Grafting as it is performed at Azalea House Flowering Shrub Farm last edited Tuesday, June 23, 2015

All our plants at Azalea House are propagated as cuttings. I use grafting as a way of having more than one type of apple on the same tree or for mixing pink flowers with red on the same rose or for when I only have a couple of hardwood cuttings in late winter that I want to save in order to propagate from later.

Materials: Exacto Knife kit or side injector razor, rubber bands (these are a special kind that snug grafts together with the understock but are very brittle so that growth can push through them easily), poly bags etc.

Understock on Lilacs is Syringa villosa, Syringa reticulata, White Ash or Privet.

Cleft or Saddle grafting is usually done in late fall or winter (January or February) with dormant plants.

You should select your Scion wood from the previous summers new growth. Cut on days when its above freezing and store in a poly bag to prevent dessication.

Cleft Graft of Lilac (some have referred to this as a "whip and tongue" also used on apples)

I choose out scionwood that is as close as possible to the same diameter as the understock to which I am grafting.

I cut the understock and the scion with matching 45 degree angle cuts so that they fit together.

I cut them both a second time a third of the way down the scion and a third of the way up the understock straight into the stem to about 3/4 of an inch.

The scion and the understock should then fit so well together that they hold together without tying.

The area of the graft is then secured with a rubber band which completely covers the joined material.

Saddle Graft of Lilac

The understock is cut with 2 cuts to a spear point.

The scion is cut correspondingly in a cleft so that the spear point can fit within.

Tie with rubber band as above.


Bud grafting is usually done in late summer when the buds have matured.

Prepare the understock by cutting back to two live branches immediately above the area where the bud is to be inserted (they will keep the sap flowing to the area). I like to plant my understock rather high so that the buds may be inserted very low. The year following budding the top of the understock is removed to just above the graft. I never leave any shoots that may grow below the bud except in very special cases.

Carry your bud sticks (pieces of stem with strong buds showing from which you will remove your buds) in a poly bag to prevent dessication.

I work with potted plants so its easy to elevate it to a point where I can insert the bud without bending or pearing near sightedly at the understock.

I cut the cambium layer of the understock in the shape of a T.

Then I cut the bud from the bud stick leaving a heal of wood behind the bud. I like to use a razor blade of the side injector type. Cut beneath and toward the bud. Then make another cut below the bud and away from it to intersect with the other cut (called a chip bud by some).

Then I insert the bud by gently pealing back the cambium only far enough to insert your prepared bud (if you think its difficult consider me; hand shaking, near sighted, back hurting etc. sometimes a younger pair of hands may be substituted for yours by showing your 10 year old daughter how to do it).

After inserting wrap the bud, using a rubber band from the top to the bottom. Seal the cut top of the understock with wax or pull a poly bag over the top and tie it below the graft area or wrap with a piece of poly tying above and below to keep humidity levels high for one to two weeks (I usually put the potted plant in a covered and shaded cloche for a time). Place the pot in a shaded area (where temperatures in the plastic bag can't soar). After a week place the plant in a shaded Nursery bed. The graft should be well established by the following spring.

A good book for amateurs is: Making More Plants by Ken Druse published in 2000 by Clarkson Potter/Publishers in New York, New York ISBN 0-517-70787-X around $45 in USA

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