What do the terms grafting and budding mean? Budding is a form of grafting. Grafting is the art of attaching a piece of one plant to another plant, creating a new plant. Grafting is usually done because the desirable plant is very difficult if not impossible to spread through other means.
Dogwoods, by way of instance, are easily grown from seed, but it’s near impossible to grow a Pink Dogwood from seed. The seeds out of a Pink Dogwood will produce seedlings that are likely to blossom white.
The most common way of producing Pink Dogwood trees is to remove one bud from a Pink Dogwood tree and slide it under the bark of a White Dogwood seedling. This practice is called budding, and the seedling is called the rootstock. This is typically done during the late summer months once the bark of the White Dogwood seedling is readily separated from the tree, and the seedling is about 1/4″ in diameter.
A very little “T” shaped cut is made in the bark only, and the bud is slid in the slot. The true bud itself is permitted to poke out through the opening and then the wound is wrapped with a rubber band both above and below the bud. By the following spring the bud will have grafted itself to the seedling, at that time the seedling is cut off just above the Pink Dogwood bud, and the bud then develops to a Pink Dogwood tree.
Budding is usually performed at ground level, and often times the rootstock will send up shoots from below the bud union. These shoots, often called suckers, should be removed as soon as they appear because they’re from the rootstock and aren’t the exact same variety as the rest of the plant. Flowering Crabapples are also budded and are notorious for producing suckers. When removing these suckers do not just clip them off at ground level with pruning shears, they will just grow back. Pull back the dirt or mulch and remove them from the tree completely at the point at which they emerge from the stem.
Most people today clip them off a few inches from the floor, and then they return with numerous shoots. This drives me mad! Get down as low as possible and remove them completely and you’ll keep them under control. On older trees which have been improperly pruned for many years I have a digging spade and literally assault these suckers hacking them away from the stem. Sure this does a little damage to the stem of this tree, but if a plant is let go just like that I guess it is a do or die situation. The trees always survive and thrive.
Other plants are grafted up high to make a weeping effect. Among the most popular trees which is grafted up high is the top graft Weeping Cherry. In cases like this the seedling is permitted to grow to a height of 5′, then the weeping variety is grafted to the rootstock at a height of about 5′. This makes an umbrella type effect. In cases like this the graft union is 5′ off the floor, therefore anything that grows from the stem under that graft union must be eliminated.
Many people don’t know this and before they know it they have a branch 2″ in diameter growing up throughout the crying canopy of the tree. Before you know it there are plenty of branches growing vertical through the canopy as well as the effect of this plant is totally ruined.
Looking carefully at the photos you can see these suckers originate from below the graft union. This issue could have been prevented if someone had just picked these buds off when they first emerged on the stem of this tree. Then they would have never developed into branches.
This tree can still be saved, but there’ll be a massive scar on the stem once the vertical branches are pruned off. But beneath the canopy of the crying tree these scars won’t ever show.
Another interesting plant that is grafted is the Weeping Cotoneaster. In cases like this the seedling that’s grown to serve as the rootstock is Paul’s Scarlet Hawthorn, and Cotoneaster Apiculata is grafted on the Hawthorn rootstock at a height of 5′. Years ago a nurseryman discovered through experimentation that both of these plants are in fact compatible, and a beautiful and one of a kind plant was made. I have one of these in my landscape and we love it.
Because the graft union is at 5′, any expansion coming from the stem (rootstock) have to be removed. In cases like this the growth coming from the rootstock will be Hawthorn and will look totally different from the Cotoneaster that is exactly what the plant is assumed to be. The simplest way to keep up with this sort of pruning is to keep your eye on your grafted plants when you are in the yard. After you see new growth coming from below the graft union, just select it off with your fingernail.
If you capture these buds when they first emerge, pruning them off is as simple as that. Walk around your yard and look for grafted or budded plants, and see if you can find any that have growth which doesn’t appear to match the rest of the plant. Look closely and you might realize that the expansion is coming from under a graft or bud union.