Grafting vegetables onto fruit-bearing trees

Grafting vegetables onto fruit-bearing trees

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There are multi-fruit trees with as many as 40 different fruit, but would it be possible to graft a vegetable onto a tree?

Or maybe something in between, like grafting onto an apple tree a fruits in the botanical sense, but one of those often eaten as savory food, similar to vegetables: tomato, squash, avocado?

For grafting to "take", the the two plants' vasculatures have to be organized similarly. This is not possible for two such differently organized stems as a pepper and an apple.

This is a cross section of a young woody stem (such as an apple, though this example is a tilia):

This is a cross section of an herbaceous stem (such as a pepper):

You can see there is dissimilarity in organization. Furthermore, herbaceous plant stems die back in the winter.

Even if possible, grafting an herbaceous (non-woody) stem onto a woody stem (e.g. apple) would not confer any advantage for the green pepper, a tender annual, and would be disadvantageous to the woody stemmed tree (pruning for no reason, when the branch would otherwise have produced apples, and the leaves performed their useful functions.

Cherry tree grafting, how and when?

The top (grafted part) of our dwarf cherry tree died. We have other cherry trees and would like to graft a new top on it. What is the best type of graft to make?

The type of graft you make depends on the size of the remaining tree trunk. You should make a clean saw cut across the trunk into healthy wood when you are ready to graft. Normally the best time to graft is in about late March.

  • Small like a pencil you would make a whip graft
  • About 2 inches in diameter or more you could do a cleft graft
  • 3-4 inches or larger across you could do a cleft graft or a bark graft.

You will want to collect the scion wood from another tree now when it is dormant. Cut a piece that is one year current growth wood about a pencil size diameter. Put this wood in a closed plastic bag with a slightly damp paper towel and hold it in the fridge until late March when the trunk is ready to graft.

Grafts take better when you let the soil and air warm a bit and the rootstock in the ground starts to get active. You can look up details online of each type of graft and how they are made.

Answers and Replies

The usual reasons for grafting are things like:

Soil borne parasite resistance - European grape varieties are often grafted onto North American varieties root stock for that reason.

Providing local pollinators - Sour cherry is often grafted as one limb onto bing or queen anne stock to improve fruit set on the tree as a whole.

The answer to what you ask largely is no. You cannot really change the DNA in the top part of a tree by grafting onto another root system. You have to think more in terms of some kind of symbiotic relationship. What does the top part get out of the deal? What does the bottom part get? And what is your cost/benefit ratio?

Bashkortostan is 54N latitude way inside the continent. Brr. You have to consider frost hardiness of the species you graft onto the maple root stock (in the sense that what you graft onto the root stock will grow with proper warmth, frost free period and tolerance of the minimum temperature)

There are described hardiness zones for fruit trees. Please read this article to see what I mean. Russia has a published set.

Then find a fruit tree that tolerates the hardiness zone you are in (guessing #3). Apples are one of the more cold tolerant species, and in fact require long frost periods to flower. Grafting apple stock onto maple root stock will work, but I cannot see any advantage to doing that.

Plus, in the area you mention pine species are the climax species (the dominant species you find in the really old undisturbed forest). Maple is an early successional species. That has more to do with the reproductive "strategy" of maples rather than it's suitability for any purpose like being root stock for fruit trees.

Do Citrus Trees Have To Be Grafted?

Citrus trees don’t have to be grafted, but you’ll be missing out on the many benefits that grafting has to offer. However, if you prefer simplicity, and don’t mind slightly different variations of fruit, planting from seed is a viable way to grow citrus trees. Keep in mind, it can take up to 10 years to grow from seed.

Do You Need Two Citrus Trees To Produce Fruit?

Grafted citrus trees are often self-pollinating, so they won’t need another tree to produce fruit. However, even though they can fruit on their own, they can still benefit from cross-pollination. These benefits include a better fruiting rate, and at times, larger fruits.

So, if you have multiple citrus trees, it’s a good idea to keep them within range of each other to increase their pollination rates.

If you’d like more information about the distance needed between your citrus trees, I spent a few hours of research and put together a guide. Check out my post on how far apart to keep your citrus trees.

Root–Top Interactions

Major grafting effects are readily comprehensible if viewed in the broader context of root–top relations. Thus, dwarfing rootstock effects (Webster, 2002) are not surprising once the well-documented Bonsai culture and root restriction effects are kept in mind (Erez et al., 1992 Ismail and Davies, 1998). By the same token, the invigorating effect of strong, expansive Cucurbitae rootstocks on their scions (Blestos, 2005 Martinez-Ballesta et al., 2010) might be anticipated, although the precise physiological mechanisms involved need clarification. The rather complex natural root–top relationship is further complicated in the composite, grafted plant, which undergoes a drastic wounding/healing operation, followed by life-long interactions between different genomes.

