Cleft grafting for mangoes and avocados


By Mike and Isabel Carter.

In Footsteps No. 5 the advantages of bud grafting citrus trees were discussed. These include:

  • Reduced height for easy picking.
  • Good quality fruit from selected varieties 
  • Early fruiting after only a few years.

However, with other kinds of fruit trees it can be difficult to achieve successful bud grafts.

There is another method of grafting which you can try on trees such as mangoes and avocados, which will bring the same benefits. It is know as cleft grafting. (You should always try bud grafting first, since even if it fails, less damage is done to the seedling tree.)

Raising rootstocks

Choose healthy seeds from trees which grow well in your area. Pick fruit from the tree rather than from off the ground. Both mango and avocado seed should be fresh and not dried. Mango seed can be placed in a bucket first – poor seeds will float and can be thrown away. Plant seed in large plastic tree bags or tins with holes in the base.

Allow a single stem to grow for six to eight months. When it is as thick as your little finger, it is ready for cleft grafting. (As you become more skilled you can try grafting younger seedlings).

How to do cleft grafting

1. Select and prepare your budstick. From the ends of branches on an excellent mother tree, choose budsticks that are not yet sprouting but with fat buds. Cut them about 15cm long. Remove all the leaves carefully. The cut budstick should be the same thickness as the rootstock stem.

2. With a very sharp knife cut the bottom of the budstick with two sloping cuts 3 ½ cm long (A).

3. Cut off the top of the rootstock about 30cm above the soil. Make one straight cut about 3cm deep in the top of the rootstock (B).

4. Push the budstick firmly into the rootstock cut. Leave ½ cm of the cut budstick outside the rootstock as shown.

5. Use clear plastic tape (or cut up plastic bags) to wrap firmly around the graft. Do not remove the tape until the budstick begins to grow – showing the graft has been successful. Remove any buds which grow below the graft.

If the graft dies, you must allow one bud to grow below the graft and wait several months until you can try again. 

Practise cleft grafting on small branches of a mango tree before trying it on young mango or avocado seedlings. Plant the young trees in large holes with plenty of manure or compost. 

Let us know how you get on!