Fruit tree grafting is the traditional form of vegetative propagation of these woody plants. However, it is also becoming increasingly important when it comes to refining fruit varieties that gardeners no longer like. Basically, one part of the plant, the scion or scion, is transplanted onto another, the rootstock, creating a new plant with the desired characteristics. The most important prerequisite for successful fruit tree grafting is that the plant partners are related to one another in a certain way. Otherwise, the hobby gardener has quite a lot of freedom if he wants to graft fruit trees and can also carry out one or the other experiment. The most important processes for fruit tree grafting are explained below.

What are scion and scion?

Scion rice is a one-year shoot of a noble variety, several centimeters long, which is connected to a substrate or grafted onto it. Ideally, it is a vigorous, at least pencil-thick shoot with multiple eyes that has always received plenty of light and is perfectly healthy. The rootstock comes from the rootstock of an inferior type of fruit, which is upgraded through refinement. A Edelauge is the bud of a high-quality fruit variety that is combined with a wild rootstock. Depending on the chosen form of fruit tree grafting, either a scion or a scion is required. The closer the botanical relationship between rootstock and scion or scion, the greater the chances of success for grafting.

Instructions for the oculation

One of the most common methods of fruit tree grafting is budding. The best time for this work is summer during the months of July to August, but no later than September. The following materials are required:

  • Tree saw for the base
  • whetstone for sharpening
  • Strop for resharpening
  • Hippe to cut off the branch
  • Grafting knife for the T-cut
  • Bast to connect
  • cold liquid tree wax

The scion is freshly cut from the crown of the noble variety. Shoots with flower buds are not suitable. The shoot is shortened from above and below so that 3 to 4 dormant eyes remain on it. Experienced gardeners can cut the scion as early as January if the temperature is not colder than -4° Celsius and keep it in moist sand in a shady place until it is used. You should not use sprouts from young fruit trees that have not yet proven their quality. It is more worthwhile to cut back an older fruit tree in the previous year, after which it forms new shoots. These are used as scion the following year with the certainty that the genetic characteristics are correct. If the scion was cut shortly before budding in summer, all leaves are removed except for the petioles. Then the refinement takes place:

  • Cut off all side shoots of the rootstock.
  • Make a T-cut in the bark about 10 cm above the ground.
  • Choose a piece of bark that is as smooth as possible for the base.
  • Loosen the bark with the back of a knife and fold it apart.
  • Cut a suitable eye out of the middle of the scion.
  • Cutting guide of the knife from bottom to top approx. 3 cm long.
  • If possible, do not cut off any wood chips.
  • A small chip of wood on the eye is not a problem.
  • Carefully cut off larger wood chips.
  • Use the budding knife to slide the noble eye under the unfolded bark.
  • Above the noble eye, cut off the piece of bark flush with the T-piece.
  • Connect the finishing piece with raffia and leave the noble eye free.
  • Seal the entire area – except for the noble eye – with tree wax.
  • Never touch interfaces with your bare hands.
  • Keep sharpening knives from time to time.

To increase the chances of successfully grafting the fruit tree, this process should be repeated with a second noble eye. This work is preferably carried out on a cloudy day so that the noble eye does not wither prematurely due to direct sunlight. After two to three weeks, the petiole stump falls off the noble eye as a sign that the grafting has been successful. Then the bast ribbon is cut off because it is no longer needed. If both noble eyes have grown, one of the two new shoots will be cut out the following year. When a strong, young twig has formed from the noble eye, the base is sawn off just above it and coated with tree wax.


Ambitious hobby gardeners who do not yet dare to approach T-cut budding due to a lack of experience will discover a simplified further development in the chip budding method. Translated, the term means ‘wood chip finishing’ and is colloquially referred to as ‘eye plate’. This practice has proven particularly useful when propagating apple trees and is very popular because it is so easy to carry out and the rootstock and scion can be of different sizes:

  • Make a 2-3 mm downward cut on the base at a height of 10 cm.
  • A second cut starts 3 cm above, in the direction of the first short cut.
  • An inverted U-shaped indentation is formed.
  • The scion is freshly cut and defoliated down to the petioles.
  • An indentation is made 15 mm below the noble eye.
  • Position the knife 15 mm above the noble eye and cut off.
  • Noble eye and opening of the pad are now congruent.
  • Base and eye are pressed together and connected.

PE foil is particularly suitable for the connection because it is also attached over the eye. In this way, condensation forms underneath, which prevents it from drying out. After 2 to 3 weeks, the foil is removed with a cut. If the chip budding technique is used in winter, it is necessary that the wound site be sealed with tree wax. This effort is unnecessary in summer.

