Interstem Grafting

A place to discuss grafting, orcharding, and related topics.
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Joined: Tue Feb 28, 2017 3:24 pm

Interstem Grafting

Postby welterm » Wed Jan 31, 2018 8:12 pm

Hi, I just thought I'd start a discussion about interstem grafting in general. I thought I'd share what I have learned so far, and see if others have some more experience/knowledge they'd like to share.

To make a dwarf tree with big roots, I have been told it can be done two ways: (method 1) Graft the lower portion (roots), middle portion (interstem), and scion portion, all in the spring as bench graft. The benefit is that the scion variety grows in the first year rather than the second. (method 2) The other option would be to graft the dwarf interstem onto the full-sized roots in the spring, then bud graft the scion variety to the interstem in the summer (for growth the following year).

I attempted the first method two spring ago - all parts took, but it only made maybe one inch of growth. The next year only grew another foot. I plan on doing many interstem grafts this year, but am not sure by which method I should use. I talked with Dan Bussey, the orchard manager at Seed Savers Exchange, and he seems to believe the bud grafting method is better. You lose a year of growth but says they grow faster the next year because of the established root system. Whereas a YouTuber who is also very knowledgeable says method one works best for him and speeds up the process. I would like to do a side by side comparison eventually between the two methods.

You can see his interstem videos here: & &

Posts: 11
Joined: Wed Dec 30, 2015 8:45 am

Re: Interstem Grafting

Postby Chickenlittle » Sun Feb 18, 2018 5:59 pm

I can't say I'll be of much help here but I'll throw in my experience. I have not tried the single step bench graft method. I started down the 2nd path, bench grafting several different dwarf apple rootstocks (G65, M27, G11, G41, Bud 146, P2, P22) onto the larger semi-dwarf roostocks (B118, M111). I probably had 2 to 3 dozens but I don't think many were sufficiently along to be T-budded that summer. I also then had some rabbit damage to them in the nursery that December. Before I got anything completed, I lost interest in the project. I had more than enough other things to work on and I could not convince myself these would be more useful than just putting that variety onto a mid-size Geneva roostock. I kept a couple trees with G65 since that is hard to find and I wanted future access to it. Everything else got re-grafted to something else.

If I were really committed to the interstem approach, I would make my own stoolbeds of the larger rootstock and a source of the interstem budwood. Each summer, I'd bud the stoolbed with the interstems. The following spring I'd line those out from stoolbed. The 2nd summer I would t-bud the interstems. By the end of the 3rd summer, the interstem tree would be ready to transplant.

It would be a lot easier to keep trying the single bench graft approach and see if you can get better results.
Tioga Co, NY (Zone 5b) and Columbia Co, PA (Zone 6a)
Primary interest in columnar apple varieties

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