When to graft in spring

I’m new to Oklahoma and all this cold winter weather. I’m originally from California and quit comfortable with grafting out there. When can I start? Before freezing weather ends or after? In California I like to start before the buds begin to swell with my grafting but here in western Oklahoma I’m at a loss as to when the bud swell will begin. I don’t want to loose of the scion wood I have if I can help it. Any advice will be appreciated.

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It’ll vary some with what the tree is, but the old timers rule of thumb is when the leaves on a oak tree are the size of a mouse’s ear.

Thanks I heard that old timers saying before but forgot all about it. Now I’ll have to catch a mouse cut it’s ears off and go around town comparing it to Oak leaf buds. At least I’ll know when to start. Just hope they don’t lock me up in the nearest mental hospital.


I think the primary concern is that the graft not dry out. I think that if the sap is flowing and the tree is showing some vigor you can graft. At least, I’m comfortable thinking that way with pomes, probably safe with plums, too. But all them other stone fruit and I don’t much get along, so I’ll shut up about that. I start grafting in late April here and we’ll usually get frosts after that. Doesn’t seem to be too much of a problem.

I always heard it “the size of a squirrel’s ear” on the tree you’re grafting too!

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I wait until the plant I’m grafting on has just leafed out. Like marknmt said

if your dormant scion is grafted on dormant wood there is a greater chance of the scion drying out. To me the scions seem safer in a bag then in the field waiting on sap to start flowing. We get get frost up to mid April but often my trees are in leaf and flower by mid March. I graft around the first week of April. For things like apples, plums and pears it may not hurt to graft earlier but for mulberries, persimmons, and pawpaws I like to wait until I know the scion will not leaf out until all the chance of frost has past. New growth on these plants seem to be tender. For me the first week of April seems to work out great. The scion stays dormant until the later part of April after the frost is gone but I’m in zone 7b for you I’d wait until mid -late April to graft so your scions will push new growth in May.
I always heard it was a size of a salamander’s ear. J/K they don’t have ears lol


Just to pile one, you generally can’t graft too late (grafting on fully leafed out trees has been fine for me), but you can graft too early.


I’m going to make a couple apple grafts today in zone 6…we’ll see what happens. While waiting to get rootstocks in, have a couple that didn’t take last year and using them. Been cold, but this warm rainy weather
will be pushing buds here before you know it.

Hope they don’t swell too much…or fruit crop will be lost when April frosts arrive…and rarely is there an April without some nights in the 20’s in Kentucky.

As funny as it may sound, the old timers understood it right. In spring (cold climate spring) everything is measured by accumulated heat. And Oak Leaves are great indicator. They may reach same size in different years on different time, and those times will be correct times. And you can skip cutting part - just google the size. :slightly_smiling:


I think people fret about graft time too much. I believe mouse ears are peak but you can graft several weeks before that and several after that. I find it easiest to graft as leaf buds are about to pop. It’s most difficult to graft when everything is fully leafed out. Part of good grafting is a nice airtight seal of the graft union. With full sized leaves on the tree it’s more difficult to wrap tape around a graft.

One exception though is peaches. I find that they don’t graft worth a darn if you graft them early. They like more warmth than pommes and other prunus. So you have to put up with more growth.

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I’ve learned from this forum that for peach as speedster1 says to wait until it’s warm. The same applies for persimmons. Everything else I graft when the buds are plumping or when I see green between the bud scales as they are splitting. Of course I continue to graft as green material unfurls. And I also continue for a few weeks in as the leaves continue more to unfurl. And just about all the grafters I know off forum have always told me before I became a member that fruit trees are very easy and very forgiving. So grafting on them late like say a month or 6-weeks after they’ve begun leafing from what I’ve heard is very easy to get successful takes from too. However, I like to graft as soon as I see the buds plumping up and when the scales are splitting showing green color… I consider this the best time. So does my buddy 30-years my senior believe the very best time for grafting is at the first sign of movement in the buds and at scale split.

Peaches and persimmons I would wait no matter how far advanced the leaves are until temperatures get up and will continue in the 60F range.



As you say, Dax. One of the advantages to early grafting is that if you flub it or knock it off somehow you’ll likely have time to try again with leftover scion.

I’ve read (no personal experience) that it’s best to get grafts in on the early side partly because it gives them more time to mature and knit before cold weather, and of course most summer grafting is done with methods -budding and chipping- that don’t necessarily expect the grafted bud to break until the next season. (I like to think of summer grafting as doing next year’s grafting 9 months early!)

I guess other things being equal I prefer spring grafting with splice partly because the graft heals over in a nice, continuous line with the branch; cleft will catch up in time, usually, but budding will leave a little insignificant hump, and chips often look like they’re perched on the limb and could get snapped off!


I’m going to put in nursery rows this year and start my own rootstocks either from seed or from seedlings the Missouri State Nursery sells. I suppose other places too. I really want to move to 100% in-ground field growing vs. bench grafting. The results are tremendously different.

I like all grafts but you know I’ve been thinking about grafting since the time I put my knife away last year. I can’t wait. It’s one of my favorite things in life to do. I enjoy it probably more than going on vacation.

Working with wood is as much a pleasure as being outside hearing the birds and the wind. It all goes together. But I really-really love cutting wood vs. budding. It’s just more pleasureful for me.



Success rate in grafting can be greatly enhanced by wrapping the grafted scion completely in a layer of Parafilm grafting tape.


Other than a few whip & tongue grafts of pecan/hickory on pecan that I might get around to doing in mid-March, while things are still dormant - but not for long - I don’t graft anything until the rootstock is actively growing. And even then, depending upon weather pattern, I may wait… I’ve had early pecan/walnut grafts pushing growth get nuked by typical (not freaky) spring freezes… so I hold off now, until I’m reasonably certain that the coast is clear.