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How to Graft a Citrus Tree in 7 Steps

How to Graft a Citrus Tree in 7 Steps

Out of all the agriculturally grown fruit trees, citrus trees are a crowd-favorite.

Oranges, lemons, limes, grapefruits, and many more citrus fruits are all the different species belonging to the Citrus genus. 

Vegetative propagation of Citrus trees is almost impossible. 

Well-performing varieties cannot be propagated by cuttings, and the success rate with air layering is meager. That leaves us with propagating Citrus trees from seed. 

When a Citrus plant is grown from seed, we never know how the plant will behave in terms of fruit production as it grows. 

To ensure that a baby Citrus plant has similar fruiting habits to your best-performing Citrus trees, you can use a technique called grafting

 

How to Graft a Citrus Tree?

The T-budding method is best for grafting Citrus trees. A bud, along with some bark, is taken from the scion, the tree that we want to replicate. You then insert the budwood beneath the host tree’s bark, rootstock. Then a moisture-retaining cover is wrapped around the site to allow the graft to heal. 

 

In-depth Guide to Citrus Tree Grafting

There are a few different methods of grafting out there, but not all are easy to practice or are well-suited for Citrus. 

One of the easiest and most successful methods for Citrus grafting is the budding method, also known as T-budding. 

Grafting should be done during the summer months, ideally between July and September. 

Choose this time so that the budwood has enough time to fuse with the rootstock before winter dormancy hits. 

When grafting, all your instruments should be thoroughly sterilized, so you don’t infect your plants with diseases

Similarly, choose a clean and calm place for grafting as it takes a lot of concentration and patience. 

 

Step 1: First, select the tree you want the new plant to replicate. The tree should be healthy and vigorously growing. 

 

Step 2: Budwood should be collected only during the growing period. This is also the time when the bark is full of nutrients and can be separated from the plant easily. 

Scan the scion tree for round budded stems from this year’s growth and cut them off. 

Remove all the leaves from the stem, so the twig does not lose water from leaf transpiration. 

 

Step 3:The buds we have to obtain are located between a leafstalk and the stem. Make a horizontal cut 1.5 cm above the targeted bud as deep as the blade hits the wood.

Repeat the horizontal cut 1.5 cm below the bud. Then connect both edges of the horizontal cuts with a vertical cut that cuts the bark down to the wood. 

You should have square-shaped cuts around the bud. 

Slide your blade under the budwood carefully to separate it from the wood. Gently tug on the leafstalk, using it as a handle to pull the budwood. 

 

Step 4: Note the dimensions of the square budwood and remove a similar part of bark from the rootstock. Using your knife, make the square cut on the bark gently. 

The blade should go as deep until it touches the hardwood. At the lower edge, make a slanting cut into the bark, so the scion can fit there. 

Remove the square slice of bark from the rootstock. While you operate with the bark and budwood, ensure that your skin doesn’t come into contact with them. 

 

Step 5: Insert the budwood into the site you have created in the rootstock. The scion should fit in the lower space in the bark, which should hold it in place. 

Take special care that the cambium layers in the budwood and rootstock’s bark meet. 

When the budwood is in its station, you can break off the leafstalk as it is needed no more. 

 

Step 6: If you have grafting tape, start wrapping it around firmly from under the graft site right to the top and above it. 

As you wrap, overlap the tape and leave no patches uncovered. The tape acts to keep the budwood in place, connecting the cambium of both the scion and the rootstock. 

Secondly, the grafting tape locks the moisture inside the budwood, so it doesn’t dry out. An alternative to grafting tape that you can use is plastic wrap. 

 

Step 7: It is a good practice to label the newly grafted plant with some details like the date of graft, the scion variety, and the method of grafting used. 

This will help you in the future. 

 

Why Is Grafting Citrus Trees Needed

Seed produced inside a Citrus fruit results from cross-pollination with a different Citrus tree of the same species. 

Cross-pollination means that the resultant seeds inside the fruit will share characteristics of two different plants. 

These two different plants are the tree that donates the pollen and the tree that receives pollen and bears fruit. 

When a seed such as that germinates and grows into a new Citrus plant, we can never tell what characteristics it will display until 3-4 years later when it has grown bigger. 

This seed might behave identically to the fruit-bearing plant. It may behave identically to the anonymous pollen donating plant, or it may be a combination of both trees’ traits. 

Such uncertainty is not good in agriculture as growers need to be sure what results they will get by planting a specific tree. This is where grafting comes in. 

Grafting is used to precisely replicate the traits of one particular tree in a baby Citrus tree. 

It’s similar to the vegetative propagation of Citrus, just a little more complicated but fun. 

 

Caring for Grafted Citrus Plants

It typically takes three to four weeks for a graft to heal. So, the grafting tape should not be removed until four weeks have elapsed. 

It’s a good idea to allow the tape stay on for longer. 

When you open the grafting tape and if you see the graft has fused with the rootstock’s bark, this is a sign of success. 

Cut off the rootstock from above the graft site to concentrate all the new growth through the graft.