THE APPROACH GRAFT
AN ECONOMICAL, EFFECTIVE SOLUTION
"My plant is yellow! What can I do?"
If I had a nickel for every time that I have heard that complaint
I would be a rich man. Yellow plants seem to be a way of life
in this area. Most yellowing of plants, if pests are not involved,
is caused by lack of iron in the plant. Such an iron deficiency
in a plant can be caused by the plant's inability to utilize
available iron in the soil or simply the lack of iron in the
soil. Because most soils in this area of Texas contain an abundance
of calcium which causes an alkaline soil condition, many of
the minor elements such as iron are not in a usable state for
plant consumption even if they do exist in the soil. As a rule,
iron deficiencies tend to diminish as temperature increases
and soil moisture decreases. Improved aeration encourages greater
microbiological activity with greater root growth and exposure
to soil iron. For more information about curing "the yellows",
But unadapted plants NEVER recover regardless of temperature
or moisture. Without extensive soil amendments, gardenias, azaleas
and blueberries will be eternally yellow and shrink instead
Some of our most treasured, fruiting plants suffer
from iron chlorosis. Citrus, grapes, peaches, pears and apples
can turn yellow and eventually perish because of iron chlorosis.
One of the best defenses against iron chlorosis is to plant
adapted varieties. Plants which are native to the alkaline soil
conditions have the ability to extract enough of the sparse
and tenacious iron molecules to avoid the yellowing, weakening
effects of iron chlorosis. If these adapted plants can be utilized,
addition of iron, acidification of the soil and the constant
struggle to maintain a green plant color can be alleviated if
not totally eliminated. These adapted, native plants also have
resistance to soil-borne pathogens which can annihilate non-indigenous
Unfortunately most of the adapted native species
do not produce as good quality fruit as desired. For optimum
growth and quality production, a combination of native and improved
must be accomplished. Such combinations are accomplished by
grafting. Unfortunately grafting is a skill which most of us
do not possess or, if we have tried it, are not extremely proficient.
There are many things which can go wrong when grafting, any
one of which can insure failure. There is only one surefire
technique. This grafting technique is fail-safe. It is referred
to as approach grafting.
The distinguishing feature of approach grafting
is that two independently growing, self-sustaining plants are
grafted together. This self-sustaining characteristic of both
plants which are to be grafted insures survival of both even
if the grafting attempt is, for some reason, not successful.
However odds of being successful are greatly enhanced because
of the active growing condition of both plants involved and
absence of a time limitation required for the healing of the
graft union to occur before the dependent scion (top portion)
dies from lack of sustenance.
The approach grafting procedure is as follows:
(1) Position a plant which will eventually become
the rootstock (roots) as close to the desirable variety as possible.
If plants are in containers, this can easily be accomplished
and similar-sized stems (shoots) can be chosen to be united.
(2) From both plants closely position stems (shoots)
which are at least three-eighths inch diameter and preferably
close to the same size. At the point where the union is to occur,
a slice of bark at least two inches long is peeled from both
stems. The peeled area should be the same size on each.
(3) The two peeled surfaces are then bound tightly
together with budding or electrical tape. Wrap completely with
two complete covers around the area where the two peeled areas
are in contact.
(4) Remove some of the top portion of the foliage from the desirable
variety six to eight inches above the graft union. This will
encourage a more rapid healing of the graft union.
(5) The union should be complete in four weeks.
This type of grafting is most successful if performed during
the growing season.
(6) After the parts are well united (4 weeks
or more), the top portion of the rootstock can be cut off immediately
above the graft union and the bottom portion or root system
of the desirable plant can be cut off immediately below the
Images of this procedure can be seen at:
(7) The graft union is now completed and the
problems of iron chlorosis and indigenous soil pathogens have
been solved if the proper rootstock has been used. Immediately
after the portion of each plant is removed it may be necessary
to reduce the leaf area of the top if wilting occurs because
of lack of sufficient root system support. This situation will
soon stabilize. If the only problem has been micronutrient (iron
chlorosis)deficiency, the top, desirable variety will not need
to be detached from its own root system--the approach grafted,
adapted variety root system will "feed" the sickly
plant what it needs. However, if the purpose of the graft is
to control soil borne diseases, the susceptible variety should
be detached from its root system and become totally dependent
on the root system of the adapted variety.
Now that you know how to do the approach graft,
what are the implications of such a graft? I have already explained
how this graft can be used to correct iron deficiency and avoid
soil pathogens but suppose that you want to grow a number of
citrus trees but don't want to pay $40 for each and every tree.
All you have to do is make more trees from your $40 tree by
using the approach graft technique. Some nurseries sell citrus
in containers such as Changsha tangerines and calamondins http://www.plantanswers.com/garden_column/feb05/1.htm
much cheaper than satsuma, lemon and grapefruit varieties. All
you have to do is purchase some of the cheaper citrus types
and do approach grafts to your more expensive citrus types.
For more information about growing patio citrus, see:
If you happen not to have the best of luck using
the approach graft, the rootstock itself will produce an abundance
of citrus fruit and fragrant blooms so this is a win-win situation.
And the great thing about this grafting procedure is, "if
at first you don't succeed, try, try again!" because both
plants survive the technique.
This procedure also works well on grapes. Perhaps
you had to move to a new home and you wanted to take a favorite
grape vine with you. Simply go to your local nursery, purchase
an adapted variety such as Champanel or Black Spanish growing
in container, approach graft that favorite or heirloom grape,
wait a month, make the described cuts and an exact duplicate
of your favorite grape is ready to travel. In its new location
it will be better than it was previously because it has a better
root system. Or suppose that you already have a large Champanel
or Black Spanish grape plant growing in your backyard and you
would like to try some of the seedless grapes such as Flame
or Black Monukka. Just go to your local nursery, purchase the
variety or varieties which you want to try, position the containers
in which the purchased plants are growing near similar size
canes of the plants to be grafted onto and follow the outlined
procedure. You can graft many varieties onto one large vine
and enjoy many types of grapes over a longer period of time.
Containerized nursery plants offer an endless opportunity to
"manipulate" your plant into whatever you want to
One last possibility would be to put your favorite
peach or plum on a Mexican plum rootstock.
Good luck and enjoy!!!