Most long-term compatibility studies have been conducted with fruit trees. Xylem graft union anatomy determines the hydraulic root–top conductivity in apple, thereby affecting the growth potential of rootstock/scion combinations (Atkinson et al., 2003). Phloem graft union irregularities appear to be a major source of long-term incompatibility. The pioneering studies of Gur et al. (1968) demonstrated a gradual build-up of biochemical poisoning reaction between pear (Pyrus communis L.) scions and quince (Cydonia oblonga Mill.) rootstocks. Prunasin, a cyanogenic glucoside, rises from the quince rootstock into the pear scion, where it is catabolized enzymatically by pear glycosidase to liberate cyanide at the graft interface. Cyanide ‘poisons’ the graft union tissues, causing cellular necrosis at the graft interface, leading to severe incompatibility (Gur et al., 1968). However, further studies with peach (Prunus persica L. Batsch) grafted on myrobalan plum (Prunus cerasifera L. Ehrh) suggested a more general poisoning mechanism, due to progressive impairment of the phloem carbohydrate transport and accumulation of starch above the graft union (Breen and Muraoka, 1975 Moing et al., 1990). Gradual starch accumulation is indeed a symptom of serious interference with nutrient metabolism and root starvation (Moing and Gaudillere, 1992). These phenomena resemble the damage often caused by girdling (= removal of a ring of bark from the trunk or branch of a tree Li et al., 2003 Goren et al., 2004). Rootstock-scion interactions persist throughout the life of the composite plant, even where satisfactory graft compatibility has been achieved. The upward supply of water and mineral nutrients as well as the downward flow of photosynthates are modified and so is the root–top interchange of hormonal signals (Cutting and Lyne, 1993 Aloni et al., 2010). These mechanisms may account for many of the well-known grafting effects.

Collecting Scion Wood for Budding

Collect scion wood or bud wood early in the day while temperatures are cool and the plants are still fully turgid. It is a good idea to bring a cooler with ice to the field to ensure cuttings stay fresh. The best vegetative buds usually come from the current season’s growth or dormant wood that grew the previous year. Mature buds are most desirable discard terminal and younger buds. To keep buds from drying out, getting hot, or freezing (depending on the season), place the bud wood into plastic bags or wrap it in moist towels as you collect it. As the bud wood is selected, the leaves should be cut off immediately, leaving only a short piece of the leaf petiole attached to the bud to aid in handling. Place bud wood of only one variety in a labeled bag.

Bud sticks that will not be used immediately should be bundled, labeled, and stored in moisture-retaining containers such as plastic bags or waxed cardboard boxes, which should be kept cool (32–45°F). The longer bud wood is stored, the less likely it is to form a union with the rootstock. Generally, bud wood stored for more than a few days should be discarded.

1 Answer 1

No, it should not affect the size of the fruit. The size of the watermelons is determined by the watermelon veriety. If you graft cherry tomatoes onto a normal tomato stock it still produces cherry (sized) tomatoes.

Yes, it may make it easier to grow. This can range from root-related disease resistance to a difference in the fruit. Root related disease resistance has its obvious benefits while firmer flesh can help the watermelons be less susceptible to rot. The benefits will largely depend on what stock you choose to graft them onto. Be sure to pick a veriety that grows good in you area.

Yes, it may effect the productivity. The watermelons might be more likely to reach their full potential size and even grow a little faster. This can be because of a better root system from the grafted stock (the root disease resistance providing a healthier root system).

People who grow those insanely large pumpkins and watermelons usually tend to keep a lot of the methods used secret. I would say that grafting can certainly be the first step in helping your watermelons reach their full potential. Be aware that there might be even more tricks you need to learn to make them bigger than big.

What is a Scion?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines a scion as “a detached living portion of a plant (such as a bud or shoot) joined to a stock in grafting.” In simpler terms, the scion is a young shoot, branch or bud that is taken from one plant variety to be grafted onto the rootstock of another plant variety.

In fruit tree production, for example, scions from different apple trees may be grafted onto an apple rootstock to create a tree that produces several varieties of apples and can self-pollinate. Grafting is especially common in fruit tree production because seed propagation does not result in true to type fruit, and grafting is also a way to quickly grow fruit trees.

The fruit that grows from the scion will take on the scion plant characteristics, while the tree itself will have characteristics of the rootstock. For example, dwarf citrus trees are created by grafting the scions of regular citrus varieties on the rootstock of a dwarf variety.


Have an old heirloom tree that you would like to plant on modern, dwarfing rootstocks? Find a chance mutation that you would like to evaluate? Bench graft these varieties onto the rootstock of your choice.

This project is supported in part by the Agriculture and Food Research Initiative of the National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Grant # 2015-70017-22852.


More by Robert Crassweller, Ph.D.

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Tara Baugher, Ph.D.

