GROW O'ahu

Island Style Gardening and Plant-Based Living

Story of a Wanna-Be Grafter


Grafting trees is not for the faint-of-heart.  It is not for those who have little patience or don’t want to practice.  It is not for people who are afraid of a little knick or cut on their fingers.  It is pretty cool though, especially if you do it while hanging out with some fun people.

But really, those YouTube video-nursery guys make it look so easy. 

It’s not.  Getting a good clean cut is actually really hard; and if the cut is not good, the graft won’t take.

Why would you want to graft a tree anyway? Commercial growers do it to replicate good fruiting trees, get fruit faster and to sell.  Home gardeners do it to save space by getting several varieties of fruit on one tree and also to get fruit faster: waiting for rootstock from seed to fruit might take 7+ years.  But if you graft a scion from a mature fruiting tree onto a young rootstock, you will only wait about 1-2 years for fruit.  Similar reasons go for ornamental grafting, such as hibiscus or gardenia, but so far I have only been messing around with citrus and avocado grafting.

Regions really matter for grafting and you want to work with someone who knows what they are doing for your climate zone.  Selecting and growing rootstock is important because you want to graft onto strong, virus resistant roots.

Here, we are transplanting young citrus trees that will in many more months time, become root stock that we graft onto.

When selecting scion wood (the piece you put onto the already growing rootstock) look for young, new growth, in the “flushing” stage or newly sprouted leaves.  For a simple straight graft like the one we did, look for the same size diameter as your rootstock.  We selected this one with new little nodes ready to open up:

After removing all leaves from the scion wood, but leaving one or two leaves on the rootstock, we are ready to make the cuts with a special grafting knife.  Here, you can see the cambium in the center, this is what you will line up when putting the two pieces together.

It is important to get as much surface area in contact with each piece as possible, one inch or greater most good grafters will say.  Carefully cut the root stock at the same angle and then you can place them together and wrap tightly.

Once it is wrapped tightly, you must cover the scion wood with either a paraffin film or wax to prevent it from drying out.

And then you water, fertilize and wait.  And wait some more.  If your graft takes, in a few months, it might look this one (hibiscus) with new leaves on the scion and maybe even a flower bud.

In the meantime, you better label the thing that looks like a stick in a bucket, because if you are like me, you will surely forget what it was you spent so much time fussing around with.

And just one more photo- here are some avocado rootstock that we rescued from a tightly packed tray and replanted, so that once they get over the shock of being replanted, they too will get grafted.

I hope to report back in a few months that my little avocado graft is working and we can make guacamole sometime before I retire.


Author: Carmen

Things I love: justice in all forms; flowers; locally grown food; cloth-diapering; breastfeeding; feminist theory; outdoor play; beaches; wine; Divine interventions; 4-H and coffee. Things I loathe: racism; homophobia; toxic crap; misogyny; litterbugs; the zombie apocalypse and pitbull-haters. My formal education is in sociology, gender studies, and public policy. I'm also a Lactation Educator; 4-H Youth Development coordinator a Certified Master Gardener and a graduate of a Permaculture Design Course. I've been blogging for several years on dozens of topics- everything from women's health to breed-specific legislation. But the thing I like to write about most is my gardening, food adventures and my kids. So there you have it. Please be kind. Thanks.

7 thoughts on “Story of a Wanna-Be Grafter

  1. Wow, this is sure a task!! I am sure it’s well worth it in the end. You guys did great!

  2. I should tell you about my grandfather sometime. He worked at the nursery in Schoharie County and grafted SO many trees in the county. Master grafter!

  3. How did your citrus graft turn out? Citrus grafting is pretty tricky. I have learned a citrus grafting technique that is much easier for the home gardener than the citrus whip graft. Bark grafting of citrus gives a high success rate. I have put together a youtube video on citrus bark grafting that home citrus grafters will find useful. I have also put together a youtube video that shows how to order disease-free citrus budwood (to save us from citrus greening) from California’s Citrus Clonal Protection Program. Both are embedded in the article that I am including a link to below.

    • Thank you! I will check it out. None of the grafts I did on my own took. One avocado I had help with is growing in someone’s garden though 🙂

      • Good luck with your grafting efforts! My family loves Hawaii and we imagine that we might move there someday. My nephew married a woman from Hawaii and they recently moved to Honolulu. I love pummelos and I understand that they grow very well in Hawaii. If we ever do make the move to Hawaii, I will be grafting all of the pummelos available from CCPP. If you are interested in learning about them, you can check out my “9 Best California Pummelos” article on fruitmentor.


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