There’s no fruit quite like the avocado. It’s a delicious, nutritious fruit that has made its way into many fantastic recipes. If you’re reading this article, there’s a chance that you want to grow your own avocado tree.
You may have heard or read that the best way to go about this is by raising a grafted tree. You may know that grafting an avocado tree is essentially a process by which one avocado tree is cloned by taking off a piece and reattaching it to another tree where it may continue its growth. What you don’t know is how to graft an avocado tree.
At Minneopa Orchards, we’re here to help. The following article will walk you through the process of grafting an avocado tree. Hopefully, it will also answer some questions you may have and set you up for success in grafting avocado trees.
The Lingo of Grafting Avocado Trees
If you’re considering grafting an avocado tree yourself, there are some terms that you will encounter. To help you understand not only this article, but any reputable source that speaks on the subject of grafting, here are some useful definitions.
The rootstock is the portion of the plant growing from the soil. It is the main, lower part of the stem, or trunk, onto which the scion is grafted.
The scion is the portion of the plant, such as a bud or a shoot, that is separated from the plant on which it was originally growing and is then attached (through grafting) to the rootstock.
A cultivar denotes a particular variety of a plant developed through selective breeding. For instance, while a Granny Smith and a Honeycrisp are both apples, and are taxonomically the same species (malus domestica), they are different cultivars. As with apples, you can see and taste the difference between avocado cultivars.
The cambium is the layer of plant tissue just below the skin/bark of a plant. It is the layer between the xylem and phloem of vascular plants, and it is responsible for producing new cells and secondary growth.
Why Graft an Avocado Tree?
If you grow an avocado from a seed, it could take over a decade to produce fruit or it may never produce fruit at all. If it does eventually produce fruit, the avocados could be sparse, small, sour tasting, or otherwise unappealing. You never know what kind of avocado you will get until it appears. This is because it’s an entirely new creation. It’s an unpredictable amalgamation of its parents’ genetic profiles. Because of this, a planted avocado seed may not ultimately produce the same avocado cultivar from which it came.
From the straightforward growing process, you could get perfectly fine fruit. In theory, you could end up with a superior fruit. Unfortunately, this outcome is unlikely, and the wait alone would be too long to justify for most people.
If you know how to graft an avocado tree, you have a reliable method of producing a consistent bounty of quality fruit within a couple of years of the initial graft. Grafting gives you a lot of control. Both the rootstock and the scion can be selected to nearly guarantee that your tree will have particular traits.
For instance, as the rootstock mostly determines a tree’s height, you could select a Wurtz avocado tree as the rootstock, thus ensuring your tree does not grow unmanageably tall. Meanwhile, your scion could be from the Hass avocado tree so that the fruit your tree produces is the same as what you’re used to buying from the grocery store.
(If you want to get really fancy with your grafting project, here’s a video about grafting a Type A and a Type B avocado onto the same rootstock to increase fruit yield and provide two delicious kinds of fruit to enjoy.)
In short, if you’re growing an avocado tree and want the fruit to be of consistent quantity and quality, and be ready in a shorter amount of time, then growing a grafted tree is the way to go.
Preparing to Graft an Avocado Tree
To maximize your chances of success with your avocado tree grafting, you want to do your homework.
Get Your Timing Right
The best time of year for grafting an avocado tree is spring. During this time of year, your avocado tree undergoes rapid growth. However, this is assuming that the avocado trees from which you select scion wood are following a normative developmental schedule. If they begin developing flower and leaf buds earlier in the year, you can begin grafting.
Step-By-Step Beginner’s Guide On How to Graft an Avocado Tree
To make your avocado tree grafting process as easy as possible, the following guide is segmented into four simple steps.
Step 1: Prepping the Rootstock
Be sure to prune away any signs of growth on the trunk of the rootstock. While you can allow that part of the plant to grow if you so wish, remember that portion of the tree will have none of the benefits of the grafted part of the tree. Not only will any natural growth be taking up valuable space, but it will also compete with the graft for water and nutrients.
Step 2: Choosing A Scion
Select a branch from the desired variety of avocado tree to be the scion. The ideal branch will have lots of new buds on it, have a healthy green color, and have roughly the same diameter as the rootstock. Snip it from the avocado tree. It’s best for the length of the branch that you intend on using as a scion to be about 6-8 inches. Remove the leaves and leaf stems from the scion wood, but be careful not to damage the flower or the leaf buds.
Step 3: Making Your Cuts
Next, you need to make your cuts. There are different ways to do this, but here we will cover what is perhaps the simplest way. Take your knife and slice the base of the scion into a triangular wedge shape. This entails cutting the scion on opposite sides. Do not add additional cuts on the sides perpendicular to the original cuts.
The wedge should be about an inch or an inch and a half long, starting at the top with the same thickness as the rest of the scion, and come to a point at the bottom. Make the cuts on both sides as even as possible.
The cut into the rootstock is much simpler. Make a single cut straight down the center of the top of the rootstock, that is, at the point where you will attach the scion. The depth of the cut should be about the same as the length of the wedge on the scion.
Step 4: Taping it Up
Insert the wedge of the scion into the cut on the rootstock. The exposed cambium of both the scion and the rootstock should be flush with one another. You don’t want any gaps or pockets. It should be a snug fit. Ideally, the rootstock would hold the scion in place if you removed your hand.
Then, holding it in place, use your grafting tape to wrap it up. The tape should cover the entire graft. Use as many layers as necessary to hold it firmly in place.
Next, use the grafting tape to wrap the rest of the scion. This is to cover the buds and prevent them from losing excessive moisture. The buds should come through the tape as they grow on their own. Just be careful not to damage them as you wrap the tape.
After that, you’re all done. The waiting begins.
Additional Tips for Grafting an Avocado Tree
After the graft is set, consider using a fungicide such as neem oil or a copper fungicide to further help protect the plant from disease. It’s an additional but optional thing you can do to maximize your grafted avocado tree’s chance of success.
Also, young avocado trees are susceptible to sunburn, so try to keep your tree from prolonged exposure to intense UV radiation on those hot, sunny days.
There are a few simple ways to do this. If you’re growing your tree in a planter, you can periodically move it to a shadier spot. As the avocado is native to tropical forests, it’ll also do fine if you grow it in the partial shade of another tree. Otherwise, perhaps consider using a shade cloth to protect your young grafted avocado tree.
One thing to bear in mind is making sure the avocado varieties that you select for grafting are compatible. This video shows what can happen if you graft avocados with different growth schedules.
There’s a lot in common between the grafting processes of different fruit trees. This article on how to graft an apple tree can provide even more information on tree grafting.
Get What You Want By Grafting an Avocado Tree
By learning how to graft an avocado tree, you can produce the exact avocado fruit you want, in good quality and quantity, in a relatively short amount of time.
Excited about more avocado content? Then check out my avocado page for more growing tips, info guides, and great recipes!