Understanding Grafting To Create Plants That Work For You


Understanding Grafting To Create Plants That Work For You

Grafting is any method which surgically connects one part of a plant to any part of another plant. The top half of a grafted plant is referred to as the scion (pronounced sigh-on), and the bottom half is the rootstock. Grafting allows an individual to grow plants that have altered attributes in their home or garden. By knowing what scions and rootstocks are and how they work, you can be one step closer to grafting plants that work for you.


The scion is the top half of a grafted plant that produces all of the plant’s leaves, stems, flowers and fruits. The grafted plant will bear the same leaves and fruits as the plant the scion came from. The scion receives all of its water and nutrients from the rootstock.


Also known as “understock” or simply “stock,” the rootstock is the lower portion of the grafted plant that produces its roots.

The top of the rootstock is usually at the soil line, but rootstocks can also be above ground. Grafting a plant at a point above the soil is known as being “topworked.” For example, a tree may be cut off at one foot above the soil, becoming the rootstock. A scion is then placed into the top of the rootstock. The point where they connect is called the graft. Everything below the graft is the rootstock, and above it is the scion.

The rootstock can be a seedling, which will produce a full sized plant, or the rootstock can be size controlled, which will produce a smaller plant. The rootstock can determine the size and shape of the plant, but it has no effect over the plant’s type or quality of leaves, flowers and fruits it produces.

Working Together

The scion is chosen for the stunning flowers it produces, or for the delicious fruit it bears. However, the rootstock chosen typically doesn’t matter, especially if you are a home gardener, so long as the scion and rootstock are compatible. But by going out of your way to find a specific rootstock, you can create a plant that matches your unique needs.

As stated earlier, the rootstock can determine the size and shape of the scion it is grafted with, but it can have other effects as well. Some rootstocks can allow a plant to grow in a location that the scion would normally fail in, such as a dry or cold location, while others can allow the scion to bear fruit and ripen earlier. There are even some rootstocks, like some grape rootstocks, that allow the plant to have resistances to chemicals and pests.

By grafting together the right kinds of scions and rootstocks, you can create a plant that works best you. You can fit an apple tree that would normally be too large for your home garden into it by using a size controlled rootstock, or you can grow a plant that typically wouldn’t survive in your location. Experimenting with grafting scions and rootstocks is an experience worth having.