Michael Basedow

View Transcript

- [Voiceover] Grafting is a technique every fruit grower should, at least, be familiar with.

Today we'll take a closer look at performing a bench graft, so you're able to propagate your favorite varieties onto the rootstocks of your choice.

We'll start by discussing some reasons why we would want to bench graft.

Then, we'll go through the steps of performing a successful graft.

We'll conclude by talking about what to do with the bench graft once the union is formed and you have a new, two-part tree.

Let's begin with the reasons for bench grafting.

First, bench grafting allows for optimal cambial contact between the scion and rootstock, making for a strong union that heals quickly.

It allows us to preserve scion wood from older varieties that are hard to find, or new chance mutations we'd like to test.

By grafting to a dwarfing rootstock that comes into production much earlier than a standard or semi-dwarf rootstock, we can evaluate or enjoy eating the new fruit more quickly.

Keep in mind if you're working with an older variety, it could have latent viruses, so it's best to order certified virus-free wood from a reputable nursery, and, if you plan to propagate from your own trees, all royalties should be reported and paid if you will be propagating any licensed scion materials.

In addition to scions and rootstocks, you will need: a sharp grafting knife, grafting compound or grafting wax, and some grafting tape.

The best time to bench graft is from late March to early April.

You want both the stock and scion to be dormant.

Your scion wood should be collected from the most recent season's growth, from fully dormant trees between January and February.

Make sure you do not collect wood when it's frozen.

The best shoots are about the thickness of a pencil, though bench grafting can be performed successfully with scions up to one inch in diameter.

It is important that the scion and stock have similar diameters so the cambiums overlap each other.

Start by collecting 12-18" sections from straight growing, vertical shoots and wrap them in moist, but not wet, sphagnum moss.

In addition to keeping the scion wood from drying out, the sphagnum moss has anti-fungal compounds to prevent the wood from rotting.

Place the scion wood in sphagnum moss in a non-perforated plastic bag and store in a refrigerator or cold storage at a temperature just above 32 degrees Fahrenheit to keep them dormant until you're ready to graft.

Avoid storing the scions with apples or other crops that may give off ethylene, since ethylene can cause the buds to abort.

Stocks can be purchased from nurseries and usually come in bundles of 50-100.

Order ahead of time so that you will have them by the time you're ready to graft.

Keep them in moist sawdust and plastic, storing them in a refrigerator or cold storage close to 32 degrees Fahrenheit until you're ready to graft.

To prepare the scion, make a one to two inch diagonal cut from the lowest bud that will be on the graft.

Each scion should have two to three buds.

Then, make a downward cut starting a third of the way down the scion from the first diagonal cut.

It should be about half as long as the first.

Make similar cuts to the top of the stock, starting with the diagonal cut up through the stock.

Then, make the tongue cut similar to the one you made in the scion.

Here we can see the two cuts on the scion and stock.

The first cut is sloping, and the second cut starts about a third of the way down, and is half the length of the first cut on both.

The same cuts were made on the stock.

This graft is also called the whip and tongue graft.

The second cut creates the tongue which holds the scion and stock together.

When we bench graft, it's important that we try to match the thickness of the scion with that of the stock, as this will help ensure that the cambium layers of the stock and scion line up when they're joined.

If sizes differ, be sure the cambiums line up, as this will ensure good callous growth and healing of the wound.

Once you have made your cuts, insert the scion into the stock.

The tongues of the stock and scion should interlock, bringing the two into close contact.

Cut off the top of the scion, leaving two or three buds.

Once combined, the graft should be wrapped with tape to hold the graft firmly in place while the callous is forming.

The tape also helps keep the union from drying out.

From here, you may choose to wrap your unions using rubberbands.

These will provide a little extra pressure to keep the union in place.

It's important that the two pieces stay in place so that the callous tissue can join the scion and rootstock together.

Once wrapped with tape, dip the unions into warm grafting wax.

Make sure the wax isn't too hot to avoid damaging the cambium cells.

The wax will help seal the union and prevent the graft from drying out.

Rather than using wax, another option is to seal the graft using a latex-based grafting compound.

The wax will also help keep the union from drying out.

Once you've grafted your trees, store them in a cool, moist area for seven to 10 days in moist, aged sawdust.

After a week, the stock and scion should begin to produce callous tissue.

In the photo on the left, we see how the union looks about a month after grafting.

In the middle photo, this scion bud has already broken.

Bench grafts can be planted in the garden or a small nursery at a close spacing for a year or two before being planted in the orchard.

Extra care should be taken to ensure the trees remain well watered to prevent desiccation of the union.

After a year or two, the union should be completely healed and your tree should be ready for planting in the orchard.

With this technique, you can now go out and graft different heirloom or other unique varieties in your orchard onto the rootstock of your choice.

