Grafting: What is it? Why is it done?

Most are familiar with the term grafting, but do you know why most fruit trees, roses, camellias and countless other plants are grafted?  Without getting all scientific, I’ll not only explain why and what but also what to watch for in your grafted plants.

What is grafting?  It is the joining of 2 plants into one.  A grafted plant uses the roots and the bottom portion of one plant (called the rootstock) and the top part from another plant (called the scion).  All the top growth of a grafted plant comes from the scion.

The graft is easy to see on many plants – it can appear as a knot at the base of a rose bush or a crook in the trunk near ground level of an immature fruit tree. 

Why graft?  The grafting union allows the combining of characteristics of both plants to form a superior plant.  Rootstocks can contribute traits to improve yield, cold or drought hardiness and disease resistance.  The scion is usually a young shoot or bud from a plant with great flavor, color or disease resistance. 

It also is a reliable method of reproducing plants that do not grow true to type from seed. 

What to watch for: 

  • Suckers from the rootstock or roots.  They will appear below the graft and need to be removed.  They are not grown from the scion and will not perform the same way – bloom color could be different, growth rate is usually accelerated.
  • Don’t bury the graft joint underground.  The rootstock will grow its own plant and the scion will grow its own roots.  The plant will not be the same once this occurs.
  • If the scion dies the root stock can still be alive and will send up shoots (suckers).  This growth is not from the scion and will perform very differently.

Grafting dates back over 4000 years and there are many methods of grafting and all have their specific uses.  New strains of plants are developed this way and the benefits are many. 

If you want to try grafting yourself, watch a few YouTube videos, follow along and graft away.  It’s a great project to do with the kiddos, they can help and watch the new plant grow.



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