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New Trees from Old: A Whip Graft for Apple Trees

This is an easy grafting project for beginners. If you do the job during the dormant winter season, apple tree grafts will “take” in a single year.

You’ll need the following supplies:

  • Apple rootstock (tree to be grafted onto) or backyard apple tree
  • Apple scionwood sticks (parts to be grafted onto the rootstock) of an interesting variety (cut fresh or store in the refrigerator until used)
  • Grafting knife
  • Cut rubber bands
  • Grafting sealant, such as wax, parafilm, or Doc Farwell’s Seal and Heal latex grafting seal


Step 1: To get a good cambium match, the diameter of the scionwood should equal the diamter of the rootstock branch you want to graft to. Slightly thicker than a pencil is a good size for apple scions; bring the scionwood over to the rootstock tree and search till you find a branch that is of similar girth.

Step 2: Keep the scionwood moist in a cup of water. (The best grafter I know sticks the cut end in his mouth until he is ready for it).

Step 3: Cut the tip off the rootstock branch with the grafting knife, making an elongated, diagonal cut. The object here is to expose the largest area of green cambium.

Step 4: Cut the scionwood on the same diagonal slant, so the two pieces will fit together as if they were one branch. If the pieces don’t match up the first time, keep cutting and trimming. Practice makes perfect; just be careful with that knife!

Step 5: Press the scionwood and the rootstock together, cambium to cambium. Tie them securely together with a cut rubber band.

Step 6: Apply a grafting sealant to completely cover the cut areas and the rubber band. This will prevent the graft from drying out. Some grafters also wrap a paper bag loosely around the graft to shield it from drying wind and sun.

Step 7: Tie a ribbon or metal tag to the grafted branch so you will remember where it is. By summer, you should see new leaves growing from the scionwood; this is the sign that the cambium has fused successfully. Slit the rubber band and/or sealant at the end of the summer so the branch can continue to thicken normally.




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