Grafting Made Simple




Follow this 6-step process for improved varieties of trees.

What is grafting?

Grafting is a horticultural technique that's defined as attaching a twig (scion) from one tree to the stem of a tree seedling (rootstock). The scion becomes a permanent part of the tree over time. If the scion is from an improved variety, the tree will take on those characteristics.There are several grafting techniques, but we at The Progressive Farmer have chosen to demonstrate our favorite technique, the four-flap graft technique.

Getting Started (When to Graft).

During the dormant season (late winter), cut new-growth scions with buds on them. Refrigerate scions in plastic bags until spring. Scion and rootstock should be about the same diameter.


Step 1: Vertical Incisions

Make four 3-inch vertical incisions through the rootstock's bark, starting at the top. Slip a small rubber band on the rootstock, stopping just below these vertical cuts. With the point of a knife, separate the bark from the wood at the tip of the rootstock. Peel the bark down in four 3-inch-long flaps. Cut off an equal-sized piece of rootstock with shears after peeling back the bark.

Step 2: Prepare the Scion

Prepare the scion by trimming 1/2 inch off the bottom to show fresh, green wood. Slice a shallow, 2-inch cut into the wood at the bottom end of the scion. This cut exposes cambium tissue, which carries sap through the tree. Repeat this in order to create four evenly-spaced cuts.

Step 3: Connect Scion and Rootstock

Place the cut end of the scion inside the four flaps, lining up each cut surface with a flap.

Step 4: Secure the Graft

Now is the time to use the rubber band to hold the flaps in place. Make sure the cambium tissue of the scion is seated against the cambium tissue of the rootstock.

Step 5: Protect the Graft

Protect the graft by wrapping it with a piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil, then a piece of plastic.

Step 6: Secure the Plastic

Tape the plastic lightly around the graft using masking tape. New buds should appear in 15 to 30 days. You may want to write the date and tree variety on the tape to keep track of multiple trees.

Thank you for viewing our Instructable!!



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    28 Discussions


    9 months ago on Introduction

    You mention that a tree might take on the characteristics from the tree to the new tree. If this is so, would it cause a small type of tree to grow to a larger tree (10 ft. to 18 ft.)? I would like my small tree to remain small to reach all the apples.

    I like the instructions and believe I will be able to graft next spring.

    Thank you.



    Reply 3 years ago on Introduction

    my question didn't show, would like to know if guava can be grafted onto a citrus tree...thank you.


    Reply 3 years ago

    hi PunT1, you cannot graft plants into a different family, citrus is not a family of can graft citrus to another kind of citrus like kalamansi,or orange..guava can be grafted to it's family like jamaican guava can be grafted to purple guava.


    4 years ago on Introduction

    so if im planting apples is scions my ONLY option or can i use something else? i have apricot trees near me. closest apple trees are 2 miles out of town.

    Hello Billy,

    As to it being possible to graft an avocado to a sassafras - there is a possibility it could be done, as both avocadoes (Persea spp.) and Sassafras (Sassafras albinum) belong to the Lauraceae plant family. Usually grafting and budding is most commonly done between members of the same species or genus, as generally the closer plants are related to each other, the better they unite. However, there are exceptions to this rule, as with trifoliate orange (Poncirus trifoliata) being a popular dwarfing rootstock for citrus trees (Citrus spp.) So, as trifoliate orange and citrus trees are an inter-genera example of a successful grafting union, and are both members of the same family (Rutaceae), so could an avocado make a successful union with a Sassafras tree, as they are both in the same family too. When grafting any two different plants together, there are a several possible results: firstly, the graft will make an entirely successful union, and will grow normally for its expected lifespan; it could fail outright, the scion shrivelling up and turning brown or black; it could make a seemingly successful union initially, start growing and continue to do so for a year or more, than fail suddenly; or it could grow seemingly successfully together for many years, but always be mechanically weak at the graft union, and in the high winds of a storm etc., blow over. I hope Billy, that in your experimenting you may happen upon a surprising connection between these two very different plants, after all, that is what gardening, and horticulture especially is all about, experimenting, finding out what works and what doesn't. Good luck!

    have a collection of sprouting avocados and pomegranates.
    I now ask another question of the graft of avocado to pomegranate?
    Basically,I see a demand for tropical fruits and berries to grow in the Alabama black belt region and south.
    We have water and rain,but colder winters.
    Our areas from which most berries,fruits and greens come from are in a drought region,namely California.
    One is a fruit and the other a berry,so what are the stakes of an avocado graft to a pomegranate?
    Pomegranate lives year round as far north as Greene county Alabama and maybe further. Not really large in size though.