Fruit tree improvement by copulation

This technique for grafting fruit trees is performed during late winter sap dormancy. It only makes sense if the base and scion are the same thickness. This work requires a grafting knife that has a longer blade than the grafting knife. Specialist shops now offer multi-knives for all finishing techniques. It is crucial that the blade is really razor sharp and that it is sharpened regularly. Copulation proceeds as follows:

  • Scion rice is freshly cut from the treetop.
  • All leaves are removed except for the stems.
  • The base and rice are at least as thick as a finger.
  • A 4-6 cm long cut is pulled on the base.
  • The same applies to the noble rice.
  • Rootstock and scion both have an eye opposite the interface.
  • Bark on bark is connected with bast or PE foil.
  • After an average of 3 weeks, the dried petiole falls off.
  • The connecting strap can be removed.

If side shoots or leaves appear on the rootstock after successful copulation, these are removed immediately. If the petiole does not fall off, this is a sign that grafting of the fruit tree has failed and needs to be repeated.

Bark Plug – Increased chances of success

With this method of grafting fruit trees, you have to be able to remove the bark, which – depending on the type of fruit – is possible from March/April and leaves the time window open until August/September:

  • The base, the grafting head is cut smooth.
  • At grafting level, a vertical longitudinal cut is made in the bark.
  • A pulling, 4 cm long copulatory incision is made on the scion.
  • Tuck the beveled end between the bark flaps.
  • The first eye of the scion must fit between the bark lobes.
  • The scion is still 3 mm beyond the grafting head.
  • The grafting point is wrapped around bast ribbon.
  • The noble eye remains free.
  • The graft head and cutting points on the scion are supplied with tree wax.

One scion is sufficient for graft heads with a diameter of 3 cm. If the diameter extends up to 5 cm, 2 scions are used, with a cross-section of 6-8 cm up to 4 scions. In this way, the chances of success are significantly increased. However, finding the right time to remove the binding material requires a certain amount of finesse. If the bast ribbon remains in the grafting area for too long, the growing eye will be hindered in its growth process. If the band is removed too early, the scion may break off and the whole process will eventually have to be repeated. At the latest when the bark visibly bulges under the binding material, it is time to grab a knife.

Im darauf folgenden Herbst und Winter steht die Entscheidung an, welcher Trieb das Zeug zum Leitast hat. Die anderen Triebe müssen sich ihm unterordnen und werden gekürzt. Flache Seitentriebe können unberührt verbleiben. Der Haupttrieb wird um ein Viertel gekürzt. Sollte er schwächer sein, kann der Schnitt auch ein längeres Stück entfernen. Konkurrenztriebe werden restlos abgeschnitten.

Tittelpfropfen für experimentierfreudige Hobbygärtner

Bei dieser Methode können sie bis zu drei Edelreiser verschiedener Obstsorten auf einer Unterlage aufpfropfen. Der Gartenfreund kann sich dann vom Ergebnis überraschen lassen:

  • Unterlage glatt absägen, bis zur gewünschten Höhe
  • An bis zu drei Stellen die Rinde parallel eingeschneiden
    • 3 mm bis 4 mm breit und 30 mm lang
  • Das zungenartige Rindenstück verbleibt an der Unterlage.
  • An den Edelreisern in der gleichen Länge Kopulationsschnitte ausführen
  • Gegenüber der Schnittfläche muss sich ein Auge befinden.
  • Unterhalb dieses Auges erfolgt ein weiterer, 10 mm langer Schnitt.
  • Reiser zwischen die jeweiligen Rindenstücke schieben
  • Rindenlappen der Unterlage kürzen, damit die Reiser 3 mm überstehen.
  • kleine, freistehende Reiserfläche begünstigt das Anwachsen an der Unterlage
  • Verbinden und versiegeln erfolgt ebenso, wie bei den anderen Veredelungstechniken.

Die Technik des Tittelpfropfens wendet man häufig an, wenn ein Obstbaum nicht fruchten kann, weil passende Bäume in der Nähe fehlen. In diesem Fall wird lediglich ein mitteldicker Ast des Obstbaumes gekürzt und als Unterlage genutzt. Abhängig vom Durchmesser dieses Astes, genügt bereits ein Edelreis, um die Befruchtung auszulösen.

Bedeutung der Unterlage nicht unterschätzen

Hobby gardeners tend to attach greater importance to the scion than to the rootstock. However, this has a significant influence on the grafting result, not only with fruit trees:

  • All vegetative growth.
  • Yield, fruit quality, start and end of harvest.
  • stability and lifespan.

If you choose weak-growing rootstocks, you will get smaller fruit trees that bear well and are also easier to harvest. Advantages that will certainly convince a hobby gardener. However, they place higher demands on the quality of the location and maintenance. The finishing height should also be taken into account. The higher it is set, the weaker the result. For apples, the grafting height should be around 15 cm to 20 cm, for pears between 10 cm and 20 cm. Sweet cherries are an exception because here the scion is grafted on near the crown.

Since fruit trees cannot be propagated by seeds and can only be propagated with great difficulty and time using cuttings, there are various methods of grafting available. Rootstock, scion and the aim of the refinement essentially determine the choice of the technique that is used. An important prerequisite that there is any prospect of success at all is that rootstock and scion are at least approximately botanically related. The closer the relationship, the better the result of fruit tree grafting.

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