How to Care for Grafted Plants and Understand their Special Needs
By Laurelynn Martin and Byron Martin
Grafted Blood Orange
It is important to understand how grafted plants are grown. Grafting is one way to propagate plants by joining two plants together to become a stronger, healthier plant. Although it is a little more complicated and time consuming than other propagation methods (like seeds or cuttings), it does solve some of the issues of reproducing particular cultivars that are grown for ornamental or agricultural uses. Logee’s sells many grafted plants including: adeniums, citrus, avocado, mango, persimmon, PawPaws, sapodilla and many more.
The Process of Grafting:
The grafting process involves taking two parts of a plant: the root system, or the understock, and the vegetative portion, or the scion. When two plants are closely related (the same genus or the same plant family), the root system (often a seedling or other specialty root system) and the vegetative portion (a twig or bud of a named variety) can be brought together to form a grafted union and create a new plant. Once the union takes, it allows the flow of water and nutrients through the vascular system of both pieces. This in turn joins the plant together and creates one plant.
Grafting is done for several reasons. Grafting is usually done when cutting propagation is ineffective. Grafting is also used when a certain root system is desired. For example, sometimes a dwarfing growth habit is desired or a disease resistant root system is needed. At Logee’s we do graft plants and some customers have asked for additional information about how to care for these plants.
Caring for the Young Grafted Plant:
First, locate the graft union -- the connection of the two different plants that were grafted together. This is visible when you look at the stem. Look for a change in the color of the bark. You will find a clear scar that was left where the two plants were joined together. The scion that was grafted onto the rootstock is sometimes growing at a slight angle off the rootstock.
Sometimes there is a tendency for the rootstock to “sucker” or grow vegetative shoots below the graft union. Any suckers growing from the rootstock should be removed since they can overpower the scion growth and the grafted plant will, in time, become the rootstock variety. You don’t want this to happen. The named variety, or cultivar, of the plant is the top scion that was grafted onto the rootstock. It is important to remove any suckers that appear below the graft union.
Continue to be vigilant about removing any vegetative growth below the graft union. Usually this is necessary when plants are young, during the first year or two. Over time, rootstocks tend to stop suckering and the scion, or named variety, takes dominant control of the upper plant growth rewarding you with flowers or fruit.