Budding and grafting FAQs

Why are some plants grafted? Can this be done at home?

Grafting is the name given to the process of joining the root system of one plant (called the rootstock) with the top of another (called the scion), so that they form a solid union and grow as one plant. It is often done to plants which do not grow well on their own roots, but is used mainly to-transfer the desirable characteristics of the rootstock to another plant. Such a roostock usually controls the plant’s vigour or size, but it may also imbue the scion, or top half of the plant, with pest- and disease-resistance.

There are many different techniques. Whip-and-tongue grafting is the method most often used by nurserymen for grafting fruit and ornamental trees. Splice grafting is a simplified version of this. The easiest method for amateurs is known as cleft grafting. You cut a wedge-shape in the top of the rootstock with a clean, sharp knife, then trim the base of the scion so that it fits snugly into the wedge. Now bind the graft securely with raffia and seal it with wax to prevent the graft from drying out.

I would like to try budding some roses in my garden. How should I do this?

First you will need to buy suitable rootstocks from a specialist rose grower. Plant these in the autumn and earth them up around their necks to keep the budding area supple.

I would like to try my hand at grafting cacti. Which varieties are best and what do I do?

Good stock for most grafted plants are the hardy cereus-type species, opuntia, and echinopsis. The best time to graft is in spring and early summer. Cut the stock flat across the top, make a similar-sized cut on the base of the scion and place the two together so that the tissues match as nearly as possible. Hold them closely together with rubber bands and leave them in a warm dry place until the stock and scion have united.

In the following summer select a shoot from a large or cluster-flowered rose which has just flowered, remove any thorns, and trim back the leaves. Clear the soil from around the rootstock, make a T-shaped cut in the neck and slightly peel back the flaps of bark.

Now remove the bud from the selected ‘bud stick’ by cutting out a piece of stem about 25 mm (1 in) long. Insert this behind the flaps of bark on the rootstock and trim it neatly to the top of the T-shape before covering it with a rubber budding patch. The bud will probably knit into place before the end of the season. In late winter, cut back the rootstock to just above the bud and allow the new bud to develop. Transplant the bush the following autumn to its flowering position.

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