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Past Articles Library | Trees | How to Bark Graft Pecans

You cannot just plant a pecan and get a tree like the tree the pecan came from.  This means you must propagate the pecan tree by grafting.  This article is about a specific type of grafting called bark grafting.  You graft using rootstock that are resistant to local diseases and scions, or the part you graft on, from pecan trees that produce well.  If you are fortunate enough to live in the pecan trees native range, you can practice on wild pecan trees for free.

In December or January, when pecan trees are dormant, you cut off small branches from the desirable pecan tree.  Store these in the refrigerator (NOT the freezer) until late February or March.  Then you locate a suitable rootstock plant and it is time to graft your pecan trees.

You will need some supplies before attempting to graft your tree.  You will need:

  • Stock trees, or rootstock, that are one to four inches in diameter where the graft will be set.
  • Scions, or graftwood, from suitable trees that has been kept in cold storage since being harvested
  • Tools --grafting knife; small, sturdy, coarse-toothed saw; hand shears for cutting scions and removing smaller branches; sturdy, large-handled knife; small hammer for driving nails without damaging bark; no. 18 nails, 5/8” to 3/4” long; carpenter’s apron
  • Supplies --household aluminum foil; quart-sized polyethylene bags; rubber bands; masking or grafting tape

To prepare the stock, Cut it straight across at a height of about four or five feet with a sharp saw.  It is best to leave two or three branches below the graft area to continue to grow and provide food for the tree while the graft takes hold.

1)Select a section of the stock with a flat side, preferably on the south or southeast side of the tree.  Using a sharp knife, cut only the rough outer bark away on the stock to accommodate the scion.

2)Next, you take the scion and cut a sloping cut over about one third of the length of the scion.  The scion should be about six inches long with two or three buds left on it.  Try not to touch the part of the wood where you have cut.

3)Hold the scion against the stock where the smooth bark is exposed.  Carefully cut down each side of the scion, through the bark, but not on the bottom.  This leaves a flap in the bark.

4) Score the area of the smooth skin below the flap, but do not cut all the way through the bark to the wood.  Carefully take the scion, sloping cut side nearest the stock, and slip it inside the flap you have created.  Try not to create more of a flap then absolutely necessary to fit in the scion.

5)Remove about half the flap and nail the scion firmly to the stop with a small brad nail.  Do not use too large a nail or you will split the scion.  Then take a piece of aluminum foil and wrap the stock and scion.  Leave about half the scion outside the foil.

6)Take an ordinary baggie and cut one corner out of it.  Fit the baggie over the scion, allowing it to poke out of the corner hole, and the stock.  Wrap the baggie with tape or string to make sure it does not fall off.

Aftercare of the graft consists of watching to make sure the shoots do not grow so fast from the scion that it becomes top heavy.  If this occurs, nail stakes to the stock and tie the shoots to them.  The wood should begin to sprout shoots in about three weeks, but it may be slower in cooler weather. 

Cut any shoots coming from the stock off as soon as they appear.  If the graft is growing slowly, cut the native branches below the graft off.  Conversely, if it is growing too fast, leave the native branches on to slow its growth.  It takes about three years for a grafted tree to grow a new top.  Each year, cut one of the native branches off below the graft.  Finally, the aluminum foil and baggie can be removed in July of the first year.

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