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Learn to Graft Your Favorite Plants

Grafting is a great way to propagate many trees, shrubs, and roses. Here's how to do it.

Grafting is the mad-scientist way of propagating your plants. Slice a piece from one plant and splice it onto another. Cool! Let's see how.

Many of the plants at your local garden center may be grafted. For example, many hybrid roses are grafted so they grow on the roots of a tougher variety of rose. This helps them stand up to tough conditions and bloom more vigorously. Likewise, most fruit trees are grafted onto smaller variety's roots. This keeps the trees more compact and vigorous. Plants trained as standards, or tree forms, are also usually grafted onto the trunk of another plant.

Somebody really released their inner Dr. Frankenstein when they grafted several varieties on the same tree, so you have an apple tree that produces 'Red Delicious' and 'Golden Delicious' fruits. This is how we got the famous "fruit-cocktail tree."

Once you've created healthy seedlings, learn how to transplant them to your yard.

Step 1: Collect a Branch The best time to graft is late winter -- December to February, depending on where you live. Start by taking a fresh, 3- to 4-inch-long shoot with one or two buds. Select plants that are closely related; for example, graft an apple onto another variety of apple or a pear on another variety of pear. Or, try grafting almond, apricot, or plum branches on a peach tree. You cannot graft unrelated plants -- such as a rose and a persimmon -- onto one another.

Step 2: Prepare the Rootstock The rootstock is the plant you'll be growing your new branch onto. Carefully make a 2-inch sloping diagonal cut through a stem about 6 inches above the ground. Next, make a 1/2-inch-deep cut straight down the stem, about a third of the way down your sloping cut.

Step 3: Match the Branch Make a sloping diagonal cut on the bottom of the branch you'll place on the rootstock. Because you're splicing this branch on the main plant, the sloping cut needs to be the same size and angle as the cut you made on the main plant's stem. Then about a third of the way down the slope of your branch, make a 1/2-inch-deep cut up the branch to match the one on the rootstock.

Step 4: Bring them Together Carefully force the branch to slide onto the stem, lining up the cuts together. Make sure the two line up as closely as possible. Then wrap the joined area with twine and cover with grafting wax (available at your local garden center or nursery) to keep the tissue from drying out. If the graft takes, your new branch will begin to grow in spring.


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