Whip grafts -The bigger the diameter the harder they are to graft

Many Years ago when I first started out grafting I sometimes used a crescent wrench to gauge the diameter of the rootstock and scion. Now I can look at trees and see the diameter I cut it off and put the scion over the cut and make sure I’m right. I’m mostly referring to field grafting rootstocks I’ve had growing out for a year or two. When I was younger I thought it was the best thing in the world to get a really big scion or rootstock but with those dime sized scions I quickly learned are harder to graft than pencil sized scions. Letting rootstock get that big is not practical because I was cutting to much off and it takes to long. The cuts are not as clean when I graft with the bigger stuff. This year the USDA thankfully sent me a lot of smaller scions which was perfect for what I needed to graft. I prefer smaller scions for rind, clefts, but for whip grafts pencil sized is normally my preference. A bunch of my wild rootstock is small this year and I have some BET rootstock that’s still to small to graft at all. What’s your experience? Anyone else find smaller rootstocks and scions easier to work with?


In the past, I was “all cleft grafts all the time”, no matter the situation. After all, “to a man with only a hammer, all problems look like a nail”. :slight_smile:

But, this year I’ve been experimenting with using splice/whip grafts for big scions and bark/rind grafts for small scions. So far, I like both, but I need to see what my success rate is like before getting too comfortable with them.

Alan recommended the splice graft and I’ve been using Felcos to cut both the scion and the rootstock. I’m still a bit awkward with it and I’m not sure I get as good of contact (things can slip a bit when I put on the rubber tape). But it is a lot easier to cut with the pruners, than it is to make a spear for the cleft. I used to find myself practically whittling it and taking a long time adjusting it for contact.

The bark/rind grafts are much easier than messing around with tiny cleft grafts. The main issue is making sure the bark can slip and finding a big branch to graft to.

The only thing which doesn’t seem to be slipping for me now is grapes, which I butchered a bit, after assuming that it would be slipping since I see new growth. I eventually cut off some more and did an ugly double cleft graft.

Given my choice, I think I still like cleft grafts on pencil sized wood best. I bet you could use wood that sized for all 3 of the grafts.


Large diameter scions are hard to use no matter what graft is used. I received 1/2" Grindstone Pippin scions this year, it was tough to cut the tongue long enough. Most of my grafts are cleft and I find small (1/8 inch) wood is easier for me to work with as well. For whip and tongue pencil works best.


I don’t think I can add any more information than what has been posted other than to say I agree with all the post above.


I’ve never gotten the hang of the tongue part of the Whip and Tongue. So I was pretty interested when @alan mentioned just doing an angled cut on both scion and host and tying it up rubber electrician’s tape. From doing a few of them, I think you may run into strength issues if you use too long of a scion. But with a normal sized one it seems OK.

For instance, when I grafted a 4 year old tree which had runted out (maybe 3 feet tall) onto another tree, I used a cleft, as I figured I needed a bit more structural support. I did it mostly to see if it could work (not sure yet). And also because there was almost no growth on the tree that I could use for normal grafting.

I usually use water sprouts from the previous growing season to splice-graft to- clefts only as a last option when water sprouts are unavailable. With a splice, larger wood is easy, but not always as effective as wood a little thicker than a cheap pen. As I’ve often stated, whip and tongue is just for showing off, IMO, it can’t make the graft stronger than wrapping it with electric tape, and the splice makes it easier to really line up cambiums- especially when diameter of the scion matches the water sprout at point of graft. A well-lit water sprout in a vigorously growing tree can bear significant harvest in as soon as the second season.

I also often graft to the top of the small trunk of very young trees so a second variety becomes a second tier, or on an open center tree, branches just above a branch or two of the original variety. This year I’m doing this with a bunch of Blue Bird plum trees, but at the point where I want first branches to be. I’m using the BB trunk because it doesn’t seem to get any black knot.


Showing off to who?No one really cares or is watching what I’m doing.
I do whip and tongue because basically one hand is free to hold and steady the branch that’s being grafted to,while wrapping the union.
There were some thin scions recently and I use a grafting knife to cut the tongue and the blade is fairly thick,so I used a splice for these.They were much more difficult for me to hold in place and secure than a W&T.Practice may help.
I may also try using a box cutter with narrower metal for the tongue cut. Brady


LOL! I don’t do them because I never can figure out where to cut, it never is in the right place.I just do a whip, and they work very well. None failed this year! I seem to get better contact not doing them. I too, need to practice and maybe I’ll start using them.


In the “sometimes they refuse to die department”…

Right now, I have a graft that appears to be taking…not so unusual, right?

Except this one has shown a remarkable tenacity.

First, I grafted it with a saddle graft. Since this was my first year, most of my grafts were terrible, but this one is one I earmarked as being possibly the worst.