    Hello Billy,

    I very much doubt the compatibility of avocadoes and pomegranate, as unlike the sassafras, which is in the same plant family as the avocado, the pomegranate (Punica granatum) belongs to the Punicaceae family, which is quite different from family Lauraceae. The Punicaceae family consists of just one genus, and this contains only two species, the pomegranate (which came originally from Iran), and a very rare species found only on the small island of Socotra in the Indian Ocean. The families Lauraceae and Punicaceae are not even in the same Order. Therefore, I am of the opinion that it is highly unlikely that an avocado and a pomegranate will make a successful union. However, as I said in my last post, you can always try it out, you'll never know for sure unless you try. On the other hand, perhaps you could try and find some more cold-hardy relatives of the avocado, as they will be more likely to make a successful union and help your tree become more resistant to cold. A more cold-resistant rootstock can help to make the corresponding, less cold-resistant scion more cold-resistant. An example of this phenomenon is the Siberian crab-apple, used to impart vigour and cold-hardiness to apple trees in the colder states of the US and Canada. In Northland (the northernmost region of New Zealand), the climate is classified as sub-tropical, and avocadoes are grown there commercially. The temperature there in winter rarely, if ever, gets below -4 degrees centigrade (24.8 degrees Fahrenheit). How cold does it get in your 'neck of the woods' in Alabama, could avocadoes be grown on a small scale without any cross-variety grafting, maybe? Avocado trees of the Mexican race (Persea drymifolia, or Persea Americana var. drymifolia) are more cold-resistant than other species, so you could try them. Otherwise, try to make a successful graft - avocado on sassafras, it may just work.



    4 years ago on Introduction

    The rootstock might not be inferior. It is unsure or different indeed. Breeding animals, you always get unsure younglings that may not have desired properties (or characteristics) resulted from crossing DNAs during sperm and eggs formation. The breeders need thousands of younglings to find the one (or none) that meets the desired quality. Grafting helps to have the plant that carries the exact DNA you know.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    Totally naive question, but how do you judge the rootstock is inferior, and thus could be improved by this technique? If it's a matter of variety, why not plant the better variety in the first place. Reading novels over the years has given me some insight with a livestock analogy, emphasized breeding of the "better" livestock to improve the overall herd, but I'm curious how it translates to plants and trees.

    4 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Pecans must be grafted to know exactly what pecan your tree is going to produce or you will waste 20 years of your life and then find your tree does not have the pecans like the seeds you planted. Oklahoma State University has a large photo of the pecans produced in an orchard of 100 trees. The owner planted all Stewart pecans, then waited about 20 years. The resulting tree's pecans were of all different sizes, which is not what he wanted. You must plant to grow a tree, then graft it with the scion from a donor tree. The pecans produced will then be exactly like the donor tree's pecans.

    Grafting can create improved varieties of trees. You can take a trait you like in one plant and graft it to a plant not containing that trait. Take pecan trees for example; trees grafted with improved varieties yield nuts with larger kernels and thinner shells. Grafting can also yield trees that can produce nuts at 7 years of age-compared to 14 years for native seedlings.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Generally speaking, grafting is done because it's easier than trying to breed a plant for more than one trait at a time. So you breed a rootstock resistant to insect damage or drought, and the scion for the trait you actually want, ie flavor or color. Roses are frequently grafted to keep them from running, otherwise they might get bigger than you want. With dioecious plants like kiwi, male branches are grafted onto a female plant, eliminating the need to grow non fruit bearing plants. Rare or new cultivars can be propagated faster by grafting onto already established specimens than from cuttings. I skipped a bunch of other important reasons. But I think you get the gist of it.


    11 years ago on Introduction

    so... i oculd make a sasafrass tree that has pine tree branches... ULTIMATE CHRISTMASS TREE! this will rock

    3 replies

    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    I'm not sure about that combination, but usually you can only graft between two similar trees. I've seen someone who had a citrus tree with several oranges, grapefruit, and lemon varieties growing on it. It was a sight to see when it fruits.


    Reply 11 years ago on Introduction

    Heh - yeah, it doesn't quite work that way. :-)

    Graft incompatibility is still poorly understood, but it is clear that the plants have to be fairly closely related. That multi-citrus tree is a great example - those are all species within the same Citrus genus.

    I believe I've also seen trees advertised that yielded both apples and pears on different branches - apples and pears are both from the Maloideae subfamily (along with quince, loquat, and some others).

    The Maloideae (apple subfamily) are part of the Rosaceae, or rose family, along with other fruits such as strawberries (subfamily Rosoideae), and peaches, almonds, and cherries (all subfamily Prunoideae), but a strawberry-apple or cherry-rose tree would be quite an accomplishment, I think.

    Sasafrass and pines aren't even in the same Division. Sasafrass is a flowering plant ( Angiosperm), whereas pines are non-flowering seed plants ( Gymnosperms), which puts them something like a quarter billion years apart, evolutionarily speaking - there's no chance you'd be able to graft those successfully.

    (This lecture brought to you by Botany for the Humor Impaired, Inc.)


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That's right Patrik.
    Incompatibilities can be sometimes overcome with an intergraft (or intermediate graft). This is a short piece of scion from a species, or even a variety, that the ones you are trying to graft are both compatible with.

    It's a fair while since I did my Horticulture degree, but if I remember correctly a peach > plum graft would not necessarily work but a peach > nectarine > plum graft would. Sometimes, within a species, variations do not always graft well on to a given rootstock, so quince > plum1 will not work but quince > plum2 > plum1 will.

    However, one would be pushing it to graft at the Family level, so apple > peach would not work and definitely not mrbob1000's chimera, except on the Island of Dr Moreau!