Issue: February 9, 2002

When to graft?


I want to graft some new varieties on my old apple tree. When should I do the grafting? Can I just go to my friend who has another tree and take the grafting twigs the day I plan to do the grafting?


You will want to wait until the rootstock (the tree onto which you will be grafting) has begun growing. Depending on the style of grafting (or budding) you have chosen, it is best if the tree has begun growing and the cambium (region of dividing cells just under the bark) is actively dividing. However, it would be best to have the scion wood (the twigs to be grafted onto the tree) still dormant at the time of grafting. To have dormant scion wood, you should collect the twigs soon, store them wrapped in moist sphagnum moss in a refrigerator. Don't store them in the freezer. The time for grafting varies across the state and from year to year. Often the rootstock tree has begun growing when a period of cool weather interferes. Do not graft if there has been a recent cool spell. Wait until the weather has warmed for about a week before grafting following cool weather. This allows the cambium to become active again. It is also important that the soil be moist before grafting. Drought stress will also reduce cambial activity. The reason for so much concern about the cambium is that the cambium must be actively growing for the development of a successful graft union. There are several good books and some good web sites that illustrate different methods of grafting. Personally, I have been most successful using T-budding, but others I know are more successful with whip grafts and cleft grafts. You should look for a technique that works well for you. Grafting is the application of scientific principles but involves a great deal of skill.

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Marisa Y. Thompson, PhD, is the Extension Horticulture Specialist, in the Department of Extension Plant Sciences at the New Mexico State University Los Lunas Agricultural Science Center, email:, office: 505-865-7340, ext. 113.


For more gardening information, visit the NMSU Extension Horticulture page at Desert Blooms and the NMSU Horticulture Publications page.

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