Dax Herbst, Illinois USA

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Information for Conifer and Deciduous Grafting as well as Seed Collection dates for North America
and recommended
under stock selections


(Notes taken from Bob Fincham’s Grafting Video.  You can also visit his website for step-by-step photos detailing grafting procedures at  Bob Fincham is worldly known in the conifer community and also sells his conifers through Coenosium Gardens yearly catalog:  ‘Catalog of Rare Plants For the Discriminating Person’.)


  • Pot up 1-2 year seedlings in spring.  2-year are typically best to purchase.
    At this point you should do a little light root pruning removing any tap root while continuing to ‘lightly’ prune the rest of the roots as this work will provide for a more fibrous root system. 2-year seedlings are typically best to purchase, however 3-year may be necessary depending on the size of the plant's) to start.
  • Bring your potted seedlings into the greenhouse in December or when the ground freezes permanently.  (If you live in a climate where it never freezes, some of these instructions may need to be modified.  Unfortunately, I haven’t done the research to provide information for these climates.)
  • Wait for root growth (white root tips are visible in the bottom of the pot) OR wait till 1/3 of your seedlings (in a block) have pushed growth.  Then the entire block is ready to graft.
  • Take your scions in the morning on a cloudy day.  Your ideal scions will be the same thickness as your under stock.  However a cut into your under stock matching your scion’s diameter is also a ‘go’. Then, if at all possible graft them right away.
  • Label your scions using a permanent marker on your zip lock freezer bags.
  • Prepare your understock by removing the leader and several of the other branches to gain better light ability.  Cut into your understock to prepare for the insertion of the scion.
  • Prepare your scion.  Remove 1/3 of the needles…make your cuts.  Insert the scion so at least the outer flap on your understock matches up exactly with the length of the cut on your scion.
  • Use a budding strip and wrap the entire area your just grafted tying it off at the bottom.  Don’t tie it too tight and don’t tie it too loose.  (Think of the plant as a living thing…just as yourself)…Your graft is done.
  • Put your new grafts into a tented structure in the greenhouse to increase the humidity around the graft. (Poly is used for the tenting).
  • 40 degrees is adequate for your greenhouse temperature and will promote good callusing.  (Callusing is the point where your scion and under stock bond and where a good, strong connection takes place)


Same as for conifers with only a few exceptions:

When 1/3 of a ‘block’ of seedlings is showing signs of growth up ABOVE the entire block is ready to graft.

Scionwood is taken the same way.  Typically use wood having at least 3 sets of buds on it.  2 is quite possible…1 set of buds is pretty much you’re kidding yourself’

Do your cuts the same way and insert your scions into your understock just as you would do for a conifer graft.  Be sure your buds are facing up (very important). 

Attach your budding strip…

And then this is where it’s different from conifers:   Right after you get your budding strip tied…you need to coat the entire ‘area’ with paraphin (spelling) aka ‘grafting wax’…110degrees is the desired temp.  The wax can be heated in a crock-pot.  And if you don’t have a thermometer…the wax should be ‘liquidy’ but not able to burn your own skin if you were to expose it to your skin.  Previously I mentioned treating your plants ‘like people’…this is another example.

LASTLY, deciduous material does not need to be tented.  The ‘fresh grafts’ are simply kept in the heated greenhouse uncovered or (non-tented).



A few more things to know:


*After you bring your potted seedlings into the greenhouse it will take approximately 2-3 weeks for them to show signs of growth at which time they’re ready to be grafted.

*When white root tips show at the bottom of any pot (Even if the plant isn’t ‘actively’ growing above) it can be grafted.

*A graft can be done anywhere on your understock.   Typically weeping forms are done higher-up, which of course will provide you with a taller plant to start with.  Knowing they can be grafted anywhere will provide you with the necessary information for doing ‘less-common’ graft’s such as ‘standard’s’ or ‘topiary’ grafts.





They’ve already been grafted and placed under poly in the greenhouse.  There are numerous ways to ‘tent’ a few examples include:  (1) simply ‘resting’ the poly on top of your understock (the grafts are below on the plant and will not get damaged) or (2) you can build some sort of wooden frame that allows you to drape the poly around your plants.  A good example of this would be to construct raised beds of sand about 6 inches high and to build a frame above these beds so you can simply raise and lower the poly as needed.  Also, I’ll just mention is you have raised beds…you can lean your grafts sideways so the scions are facing up…therefore less preparation is needed to ‘thin’ the branches of your understock.


Keep them watered of course so they don’t ever dry out (The poly tenting will raise the humidity)

When the scions begin growing (if you did proper care out of 1000 grafted plants it is possible for 1000 of them to ‘knit’) you need to remove the poly and place them elsewhere in the greenhouse. 

After the scions have ‘exhibited decent growth’ you need to go in with a pair of pruners and remove 1/3 of the ‘new-growth’ on your understocks!  This will once again open up the plant so more light can get to the scion.

Then when the weather warms up and is safe for the plants to be taken outdoors, then they can be potted up into 1-gallon containers…and at this time the budding strips must be removed.


Leave the understocks on for one-year…then remove them and allow for the scion to be the only thing left growing.

*Just a note…The understocks can be removed at the time of potting into 1-gallon containers but overall it’s best to leave them on for a year so the understock can continue feeding the scion.  If you choose however to remove the understock at the time of does not mean it will kill the plant.  Some growers do remove the understock at the time of potting up.




