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Grafting as Plant Propagation

An apple hangs from a tree branch.

Vegetative, or clonal, propagation is the only way to get genetically identical copies of an individual plant.  

Fruit trees and ornamentals are propagated by using vegetative parts of a plant and placing them onto another plant through a propagation technique known as grafting or budding.  

Grafting is performed at a specific time when the weather and the physiological stage of plant growth are optimal. The timing depends on the species and the techniques used.  

The main reason for grafting is to preserve and perpetuate the cultivars we love, but there are many benefits, like overcoming issues with the soil environment, producing a tree of smaller size, changing the existing cultivar over to another that is more productive or more disease-tolerant, or producing certain plant forms.  

The most popular types of winter and early spring grafting are cleft, under the bark, whip and tongue, and chip.  

Regardless of the type, there are three major steps in performing the graft – preparing the stock and the scion, inserting the scion and lining up the cambium of the scion with the cambium in a stock, and securing the graft by wrapping it with grafting tape or another suitable tape and sealing it with grafting wax or compound.  

Budding should be done in July or August, but for some species, it can be done through mid-September. Buds will heal in five weeks and will remain dormant until the next spring, when they will open and grow new shoots.

By Mira Bulatovic-Danilovich, WVU Extension Service Specialist – Consumer Horticulture