Learn to Graft by Dick Johnson

Introduction - basic concept:


Special thanks to Mr. Dick Johnson of Tahiti for providing the following information on grafting.  To view Dick's site please go to http://www.hibiscus-of-tahiti.com/

Learn How To Graft:
It is considered that 80% of modern hybrids can be grown on their own roots simply by placing the cutting in a pot (many at once is fine) with pearlite, vermiculite, peat moss either by themselves or mixed together. They need to be kept moist and in a shaded area. They should either be misted frequently or covered with a plastic bag to maximize humidity. However, this works best with fresh wood. Wood that has been sent by mail is somewhat desiccated and much more likely to grow if grafted onto an established root stock. Moreover, some 20% of modern hybrids will only grow if grafted. 
Any body, but any body, can learn to graft.  The most important thing is to read all you can, then set out to find what works best for you.  Just jump in and do it, since there is no substitute for experience and the only way get it is to quit procrastinating. 
The concept is actually quite simple.  One simply physically attaches the piece of wood “branch” they would like to propagate, called the scion, to a root stock which is an established rooted plant.  This is done in such a way that the joint “graft union” will fuse, which is accomplished by following the basic principle of matching the tissues, “green to green”.  This means matching the green outer tissue of the scion to the green outer tissues of the root stock.  In doing so all the tissues are aligned so that fusion of the graft union can occur.

Kinds Of Grafts:

There are many ways to attach the scion and root stock, with end grafts, side grafts and wedge grafts being the most common.  For excellent photo coverage of these methods check this link by Wally Morgan http://www.widebaytrader.com/graft/graft.htm
Requirements For Graft Union Fusion:


In order for the graft union to fuse successfully, there are a few basic requirements:

1) The graft union must be tightly bound to force the tissue surfaces of the scion and root stock into intimate contact.

2) The union should be water proofed.

3) The plant or at least the graft union and scion should be placed in a suitable environment with regards to humidity and temperature.


To accomplish point 1) above, there are many techniques.  The one I find  easiest requires a special kind of tape found at most any hardware store called “rubber splicing tape” that is strong, elastic and self adhesive while simultaneously providing a degree of water proofing to the graft union.  A similar tape made specifically for grafting is available from Raggett Industries, check the following link: http://www.raggettindustries.com/buddy.htm   There are also other special grafting tapes and binding materials available for this purpose.  Some use plumber’s Teflon tape or simply a cloths pin to hold the tissues together, but unless the graft union is precisely cut, these methods may not be strong enough to bring irregularities into intimate contact. 


To accomplish point 2) if one has used the above tape, no further waterproofing may be necessary.  However, if other less waterproof methods of binding are used or as a precautionary measure, one can paint the entire graft union and scion with melted paraffin wax.  Coat the wood with just enough paraffin to cover the surface, but do not make it overly thick.  In any event, the new growth that will come from the point where originally there was a leaf, called a node, will penetrate though the layer of paraffin.


To accomplish point 3) one should try to keep the plant in an ambient temperature of  75 to 90 F (23 to 30 C).  At cooler temperatures the graft union will be very slow to take and may fail.  Importantly, at least the graft union and scion need to be in a humid environment, which can simply be accomplished by placing a translucent plastic bag over it.  It is usually useful to attach the plastic bag around the root stock either with a twist tie or a cloth pin.  Alternatively, the entire plant, pot and all can be placed in a mini propagator.  This can be something as simple as placing several small pots of about 4” containing the grafted plant in a much large pot where the top of the scion is lower than the top of the pot, which is cover with translucent plastic.  Another method is to make a tent with translucent plastic and a flap like door though which the pots may be entered.  As the plant transpires, it will create a humid environment, and one should see condensation on the inside surface of the plastic covering indicating maximum humidity.  The plants and/or propagator should be placed in subdued light, with no or very little direct sun, which can cause excess temperatures.  It is advisable to spray the plant with a fungicide periodically, to prevent disease that can be induced in this humid environment, especially if the graft union and scion have not been painted with melted paraffin.


One of the most important points is to learn how to make proper cuts and graft unions.  Once you feel you have a proper union, hold it up against something bright to see if any light passes between the cut surfaces.  If not, you have a good mated surface.  Small irregularities may be acceptable if tightly bound, but it is best to have absolutely flat surfaces where no light passes between the joint surfaces.


Root Stock

Another basic consideration is the root stock.  First of all, it only serves to provide fluid and nutrition to the scion and in no other way effects its characteristics.  Accordingly, it is best to use proven root stock like “Pride Of Hankins” or "H. albolacinatus", which are also considered resistant to root rot .  However, if they are not available, the next best choice will be any local variety the grows well with a massive bush, which importantly, is easy to grow from cuttings.

This should be enough to get you headed in the right direction.  For an introduction to some alternate ideas and techniques, please check out the following link: