How to Make a Side-Veneer Graft

A Simple Graft for Conifers and Small Plants

Grafting fruit tree. Close up on gardener man hand grafting apple tree. Grafting fruit trees step by step.
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Project Overview
  • Working Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Total Time: 15 - 30 mins
  • Skill Level: Beginner
  • Estimated Cost: $10

When you cut a strip off the rootstock and a strip off the scion and sandwich the flat, exposed sides together, that’s the side-veneer graft in a nutshell. It works on conifers while most other grafts won’t.

Why You Might Use a Side-Veneer Graft

This graft is used by tradesmen for small plants such as young trees and shrubs still growing in nursery pots. If you wanted to take scion wood from a plant and reproduce it on young purchased rootstocks, this might be the best cut. You might, perhaps, have an ancient Japanese maple that has been on your property for generations and has defied the efforts of all your visiting experts to identify it.

What can you do if you want more of them? You can’t go out and buy more if you don’t know what it is, but you could buy young maple trees in pots and graft cuttings from your beloved specimen onto the new purchases, which you’d use as rootstocks.

Since you are making just two long straight cuts with the grain of the wood and two small cuts across the grain, this is one of the technically easier grafts to make. Four cuts and tight binding are all that is needed, though of course cut straightness and good matching of all exposed faces will be rewarded with better success.

What You'll Need

Equipment / Tools

  • Grafting knife


  • Rootstock and scion of the same size, a quarter up to a half-inch thick
  • String, a budding rubber, or similar tight binding
  • Plastic tape, sealing wax, a bed of moist sphagnum, or other moisture control


  1. Sharpen Your Knife

    When you cut with a dull knife you increase the force you apply, which will increase your risk of slipping. A dull knife is more likely to turn as it passes through the wood, making a wavy cut.

  2. Make the First Rootstock Cut

    Make a straight cut straight down or angling slightly into the rootstock, stopping when halfway across its thickness. Your cut should be an inch to 1 1/2 inches long and pass through an internode, a smooth segment of the stem. The bottom of the cut should stop just above the crown of the plant (just above the thickening at the soil line). Withdraw your knife.

  3. Make the Second Rootstock Cut

    Make a small cut down and across the grain, just above the rootstock crown, to free the piece you just cut and create a notch for the scion base to rest in. The scion should have at least three healthy buds.

  4. Make Corresponding Cut in the Scion

    The base of the scion should be angled to fit in the stock notch, a semicircle in cross-section. Its thickness and length should be the same as the removed stock piece so that the faces match.

  5. Check That the Cuts Match

    Place these cuts against each other now and see that they line up well, the bottom of the scion sitting on the stock platform and nesting there. When placed against each other, there should not be air gaps or exposed inner wood. If there is a problem correct it if possible, or discard the scion and try again with a new one of a compatible size.

  6. Align Scion and Stock and Tie Graft

    There should be minimal or no air space between the pieces of wood. If the thicknesses are slightly different do not center the scion. Rather offset it to make sure one of the two sides line up smoothly. This graft depends completely on a tight tie with twine or tape, so do this well, never releasing tension as you wrap; this can be tricky. There is no rush, though. If the pieces slip apart, just start tying again.

  7. Seal the Graft

    Seal the graft by applying sealing wax to the wrapped union, or place the graft in a bed of peat moss you will keep moistened. Be sure to Follow up with general aftercare, such as humidity control, until the union fully takes.