Grafting citrus trees

Many of the fruits we eat come from trees. Fruits are an important human food, rich in vitamins. Some fruits, such as papaya and passion fruit, grow easily from seed. But if you have tried growing citrus fruit from seeds, you may have been disappointed with the results.

These trees will take many years to produce fruit, and the fruit is often not very good. These problems can usually be avoided by raising grafted fruit trees. Many people think that bud grafting is too difficult for them and needs to be left to experts. In fact, with practice, it is very simple.

What does bud grafting mean?

Bud grafting means taking a small bud from an excellent mother tree and joining it under the bark of a young seedling (called the rootstock) which will provide the roots for the new budded tree. The budded tree will have the stem, leaves and fruits of one type, and the roots of another type.

How does budding help?

  • Budded trees combine the good points of both the mother tree and the rootstock.
  • They start bearing fruit after only three or four years.
  • Some types of citrus do not have seeds, so they can only be produced from buds.
  • They do not grow so tall, so they are easier to pick. 

 

How do you raise budded citrus trees?

You must first raise rootstock seedlings. The seeds from large, rough-skinned lemons, or sour oranges are grown in nurseries to provide the rootstock. All types of citrus – orange, tangerines, grapefruit, limes and lemon – can be budded onto these rootstocks.

1. Choose only the best seed from fully ripe fruit. Cut them carefully and plant the seed straight from the fruit. Do not store this seed.

2. Plant the seed in large, strong, plastic forestry bags (20cm x 30cm) or in large tins with holes in the base. Grow in a tree nursery for about a year. Allow only one strong stem to grow; rub off any small side shoots (A).

3. When the stems of the rootstocks are as thick as a pencil, collect budsticks from healthy, high yielding citrus trees of the kind you want. Cut off the leaves carefully (B). Use immediately or wrap in a damp cloth to store for up to two days.

4. With a very sharp knife or razor, remove each swollen bud, starting just above the bud to 2cm below, to make a “tail”(C). Don’t touch the cut face of the bud – hold it by the tail.

5. Cut an upside down T shape into the bark of the rootstock about 30cm above the soil (D).