid… cleft and modified cleft.


I often do a bark graft on that combo… very reliable!

The size of the scion doesn’t matter to me, in fact the smaller ones may be a bit better in terms of the success odds.


Yes… if the rootstock is large enough for bark graft… excellent option for small scions.

In this case my crab apple tree limb was around 1/2 inch… and my black limbertwig scion was 1/8 inch.

Worked well.


Bark graft, for me.
My favorite apple…which is probably Trailman crab, only ever puts out thin, willowy growth. I’m almost embarrassed to send those tiny little twigs when folks request them, but that’s all there is. Other crabs put out fairly robust shoots, but not this one…


Thanks everyone for the useful info! I tried the modified cleft and I’m getting good results!

Another question. I’m going to heal these guys up in damp coco coir. Is that ok for the graft union to be covered in the damp coir, or should I have the scions sticking out of the material? They are wrapped in parafilm.


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The scion and graft union if wrapped in parafilm/tape will be fine above ground. The parafilm helps the scion retain moisture.

Normally only the rootstock roots remain underground or potting medium if potted.

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I agree that a trees vigor comes primarily from a trees roots, but, like I said, all other things being equal, a thicker piece of scion wood seems to lead to greater growth the first season that leads to quicker establishment of a bearing branch, There is a point of diminishing returns when too thick wood doesn’t ever establish, however. I have many years of observing this anecdotally on same trees as I do at least a couple hundred grafts every year in my nursery and for customers.

Do the small annual shoots of trees store energy?



Yes, small annual shoots of trees do store energy, albeit in a slightly different way than mature parts of the tree. These small shoots, often referred to as “suckers” or “twig growth,” are part of the tree’s overall growth strategy.

  1. Photosynthesis: Like other parts of the tree, these shoots contain chlorophyll, enabling them to perform photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which plants convert light energy into chemical energy stored in the form of glucose or other sugars.
  2. Reserve Energy: While the primary function of these shoots is to facilitate growth, they also serve as storage organs for energy reserves. Sugars produced during photosynthesis may be stored in various forms, including starch, within these young shoots. These reserves can be tapped into during periods of growth or when the tree needs additional energy.
  3. Role in Tree Growth: Small annual shoots play a crucial role in the overall growth and development of the tree. They elongate and thicken over time, eventually becoming branches or part of the tree’s canopy. During this process, they contribute to the tree’s structure and serve as conduits for water, nutrients, and energy.
  4. Adaptation to Environmental Conditions: The ability of trees to store energy in different parts, including small annual shoots, is an adaptation that allows them to cope with environmental fluctuations. It provides a buffer against unfavorable conditions and supports the tree’s survival and growth.

It is well known that buds given nitrogen in the fall store it in their buds that stimulate greater first growth in spring- so a vigorous tree that produces thick, long annual shoots will certainly have more stored N which should help a scion contribute to the healing and first growth.
While small annual shoots may not store energy to the same extent as larger structures like branches or the trunk, they are nonetheless important reservoirs of energy within the tree’s overall biology and growth strategy.


Thanks THhunter!

I think Alan might be using chatgpt to generate his answers?

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Of course part of that was from Chat. I wanted a quick response to whether energy was stored in small wood. I thought I remembered that being the case but I didn’t want to have to do a lengthy search. I mean it says ChatGPT twice.

The last paragraph was out of my own head.


I sometimes do what I call a whip-and-tongue side graft, if the scion is not too small. Pretty simple to cut the rootstock side to match the size and length of scion.

Actually, most scions do not match the size of the rootstock precisely, so I make EVERY whip-and-tongue graft using this method which creates a matching slice in the rootstock sized to accept the scion sized nearly perfectly every time–in order that both sides of cambium touch–every time.


Interesting comment about Fedco. I have not bought stock from them, but chatting last August with a grower in midcoast Maine, learned that Fedco calipers were, ahh, on the small side. I prefer to purchase from a nursery which tells me the size of the tree–not just its height. So far, that means Cummins, Grandpa’s (Coloma Mi), and Boyer (Biglerville Pa)

I just grafted some small scions of Wikson crabapple onto g.210 using apical short tounge veener grafts. I think they’ll work out fine.

Also tried some pears with splice grafts, aka just the whip but no tongue grafts. In the bench grafters handbook he claims there is no evidence whip and tongue makes stronger unions than plain splice. Taped them with buddy tape. I think they’ll work out fine.


Commercial fruit tree nurseries use another method- they do bud grafts in late summer in already established trees in the field, which assures a decent sized tree by the end of next growing season. Healthy roots also increase the success ratio.

What is the advantage of bench grafting scion wood to rootstocks over simply planting them where you want them and either bud grafting them that fall by the base or grafting to a vigorous shoot the following spring, where you can use something as simple as a splice graft to a one-year shoot where you can match diameters by grafting higher or lower in that shoot.

There is nothing easier or more effective, in my experience, than a simple splice graft held in place with electric tape- that’s what I use in my nursery with many species. It is also the method I show people that want to know how to graft and they get a very good success rate with their first attempts and no cut fingers.