Plant Propagation: Budding

This is a method of propagation that differs from other methods in that it is a joining together of two living portions from two separate plants to form a permanent union. One is part of a plant with roots and is called the ‘stock’, and the other is a piece of the previous year’s wood of another plant and is called the ‘scion’. When properly joined to the stock, the scion supplies the aerial parts of the new plant, that is, the branches, leaves, buds, etc. It is essential that the stock and scion be compatible. This usually means that they should be of the same genus, but sometimes genera within the same natural order can be grafted. Although budding and grafting are separate methods of propagation carried out at different times of the year, budding is in fact only a form of grafting, because the principles governing the joining together of the two parts are the same, although the material used to produce the growth part of the new plant is different. A single bud and a small piece of bark or rind to join the stock are used for budding, whereas a piece of growth or shoot (the scion) to join to the stock is used for grafting. Many amateur gardeners propagate their roses or fruit trees by budding or grafting and, once the essentials are understood and after some practice, anyone can become efficient at one or both methods.


Different types of stocks for fruit trees have been developed by research stations for their suitability to various varieties and to the ultimate mode of growth of the tree. The various stocks for apple trees are therefore classified into groups or types. The dwarfing stocks have a restricted root action and, when they are worked with any variety of apple, produce trees that are small and dwarf, which will fruit early in life. Another group produces trees that are semi-dwarf in habit, and those with a vigorous rooting system produce large trees. Root stocks which are immune to pests such as the woolly aphid have recently been developed and selected.

There are various stocks for plums which are used for different varieties of dessert and culinary plums, for peaches and nectarines, and for the various kinds of ornamental flowering prunus.

Quince stock is used for pears because the rooting system is less vigorous than that of the common pear, a stock that is used only when very large trees are needed. The types of quince stock are known as Mailing A and Mailing C.

Cherries are budded or grafted on to stocks of the wild cherry or gean — Prunus avium — particularly the Mailing selection F.12/1.

For roses various types of stocks are available that are easily raised by either seeds or cuttings. The wild briar or dog rose is widely used, particularly on heavy soils. The stems can be dug out of the hedgerows and, if planted and established in the garden, can be worked on the young wood or growth in the following year to form standard rose trees.

Most of the standard roses are grown on stems of the Japanese rose, Rosa rugosa. There is also the thornless form of Rosa multiflora, known as ‘Simplex’, that is an especially good stock for light soils. It is propagated by cuttings inserted out-of-doors in autumn, and worked or budded in July of the following year.

It is essential that the stocks be well rooted and fully established before being worked, and also free of pests and diseases. When the stocks have been obtained and have been established in the garden, the method of working and the form of union, that is, budding or grafting, can be decided upon.

Successful budding depends not only on the way the budding is done, but also on when it is done and on the type of materials used.

When to bud:

Wood produced in the same season is used. Budding can therefore be carried out between early July and mid-August, when there is an abundance of sap, and the bulk of the season’s growth has been made but has not yet become hard and woody. But no hard and fast rules can be laid down because so much depends on the season.

What to bud:

There are several simple tests which enable the right choice of wood to be made. With roses, for example, if the thorns snap off easily and cleanly, leaving a clean, moist scar, the wood and buds should be in the right condition to ensure easy working.

With the stock it is easy to make a trial cut, and if the bark or rind separates readily from the wood and there is plenty of sap, the stock is ready. During a dry season, however, such a condition, particularly with the stock, is not always easy to obtain. Stocks that are dry at the roots so that the bark will not part or lift from the wood must be thoroughly watered a week or so before they are worked. Whether it is roses, fruit or ornamental trees that are being budded the essentials are the same, except that roses are budded below ground and fruit trees and most ornamentals above ground level.


For budding and grafting the tools and materials required are:

1. A budding knife with a long, thin handle flattened at the end to lift the bark of the stock.

2. Strong raffia, which should be used damp.

3. A bowl or similar receptacle to hold water into which the prepared buds can be placed to keep them damp.

4. A bucket for keeping the ‘bud wood’ fresh and moist until required.

5. A hand-fork or trowel to remove soil from the base of stocks if they are being worked below or near to ground level, as, for example, bush roses.

6. Wax or rubberized tape.


There are three distinct operations: (a) the preparation or cutting out of the bud, (b) cutting the incision in the stock into which the bud is to be inserted, and (c) the insertion and tying in of the bud with raffia.

• (a) Cutting out the bud is perhaps the most difficult job, for unless the bud is properly prepared the whole operation will fail. The best buds are those near the base of the bud stick, which is a piece of the current year’s growth. First cut off the leaves, leaving the stalks of the leaves to act as handles for the buds. Starting with the lower bud, cut in about 1/2 in. below the leafstalk and draw the knife upward to come out about l in. above the bud. A little wood is cut out behind the bud and this can be removed or not.

• (b) The second operation is simple. A T-shaped cut is made in the bark of the stock at a point where it is smooth. Make a long upward cut with the point of the knife and a short cross cut at the top of it, just deep enough to sever the bark.

• (c) Lift the flaps of the T-cut with the knife handle and slide the prepared bud down beneath the flaps of bark so that it fits snugly against the wood of the stock. Then press the bud down until the base of the T-cut begins to split a little, which is a sign that the bud is firmly inserted. Trim off the remaining part of the shield of bark above the bud, level with the top of the T-shaped cut, and tie the bud with a 2 ft. long piece of raffia. Start the tie a little below the bud, binding the cut firmly but not so tight as to cause a strangling effect. Finish just above the T-cut and tie securely. No further protective covering is needed, and the stocks are allowed to grow on without restriction for the rest of the season. The actual cutting back of the stock is not done until early spring of the following year.

After care:

Make sure that the stocks do not suffer during the dry weather and prevent the growth of weeds. About a month after inserting the buds, examine the stocks. If the buds are swelling, as they should be, draw a sharp knife up the back of the raffia tie, cutting it sufficiently to cause it to ease and part.

During early spring examine the buds and, if they are alive, head back the top of the stock to a point about 1 in. above the bud in the case of roses, and some 6 in. above the bud with fruit and other trees. This longer snag of stock can be used as a stake for the new growth when the bud grows out, to prevent damage by wind.

This method is known as shield budding. There are several other methods, such as patch budding, flute budding and ring budding, which are more involved and not commonly practised or recommended for general use.

05. September 2013 by admin
Categories: Gardening History, Plant Biology, Top Tips | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , | Comments Off on Plant Propagation: Budding


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