What is a Grafted Plant: The Basics

What is a Grafted Plant: The Basics
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What is a Grafted Plant: The Basics

Understanding Grafted Plants: The Magic of Rootstock and Scion

In the fascinating world of gardening, grafted plants are a marvel of horticultural technique, offering a plethora of benefits for both casual gardeners and serious horticulturists alike. Many of the roses and fruit trees available from Wayside Gardens, for example, are grafted plants, which involves merging two plants into one to combine the best characteristics of each.

graphic of root stock and scion on plantgraphic of root stock and scion on plant
Source: https://www.ces.ncsu.edu/

What is Grafting?

Grafting is a method where the upper part of one plant (the scion) is attached to the root system of another plant (the rootstock). The scion is the portion that produces the flowers, fruits, or leaves that you desire, while the rootstock is selected for its robustness and adaptability to various environments.

4 Benefits of Grafted Plants

  1. Enhanced Hardiness: The use of a vigorous rootstock makes the resulting plant more resilient and often more capable of withstanding harsher climatic conditions than its non-grafted counterparts. This means gardeners can grow certain varieties in colder or hotter zones than the plants would normally tolerate.
  2. Earlier Fruit Production: Particularly in fruit trees, grafting onto a mature rootstock can significantly accelerate the time it takes for new trees to begin bearing fruit. This allows gardeners to enjoy the fruits of their labor much sooner than if they had planted a non-grafted sapling.
  3. Guaranteed Clone Quality: Since the scion is essentially a clone of another plant, grafted plants bypass many of the uncertainties associated with seed germination. This clonal propagation ensures that the plant’s characteristics, such as flower color, fruit quality, and growth habit, remain true to the expected outcome.
  4. Cost-Effectiveness: Grafting can be more economical in the long run. Growing a plant from seed to its mature form can take years, whereas grafted plants can achieve the same growth in a shorter time frame, reducing the overall cultivation costs.

Common Grafting Practices

Wayside Gardens’ roses, for example, are often grafted onto ‘Dr. Huey’ rootstock, known for its robustness and the vivid crimson blooms it produces if the scion dies off. This rootstock exemplifies how grafted plants can endure over time, even reverting to their rootstock’s characteristics under certain conditions. Similarly, fruit trees at Wayside Gardens are frequently grafted onto wild versions of the same species—stronger and more vigorous—capable of supporting the cultivated varieties grafted onto them.

Managing Grafted Plants

While grafted plants offer many advantages, they do require some care to ensure the scion does not get overtaken by the rootstock. It is crucial to regularly inspect the plant and trim any growth emerging from the rootstock. In the event of the scion's failure, the rootstock may take over, growing into a form that may not be as desirable as the intended plant.

Grafting not only demonstrates the skill and knowledge of seasoned gardeners but also represents a fascinating intersection of art and science in horticulture. By understanding and utilizing grafted plants, gardeners can expand the variety and performance of their garden collections, bringing more beauty and productivity to their gardening endeavors.