For more information, consult the Penn State extension publication Grafting and Propagating Fruit Trees.

Special thanks to the horticulture team at the Penn State Fruit Research and Extension Center.

How to Graft Tomatoes

Grafting is the act of joining the top portion of one plant (scion) to the bottom portion of another (rootstock). Grafting is beneficial in tomato production because tomato varieties are rarely both good yielders and disease resistant. Grafting makes it possible to have a plant with both desirable characteristics.

The grafting process most used on tomatoes is called tube grafting. Tube grafting gets its name because of the clear 2-millimeter diameter tube-like clip used to hold the scion on the rootstock until the union is made. Tube grafting is fast and easy…once one gets the hang of it.

There are several “essentials” one needs for tube grafting tomatoes:

  • Razor blade: to make the cuts
  • 2mm plastic grafting clips: to hold the scion on the rootstock
  • 70% alcohol: to sanitize the razor blade and clips
  • Healing chamber and shade cloth: to provide humidity and darkness during healing
  • Humidifier: to add moisture to the air in the healing chamber

Any variety can be used as a scion source. Rootstock varieties are selected based on their resistance to soil borne pathogens. Both Maxifort and Beaufort are resistant to most everything except bacterial wilt.

Plants are ready to be grafted when they reach the 2-4 leaf stage. The stems of each have to be the same diameter (2mm) to graft. It may be necessary to sow rootstock varieties 3-5 days before scion varieties.

Grafting should be done in an area with low light and mild temperature (75 degrees F) not outside or in a greenhouse. It is also recommended to bring the plants indoors to acclimate 5-12 hours before grafting.

The first step is preparation. Set up the healing chamber with a humidifier and disinfect the working surface, razor, and grafting clips. The healing chamber can be made from a PVC pipe frame, wrapped in clear plastic, and covered with 4 layers of shade cloth. The job of the healing chamber is to prevent the scions from drying out.

Next, with a clean razor and steady hand, cut the rootstock stem at a 45-degree angle (just below the cotyledon leaves) and slide a grafting clip halfway onto the stem. The severed top can be thrown away or propagated.

Next, with a re-cleaned razor, cut the scion stem at the same angle above the cotyledons. The scion can now be slid into the clip already on the rootstock stem. The cuts have to match up!

The newly grafted plants should now be placed into the healing chamber. The plants should be kept in complete darkness for the first week and the temperature maintained at a humid 75 – 80 degrees. During the second week in the chamber, the shade cloth can be removed (one layer a day) and by day four, the humidity reduced. If scions begin to wilt, replace a shade cloth layer and maintain humidity for an additional day.

Finally, after two weeks in the healing chamber the plants can be moved to a greenhouse or sunroom to harden off. After 7-10 days the plants are ready to be planted in the garden. The entire process takes about 5 weeks.

For more local horticulture updates, follow me on twitter: Jacob [email protected]_Hort

On May 17 th , 9 a.m. to noon (rain or shine), the Beaufort Master Gardeners would like to invite the public to their annual “Pass Along” Plant Sale at the Beaufort Extension office. This would be a great opportunity to get the plants you want and the knowledge you need. Call the Beaufort Extension office for more details: 252.946.0111

Gardening Calendar for March

• Pre-emergent herbicides can be applied to lawns when soil temperatures reach 52 degrees.


• Shade trees can be fertilized.

• Emerging spring flowering bulbs can be fertilized.

  • Asparagus beds can be fertilized in early March before spear growth begins.
  • Ponds should be fertilized starting this month and should be continued for the next 7 months.

• Fruit trees and grapevines can be planted until the buds begin to break.

• Perennial like: columbine, hollyhock, coreopsis, daisy, and phlox.

• Broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower can be set out in the garden around mid-March.

  • Beets, Carrots, Chinese cabbage, kale, kohirabi, lettuce, Swiss chard, turnips, and potatoes can be planted anytime this month.

• Start annual flowers and summer vegetables inside.


• Perennials like cannas, daylilies and Shasta daisies can be divided at this time if the ground is dry enough.

• Wait for spring flowers to fade before pruning them. Pansies for example will flower longer if older flowers are removed.

• Overgrown shrubs can be severely pruned if needed, except for needled evergreens.

• Landscape shrubs can be sprayed to control the following pest: euonymus-scale, juniper-spruce spider mites, and hybrid rhododendron-borers.

• Spray all fruit trees with dormant oil to eliminate some insects. This is especially important if the tree has just been pruned.

  • Spray apple and pear trees with streptomycin while they are blooming to help control fireblight.

Other Activities

• Check gardening equipment to make sure it is in good working order.

  • Consider buying gardening supplies like fertilizer, insecticides, and fungicides while there are still adequate supplies.

• Consider ordering new varieties along with tried-and-true varieties to see how they compare. Experimenting with varieties is fun and has virtually no ill effects.