When others started to leaf out, I peeked at this one, and didn’t really see much callous if any. So I cut off a little of the scion and the rootstock and tried again, this time with a whip graft. Because of my lack of knife skills, it was more like a “straight across” graft. It was bad and I knew it. But I let it go another two weeks with (predictably) no growth. So I figure I’ll try one more time. I cut off another bit of scion and rootstock, I do another saddle graft, this one pretty decent (I thought.). But I don’t have high hopes.

Now a week later, I am seeing a little tiny bit of green poking out of a bud where it’s ripped the parafilm. I was like :astonished:!!

So much hoping this pulls through and this tree makes it in spite of me. I’m impressed by its hardiness already. I want to give it a hug, but that would probably break the graft, and I’m not sure it’d survive a fourth try…:joy:

Not sure if you can see the green tip, but trust me, it’s there…


Apologies. I posted the above to the wrong forum but don’t know how to delete my post or move it.

I hope you didn’t take that as a serious statement- can’t you read the twinkle in my eye:wink:wink::wink::- using emoji seems like cheating, and when you tell someone you’re kidding it pretty much ruins a joke- even a very small one.

I don’t graft to branches that need to be held and steadied, but it is a bit tricky to hold the graft together with the thumb and finger of one hand while wrapping the tape with the other. I have relatively small dexterous fingers (I am a trained classical flutist, or was), but I can see how real MANHANDS might not be delicate enough to do this work easily, although many different kinds of hands seem to be able to quickly master this method when I show it to them. More dexterous fingers just master it better and maybe get a somewhat higher percentage of takes. The trick is to begin wrapping the tape around the tree wood (shoot) a bit below the graft before putting the scion in place.


I find that using budding rubbers makes it easier to bind up a splice graft. Make a couple of wraps and then make an adjustment in positioning. Wrap more and make more adjustment as needed. The rubber keeps a nice constant tension on the two pieces. Helps with W&T as well for that matter.


Okay,I’m getting a better picture about how to do a splice.Wrapping a tape or rubber first is a good tip.
Still,I feel more confident right now,that the two pieces are aligned after wrapping,using a whip and tongue.
Donald Trump might really do well at this. Brady

99% of my grafts are w and t in the winter/erarly spring or budding in the summer. I’ve done a bit of cleft grafting. I tried bark grafting but it’s so hard to get 6-8 good scions.
John S


How did you do with your non-cleft grafts? Last year I did mostly cleft grafts and 2 splice grafts. One of the splice took and the graft union looks so great that you can’t even tell it was grafted. I thought cleft was easier to do than splice but most of my cleft grafts look very ugly. So I’m debating whether to go with more splice this year than cleft. But at the same time if it works I shouldn’t try to fix it just to get a good looking graft union.

From my records (I should probably check the grafts this spring to ensure they really made it):

8/12 for splices, though that includes 3/3 on apples & pears (which I was 46/47 on anyway…) and 2 takes on mulberries, which were almost 80%. That leaves 3/6 on peaches & nectarines. But I had very different results based on early vs late for peach/nectarine (70% vs 18%). The splices break down to 60% and 0% (3/5 and 0/1), so they are on par or a bit lower. It’s worth noting I had 19/20 success with jujubes, the only failure being the one splice graft I did (18 clefts, 1 double bark all working).

I think I like splices when the scion and host are both pretty big and matching in size.

Bark Grafts:
Single: 6/10
Double: 37/64
Triple: 3/5

No matter if I did a single, double, or triple bark graft (1, 2, or 3 scions), the success rate was about 60%. 8/8 on apples and pears. For peaches/nectarines, 5/8 for early and 2/9 for late, which works out to about the same as cleft grafts.

So I think bark grafts work reasonably well for me and are a very useful for when you have a mature tree to completely work over, or have small scions (or both).

I’ll take a look to see how my splices and bark grafts look. For many, the electrical tape is still on them…

I actually prefer a bit of ugliness- nothing extreme, but a line is nice. Otherwise I’m likely to forget exactly where the graft was.

Not exactly a big sample size :wink:

Though the same can probably be said about my “data”.

My totals:


Good info, and interesting your early peach grafts did better, how late is late?
I got about 80% on peaches, and 95% on plums, well exact percentage unsure? I had about 20 plum grafts and one failed, both cleft and splice. Beats the two years before where I got 0% and then 0% the next year. it all changed when i did them early. I want to try Z grafts for more contact and an easy way to secure versus whip and tongue, which i have a hard time with. I may have just as a hard time with Z, we will see. I will practice first.

My earlier grafts did not do well. Will go later/warmer this year.

I’m going to do a number of sessions, so after this year, I should get an idea of best time and conditions.


What rootstock did you do peaches on?