Grafting one part of a plant to another plant is an ancient art. It has been practiced by people for centuries and centuries. In general terms, grafting is the result of taking a twig or bud called the scion and aligning its growing tissue (cambium) with the growing tissue of a plant which is growing on its own roots called the stock or rootstock or understock.

For this process to work, several factors must be considered including:

  1. Compatibility - Although some strange things can be done sometimes with grafting, the fact is that the two plants must be compatible or it won't work. Usually (but not always), this means that the plants must come from the same genus such as when two types of apple (Malus) trees are grafted. A scion from a Magnolia will not graft to an apple rootstock.

    However, there are also instances when members of the same plant Family may be grafted. One unusual example is the fact that (for fun), a tomato plant scion may be successfully grafted onto a potato rootstock. They are both members of the nightshade (Solonacea) family of plants.

    To complicate matters, people have discovered a way to sometimes attach to otherwise non-compatible plants. They figured out that if plant A and plant C will not form a good graft union, this might be overcome by attaching A to a stem from plant B which is then attached to plant C. This is called using an inter-stem. Obviously, plant B is compatible to both A and C.

  2. Timing - Depending on the type of grafting attempted, proper timing will be important to success. Generally, both the scion and stock need to be in the same stage of growth at the time of grafting.

  3. Alignment - For a graft to form a solid union between the scion and stock, the growing layer or cambium of the two needs to be aligned so that they are in contact with each other. The idea is that they will soon grow together and become one. Sometimes, a poor alignment will partially attach and the plant will fall apart several years later.

  4. Moisture - Finally, the place where the two parts are joined must not be allowed to dry out before the actually graft takes effect. That is why such things as grafting rubbers and grafting wax are used to cover the graft.

There are many different grafting procedures that are used to join plants together. Some of them are for very specific plants or situations such as inarching which is used to save trees whose bark has been damaged by rodents. Also, grafting may be done "in the field" on plants growing in the ground or they may be "bench grafted" in the greenhouse on plants growing in pots.

Different types of graft process would include whip grafting, side grafting, cleft grafting, bark graft, approach grafting, inarching, wedge grafting and bridge grafting. As far as ornamental landscape plants are concerned, perhaps the most common type of grafting is called bud grafting or budding.


Note: We have provided some general information and observations on this topic aimed at the home gardener. Before you take any serious action in your landscape, check with your state's land grant university's Cooperative Extension Service for the most current, appropriate, localized recommendations.


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