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Late winter ideal time to collect scion wood for apple, nut tree grafting


Robert E. Thomas
Information Specialist
University of Missouri Cooperative Media Group
Phone: 573-882-2480

Published: Tuesday, Feb. 24, 2009

Story source:

Christopher J. Starbuck, 573-882-9630

COLUMBIA, Mo. – Late winter is an ideal time to collect scion wood for spring grafting of apple and nut trees, said a University of Missouri Extension horticulturist.

In grafting, a scion is a cutting that produces new shoots for the tree and the desired fruit. The lower portion of the graft is called the rootstock. Grafting should take place just as the rootstock buds start to grow, but the buds on the scion wood must be dormant, making late winter the optimal collecting time, said Chris Starbuck.

“Collect scion wood that is disease-free and has the same diameter as that of the rootstock used for grafting,” he said.

Scion wood typically will be one-quarter to one-half inch in diameter and 12 to 18 inches long. The scion wood should be from terminal or year-old dormant shoots with well-developed vegetative buds, which are narrow and pointed.

Avoid round and plump floral buds. Terminal wood exposed to ample sunlight during the previous growing season generally produces excellent scion wood, he said.

On terminal shoots, the best scions come from the lower two-thirds of the shoots. These buds are mature and have short internodes. Discard buds growing at the very tip of the shoot. These are often too succulent and too low in carbohydrates to produce vigorous growth after grafting.

For information about grafting techniques, see the MU Extension guide “Grafting” (G6971), available for purchase or free download at

Cut scion wood can store up to three months at 32 degrees F in sealed polyethylene bags to prevent moisture loss. Storage at lower temperatures usually kills the buds.

Temperatures above 32 degrees will shorten the scion wood’s storage life. Using scion buds that have begun to grow while in cold storage will result in graft failure.