What Grafting and Budding Mean

Budding and grafting are a form of propagation. By budding, however, you do not increase the number of plants; you merely transform a plant of inferior variety into one of some desired variety. It is a common practice to take cuttings of some easily propagated common shrub, such as a briar rose, and when these cuttings are well rooted, to bud on to them some rose novelty, or buds from a rose that is a particular favourite.

Rose budding is more widely practised than any other kind, though a great many shrubs can be budded successfully. All shrubs are budded in exactly the same way.

A rose briar can be budded just below the soil level to form a bush rose, or at some height from the ground to form a standard. If a standard is desired, it is usual to insert three or four buds, on the side stems, close to the main stem, as these more quickly produce a shapely head.

budding and grafting

June and July are good months for budding. For the briar stock is then in full growth, the bark ripened sufficiently to lift easily, and the “ bud” on the scion (i.e., the rose from which the briar is to be budded) is then well formed.

A sharp knife with a blunt” paper-knife” end is needed. Special budding knives are so made. Some soft tying material such as raffia is also required.

The best way is to cut a stem with several buds on it from the scion and take it to the stock. “ Buds “ in this case do not mean Flower buds, but the tiny, dormant leaf buds that lie in the angle between the leaf and the stem. Make a T-shaped cut on the bark of the briar, where the bud is to be inserted. Do not cut too deeply, but always cut deep enough for the bark to be easily lifted at the edges.

Make a curved cut behind a bud, thus cutting out a leaf with a dormant bud and a small portion of the stem. From behind the

bud, remove the woody portion of the stem, leaving only bark and bud, and at the same time trim away the leaf, leaving only a tiny portion of stalk, with which to handle the bud. Raise the corners of bark where the T-shaped cut was made on the stock, and slip the bark of the bud under, so that this bark lies flat against the woody part of the stock, and the bud tip protrudes. Bind twine round above and below the bud to hold the bark and bud all firmly in position, still leaving the bud tip visible.

If the operation has been done swiftly and neatly, and is successful the bud will begin to swell very shortly, and as it swells, the raffia can be loosened a little, but not removed. Nothing further need be done until spring, when the whole of the stock above the budding point should be cut back, and only the new bud allowed to grow. Henceforward, only stems that come from the new bud (or buds) must be allowed to develop, otherwise the rose will gradually revert to the common briar.

Should budding be done in early June, and prove unsuccessful, the bud withering and falling out, a second attempt, a little lower on the same stem, can be made in July, often with good results.

Grafting differs but little from budding. In both cases a part of one plant is taken and inserted into another; but in the case of a graft the new piece is larger, and grafting therefore gives quicker results. Grafting is commonly practised on old fruit trees.

The usual time for grafting is in late spring, but not so late that the season’s growth is at all far advanced. The sap should be rising in the stock, but the buds on the scion should still be dormant, not bursting into leaf. A common practice is to cut long stems of the scion in February and lay them in moist soil in a cool place until required. This prevents premature bursting of the buds before the stock is ready to receive them.

If the graft is to be inserted near the ground (as in the case of many flowering shrubs) the stock should be cut back to within about 6 or 8 in. of the ground in January. Assuming that the thickness of the stock and scion stems are much about the same, a cut should be made 3 or 4 in. from the ground in the stock, and one at the base of the scion (which may be a shoot say 6 or 8 in. in length, taken from a favourite shrub) which will allow for the two to be fitted exactly together

A cut shaped like one half of a pot hook is a good shape, and allows for a close fit. If there is a difference in size, the fit must be as good as possible, and the shape of the two cuts can be varied as convenient. The important thing is that the cut surface of the inner bark of each should meet.

The cut suggested above is called “tongue, or whip grafting.” If the stock is cut to a point, and the scion cut notch shaped, to fit over it, that is called “ saddle “ grafting; if a cut is made in the side of the main stem, and a graft inserted rather as described for rose budding, that is called “ rind “ grafting. If the scion is cut to a point, and the stock is notched so that the point slips exactly into position, the process is called slit grafting.

When the graft is in position, the next step is to bind the join with raffia, so that it is quite firm. It is sometimes desirable to use an additional small stake to which both stock and scion can be tied, so that it is not possible for the graft to be moved by winds.

Finally, the point of union is covered entirely with grafting wax, to exclude air and rainwater. Grafting wax is sold by all horticultural sundriesmen ready for use, and it is not worth while for the amateur gardener to make it for himself.

After-treatment is much the same as with buds. When the graft grows, it must not be allowed to become choked, and the grafting wax generally has to be removed, while the raffia that binds the graft has to be loosened. And, of course, no other parts of the shrub or tree must be allowed to grow and oust the scion.

Grafting practices vary considerably. When old trees are grafted several scions are usually inserted; but these are matters which the experimenting gardener will discover for himself.


A form of grafting known as marching is sometimes practised with grape vines. Two adjacent vines are chosen, and one stem of each is cut. These two stems are brought into contact with each other so that they join. When the union has established itself, the parent root of the scion is severed well below the join. The upper growth of both stems thus become dependent on the one root.

Ringing is a method of making a new plant of the whole of the top of a plant which is too “leggy.” It is practised with room and greenhouse specimens which have grown too tall for convenient management. A small portion of bark is taken from the stem all round in the form of a ring, and by any suitable means this bared part is kept covered with moist soil. A split flower-pot of soil held in position round the stem is a common way. When the roots have formed, as they quickly do, the lower part of the plant is cut away, and the top with its new roots is potted up to be grown as before. Aralias are suitable subjects for this treatment, as they generally become inconveniently leggy after some years’ growth.

Grafting, as far as the amateur is concerned, has two main purposes—to save time and to revitalize a weak plant which is worth keeping on account of its colour or for some similar reason. Experiments with grafting are interesting, but the results are very uncertain without a wide knowledge of the characteristics of both stock and scion; some stocks have more influence on the resulting growth than others, and plants grafted by amateurs often tend to revert to the stock.

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