I have 2 questions. 1) How does one start a tree from an existing tree? We...

Asked August 31, 2013, 10:27 AM EDT

I have 2 questions. 1) How does one start a tree from an existing tree? We have an old (50yrs) plum tree in the backyard that is nearly dead except for the straight young branches growing from the old thicker branches. All the thicker older branches appear dead or dying. Are trees started by grafting to another tree? If the answer is a lengthy one, could you send me some info on how to start/graft trees? thanks. 2) Our peony is approximately 50 years or more old and it is being overrun by a hardy weed that has deep tap roots. It would take digging to a depth of 12 to myabe 20 inches to remove this weed and its roots. Of course the peony would have to be dug up at the same time to get the weed out if its roots. Is it possible to take a portion of the peony root and transplant it elsewhere (during the fall) without causing harm to the rest of the peony plant? Thank you for your answer.

Ramsey County Minnesota grafting peonies

1 Response

Giving your old plum new life may be a big challenge, but you have nothing to lose by trying! Many newer varieties of fruit trees are grafted onto old, wild and hearty root stalks, so it may be possible for you to do the same. You would have to find, or purchase a tree that is at least five years old, but not a great deal older than that. The old tree is not a suitable root stock because the whole tree is at the end of its natural life,

There are a number of ways to graft branches, or scions onto a well rooted tree, ranging from completely replacing the whole plant just above the root flare, to grafting old branches into the canopy of the new tree.

Here are some links that will show you the various methods:
http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/dg0532.html
http://extension.missouri.edu/p/G6972
http://www.mofga.org/Publications/MaineOrganicFarmerGardener/Spring2011/Grafting/tabid/1863/Default.aspx

As for the peony, it is certainly possible for you to dig it all up, get rid of the weeds and divide the old plant - perhaps into four or more. September is the ideal time of year to do so...don't wait too much longer however, and be sure to water the them well until the ground freezes. Peonies can survive transplantation quite nicely, and may even appreciate being given new surroundings and soil. Just be aware however, that it will take a number of years for the split-up, transplanted plants to bloom again.

Here is a fact sheet on peonies. Be sure to note the planting depth:
http://byf.unl.edu/Peony


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