Grafting is a method used in plant nurseries to quickly grow new plants. By the time the plant reaches you, the garden center or place where you buy the plant may not know if the plant is grafted or not, and the graft union has long since healed over and is hard to see. Take a look at a list of plants that, if you buy them commercially, are likely grafted specimens.
Why Is It Important to Identify a Grafted Plant?
It is hard to tell by looking at a plant or tree whether you have a grafted plant or not. If you cannot tell by asking the seller or looking, you can make an educated guess if your plant is a graft.
If your plant produces a sucker, you know you need to cut it off, because that sucker is not just another branch. Suckers are offshoots that were reproduced asexually, also called vegetative reproduction, and sap energy from the main plant.
Suckers from rootstocks devastate and take over the plant. If you know you have a grafted plant, then you must remove suckers. In these cases, suckers are of a different variety from the plant you purchased. It is likely to grow much faster than your variety and overtake it, sometimes literally engulf it, creating a “new” plant that will not be the one you wanted.
Likely Grafted Plants
If your plant is a named variety of one of these, it is likely to be a graft or grown on a rootstock of a different species or variety from the one you bought. A named variety means a plant that has a name in quotes, such as Acer saccharum "Sugar Cone," the sugar cone sugar maple. If your plant is just a species, such as Acer saccharum, a sugar maple, it is probably not grafted, even if it is a genus on this list.
- Apple especially types for fruit
- Birches, many weeping and some other varieties
- Cedar varieties, such as weeping blue atlas cedar
- Cherries, the oriental ornamental flowering types (Prunus serrulata)
- Dogwood, weeping and red forms
- Hazelnut or filbert, especially nut crop varieties
- Honey locust, the thornless and fruitless types
- Horsechestnut, buckeye
- Maples: Japanese, red, striped, and sugar varieties, as well as others
- Redbud, especially "Oklahoma"
- Spruces, "Koster," "Moerheim," and "Hoosii" varieties
- Witch hazel
Why Is Grafting Used?
Grafting is a technique that vegetatively joins two plants into one. Instead of cross-pollinating two plants and producing hybrid seed, grafted plants use the roots and the bottom portion of one plant (rootstock) and attach it to a tender shoot (scion) from the top portion of another plant. This is often done with trees and shrubs, to combine the best characteristics of the two plants.
Most fruit trees today are grafted onto rootstock. Besides imparting specific characteristics to the resulting plant, it is a quick and reliable means of reproducing plants that do not grow true to type from seed. Unfortunately for the backyard gardener, that means we cannot save seed and grow more plants. Many grafted plants are patented.