Propagating Apple Trees: Cuttings, Grafting or Budding?

Asked March 1, 2016, 9:40 PM EST

Failed failed failed failed again. I am trying to grow Apple trees from Apple clipping from my grand fathers old house. The current owner is gracious enough to let me clip all I need. I clip them from 2-5 in . I take the bottom bark off cutting and put root stimulator powder on it. Then put the cutting in pot . Put the pot in a dark spot Keep moist, no progress, out of over a hundred I had one cutting grow one small leaf and one small root, it died. I tried clipping the tree in the spring, in fall, and middle of winter no luck. I tried using potting soil, no luck I tried a mixture of sand, manure, and potting soil no luck. I put them in pots with a half of a pop bottle on top. To act as green house and hold in moisture. Please help. Or suggest a better way of doing this, I would like them to produce fruit . Thank you very much. I very thankful to ask true experts

Oakland County Michigan plant propagation apple trees grafting fruit trees

4 Responses

Apples do not root well as you have found. I have taken many cuttings and forced them in the early winter and only once did I see callus and rooting. Typically apples are propagated by grafting or budding the desired variety on to a rootstock.
I think you have your best luck with budding. I would suggest buying some rootstocks and planting them this spring where you want the trees or where they can be easily transplanted. There is a small Michigan nursery that specializes in small orders for home owners and they do sell rootstocks for grafting and budding. Grandpas Orchard in Coloma, Michigan https://www.grandpasorchard.com/Tree-Type/Rootstock-for-Backyard-Nurserymen
In late July or early August you go back to the tree you want and collect bud sticks. At this time the bark of young shoots easily separates from the wood. We say the bark 'slips'.
At the end of July, take your cuttings of the current year's growth. You want shoots that are 8 to 18 inches long. (If it is a big old tree with little growth you may want to do some pruning to stimulate grow this year.) We are going to use the middle part of the shoot, not the tip or the base. You should see good sized buds on the stems, just above where the leaf stem joins the woody stem. You can cut off the tip and base of the shoot where the buds are small and save the middle where the buds are larges. You should also cut off the leaf blades, but leave the small leaf stems (petioles) close to the buds. They make it easy to handle the buds once they are cut off the stick. Since you are only grafting a few trees you only need 2 or 3 bud sticks. Carry the bud sticks back to where your rootstocks are planted.
You are going to insert the buds, on the bud stick, under bark of the rootstock. This process is called budding and there are several different techniques. I suggest you search the internet for videos on grafting and budding and watch these videos to understand the process. I suggest you bud two or three buds near the base of each rootstock. The bark will heal around the inserted buds and you cut off the top of the tree the following spring just above the inserted buds. These buds will grow and produce the tree you desire. Remove any shoots from the rootstock, and you should probably choose the best growing or lowest shoot of the variety you want and remove the rest so you have a single trunk. Some people are growing paired trunks from 2 buds.
This is the way that apples are propagated commercially to get large numbers of trees of the desire variety. There are a large number of apple rootstocks available to control tree size
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Thanks Marks, I did have some success about 30%, Now I have about 12 trees left over that the buds did not produce.

I was thinking I should graft them immediately, because it is now May 8th. What do you think?

I have never grafted, Any advice of how to or special tape or anything else that I should use. Or specific part of the host tree?

thanks again very much.

I think it is too late for grafting. You can try but the leaves will suck all the water out of the cutting before the graft heals. You are better off waiting to bud again. For grafting the bud wood is collected in mid winter before growth begins and kept cold until grafting is done in March.

I got a 30% success rate the first year too. Almost complete success the second year