Propagating and Grafting Cherry Trees


“How do you divide a cherry blossom tree? I’ve tried researching, but I really want a step by step plan so I don’t hurt the tree. Thanks ahead of time. ~Brittney”

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Hi Brittney,

Unfortunately, cherry blossom trees (Prunus sp.) cannot be divided as one would divide a perennial. If you want to propagate the tree, it would require grafting or propagating cuttings from the branches.

Let’s talk about propagating the cherry tree cuttings first.  In order to do this, you are going to need a garden knife or scissors, newspaper, root growth-promoting hormone, peat moss, a pot, and a misting bottle with water.

NOTE!!!  It is a little late for the early spring we are having to try to do this still this year, as the cherry branches need to be dormant.  However, the process can be used next spring and you can be picking out which twigs you want to use this year.

–Cut a healthy branch tip off your cherry tree. Make your cut about 8 to 10 inches away from the tip of the branch. Cut at an angle with your garden knife.

–Peel the bark on two sides of your cherry tree cutting, using the garden knife. The white layer beneath the bark is the cambium. New roots will be able to break through the cambium more easily with that layer of bark gone.

–Layer newspaper on your worktable to keep it free from dirt.

–Stick the cut end of your cherry tree cutting into the root-promoting chemical.

–Fill a pot 1/3 of the way with peat moss. Set your cherry tree cutting into the pot and fill the pot the remainder of the way with peat moss. Pat the peat moss down using your hands.

–Mist the cherry tree cutting and the peat moss with a spray bottle. Keep your cutting moist, never allowing it to fully dry out. Check your cutting’s root system after three weeks to ensure the roots are growing and getting stronger. Continue to grow your cutting indoors until spring.

A couple other things to keep in mind when you propagate cuttings:

–Tree cuttings do best when cut in the late fall or winter, after trees have gone dormant for the season.

–Place your cherry tree cutting in indirect sunlight so it doesn’t dry out.

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As for grafting, the best methods to use for cherries (Prunus sp.) is either budding or a bridge graft.

Budding is a form of grafting in which a single bud is used as the scion rather than a section of stem. It is the most commonly used method for fruit tree production in the nursery, but can also be used for topworking plum, cherry, apricots, and peach as well as young apple and pear trees. (Cherry, plum, apricot, and peach are not easily cleft grafted or whip grafted.)

Budding is done in the summer, usually from July 15 to August 15, when the bark of the stock slips easily and when there are well-grown buds. The first step is to cut bud sticks of the desired cultivar from strong shoots of the present season’s growth (see A in Figure 6). These buds should be mature, as indicated by a slightly brownish color.

Figure 6. In budding, a single bud does the work of a scion.

Clip off the leaves as soon as the bud sticks are cut, leaving about ½ inch of the leafstalk for a handle. Discard the soft tips of the bud sticks. Wrap the bud sticks in moist burlap, moss or paper to prevent drying out.

Branches from the size of a lead pencil up to ½-inch diameter may be worked by this method. The bark of larger branches is too thick for satisfactory budding.

On the branches of the stock, about 15 inches or more from the trunk, make a T cut just across the bark (C). Then, with a knife blade or bark separator, lift the corners and carefully loosen the bark.

–To do a bud with the wood still attached, cut a bud from bud stick (A) which includes a thin piece of attached wood (B).  Start the bud under the flaps of bark and lead it down by the handle (see D and E in figure 6). Use rubber strips, electrician’s tape, or adhesive tape to tie the bud. Wrap and tie tightly, but be sure you do not cover the bud (see F in Figure 6).   In a couple of weeks, cut the tie before it binds too tightly. Cut on the side away from the bud. Rubber strips need not be cut. The bud should remain dormant until the following spring. Cut off the stock above the bud as soon as the bud starts growing.  Do not permit any shoot growth.  After the second year, remove all extra growth from the stock, that is, keep only the bud grafted shoots. When two or more buds grow, all can be used, but one is usually enough to produce a new branch.

To do a bud with the wood removed, as illustrated in Figure 7, cut from A well under the bud to B. Remove the knife and rock the blade just through the bark at B. Grasp the bark between your thumb and finger and pinch the bark with attached bud (C) free from the wood (D). If the bud stick is fresh and in good condition, you will be successful after a few tries.


Figure 7. Bud with wood removed.

Buds which have the sliver of wood removed have a complete cambium surface exposed to meet the cambium of the stock and sometimes result in better growth, but they are not rigid enough to handle easily. Buds with wood attached are easier to handle and usually give good results. (See above, for “Tying” and “Aftercare” of the bud.)

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One thought on “Propagating and Grafting Cherry Trees

  1. Thank you so much for the information!!! I have looked everywhere for directions to do these with no luck. Thank you thank you thank you!

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