As soon as the scion begins growing all of the understock must be removed to allow for the scion to grow on it’s own.  This is where a deciduous graft differs from a conifer graft.

The budding strip is removed at the time of potting up.



Seed Collection of Conifers (cone ripening dates)


Larix: All Larix are compatible as under stock

Fall September-December (decidua) Old cones stay on tree indefinitely


Picea: All Picea are compatible as under stock

 Fall September-November (abies) ***under stock***

           Fall August-September (engelmannii)

           Fall Mid-August (glauca)

           Fall September (mariana)

           Fall Mid-September—Early October (pungens)


Abies: All Abies are compatible for under stock

  Fall September-October (concolor)

           Fall September-Mid-October (fraserii) Blue-green cones change to brown ***a   second choice to nordmanniana as an under stock***

           Fall September-October (nordmanniana) ***under stock***

           Fall September-early October (veitchii) Bluish-purple cones change to brown


Pinus:  Fall August-October (cembra)

           Fall August-October (contorta var. latifolia)

           Fall August-September (flexillis)

 Fall September (koraiensis)  ***under stock option*** (5-needled Pines) 

           Fall October (mugo)

           Fall September-November (nigra)

           Fall September (parviflora)

           Fall August-October (resinosa) ***under stock*** (3-needled Pines)

           Fall August-September (strobus) ***under stock*** (5-needled Pines)

           Fall September-October (sylvestris)

           Fall September-November (virginiana)


Chamaecyparis:  September (nootkatensis, lawsoniana, thyoides)

Mature nootkatensis cones are yellow-brown in color.

Note:  Chamaecyparis nootkatensis is now known as:  Xanthocyparis nootkatensis.


***under stock***

Xanthocyparis nootkatensis (Chamaecyparis nootkatensis) can be grafted onto either Juniperus x media ‘Hetzii’ or onto Thuja orientalis ‘Biota’.  Both of which have a deep tap root and prevent ‘Wobbling’.  For hardiness reasons, Juniperus x media ‘Hetzii’ is the better of the two choices.


Juniperus:  August-September (second to third year) (communis).  Plants need to be 20         years old.

                     Mid-September-Mid December (scopulorum) persists 2-3 years.  Plants need to be 10-20 years old.

                 September-November (virginiania).  Plants need to be 10 years old.


NOTE:  All junipers are compatible as rootstocks.  Juniperus x media ‘Hetzii’ and Juniperus scopulorum are most commonly                used.  Also, for most practical reasons, most all junipers strike from cuttings.


Tsuga: September-October  (Canadensis). 


Metasequoia glyptostroboides:  seed usually isn’t viable.  Cones collected when the scales are not opened must be pried open by hand.  Cones collected when the scales naturally begin opening will open within 1-2 weeks at room temperature.  No stratification is required.  Seeds should be sown and mulched with fine sand and begin germinating in 5 days.  Seeds should be sown in a greenhouse with high humidity.  In hot climates the seedlings should be shaded during the first growing season.




Fagus:  Fall October-November (usually mid-September)  (sylvatica) Seed is chestnut-brown, shining, thin-shelled nuts and drops after first frost 42 days of chilling followed by warmer temps for 28 days (68 degrees is optimal).  Seed begins germinating at end of cold cycle.


Conifers that Strike from Cuttings (Root):

Chamaecyparis pisifera

Chamaecyparis obtusa

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana (some)…most are grafted onto C.l. understocks.

Thuja (all)

Metasequoia glyptostroboides

Juniperus (scopulorum cultivars can de somewhat difficult)


For most practical reasons your cuttings should be done when the plant has been dormant for at least a full month.  December is a good time in North America to do the work.  A rooting hormone is definitely recommended.  ‘Dip and Grow’ and ‘Hormex # 8 are good choices for conifers.  Also, these cuttings need a humid environment such as a greenhouse.  For homeowners or hobbyists without a greenhouse results can be achieved by sealing your cuttings in a Ziploc Freezer Bag to which a little water has been added to the bottom of the bag and by placing them under artificial lights.  Cuttings can be placed in plastic cups, Styrofoam cups, etc… however, plastic cups allow the grower to see when the roots have formed.


Under stock Compatibility of Conifers Previously Not Mentioned:

Cedrus:  All are grafted onto Cedrus deodora even the hardier forms such as Cedrus libani var. stenocoma or Cedrus libani ‘Purdue Hardy’.



2 and 3-needled Pines. Use:  Pinus contorta latifolia or Pinus banksiana. Some field growers think the banksiana has a better root system.  I’ve heard of some growers using Pinus strobus for 3-needled pines.


5-needled Pines (bonsai).  For all general purposes use Pinus strobus. Pinus thunbergiana however works just as well and is TOLERANT of salt.  Being perfect for bonsai or for plants exposed to salty conditions.   Pinus thunbergiana however is known to die out quicker than strobus.  In cases of very old bonsai trees of Pinus parviflora it has been learned that the thunbergiana grafted ones die earlier and break much easier than those that were grafted onto strobus.

I gathered this information in an effort to discuss the plants hardy in my zone 5 climate USA.  
Some of the information may not be applicable for other climates or zones.

Dax Herbst, Illinois USA


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