How to Graft a Japanese Maple Tree

A Japanese maple tree is a wonderful ornamental tree that is available in over 400 different varieties. Depending on the color of leaves you would like for your garden, you have plenty to choose from. Japanese maple trees come in a wide variety of sizes and colors, and provide a tremendous display of fall foliage that gardeners love to see in their garden.

Japanese maple trees prefer to be grown in partial shade in loose, rich and well-draining soil. Propagating these trees can be done through the use of seeds, but grafting is a much easier process. Instead of having to pay a lot for the Japanese maple trees for your garden, you can simply buy, or cut off, small grafts for use in growing your own.

Timing is Everything

Grafting a Japanese maple is best accomplished at one of two different times. The scion (or cutting) should be taken either when the tree is dormant or when it's not producing any type of bloom. The best time is in late winter just before the thaw, or in mid summer.

Store Scion

Make the cutting at least 4 to 6 inches and make sure to have at least two or three buds on it. Place the cuttings in a moist paper towel. Put them in a paper bag and store in the fridge until you are ready to use them in the graft.

Limb Traits

When you get ready to graft, the limb should be at least the thickness of a pencil. The limb should also be quite firm and not flimsy. A soft limb will not hold up under the weight of the new graft that is going to be added.

Cut Cleanly

When you find the understock that you are going to take for the graft, find a smooth, straight section from which to make your cut. Use a sharp knife and set it in a 15 degree angle on the limb. The cut should be very clean and done in one smooth motion about an inch long. Cut the scion wood on both sides at a 45-degree angle.

Make Graft

Insert the scion piece under the flap of bark on the understock. Align the scion on the edge so that the thin green layer just below the bark matches. Wrap the bottom of the grafting limb with grafting rubber. Overlap the first two wraps while keeping a tight wrap and secure the rubber with a loop.

Protect Graft

Using a plastic bag, coat the inside with a fungicide and place over the area that was grafted. Secure it with some ties, but leave a little loose. Keep the graft inside the plastic bag so it stays moist as it starts to take. It should take about five weeks. Remove any other growth that may overtake the graft and keep it from growing.

You can do this over and over to keep your Japanese maple trees growing and your garden expanding with beautiful, colorful displays. Remember to start the process when the tree is dormant and you will be able to have a successful graft.