How to Graft Wax & Tape for Fruit Trees

Written by dawn walls-thumma
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How to Graft Wax & Tape for Fruit Trees
When propagating trees like apples by grafting, proper taping and waxing prevents disease. (Digital Vision/Digital Vision/Getty Images)

Most fruit trees do not grow true from seed, which means the offspring does not resemble the parent tree. Vegetative propagation is required in order to obtain trees with the parent tree's desired characteristics. Grafting involves the splicing of a stem taken from one tree---the scion---onto a root system grown from seed. Grafting a fruit tree requires cuts in the wood of both scion and rootstock. The cuts can invite problems with pests and diseases and cause the graft to dry out. Horticulturalists use grafting tape and grafting wax to seal the incisions and reduce the potential for such problems.

Skill level:
Moderately Easy

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Things you need

  • Resin
  • Beeswax
  • Tallow
  • Heat-proof container
  • Grafting tape
  • Paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Measure 4 parts resin, 2 parts beeswax and 1 part tallow to make a hard grafting wax. You can also purchase premixed grafting waxes. Effective waxes remain pliable, do not crack and do not melt in hot weather.

  2. 2

    Combine the ingredients in a heat-proof container and heat them on a stove or in a microwave until the wax becomes easily pourable. Once melted, pour the wax into cold water and pull and knead the wax until it becomes light yellow in colour. Form the wax into balls, allow them to harden and use them later, as needed.

  3. 3

    Reheat the wax in a heat-proof container on the stove or in the microwave, removing it from the heat as soon as it melts. Overheating the wax can cause temperatures high enough to damage the tender exposed tissue on the graft. Some commercially available grafting waxes---often called hand waxes---will soften with the heat of your hand.

  4. 4

    Wrap the grafted section with grafting tape, extending the tape slightly above and below the graft to ensure complete coverage. Wrap the graft tightly to hold the scion and the rootstock firmly together.

  5. 5

    Brush a uniform coating of grafting wax over the tape. If the grafting method you've used required cuts at both ends of the scion, dab grafting wax onto the cut tips of the scions left exposed after grafting. If you created any additional wounds, such as by removing branches, cover these sites with wax as well. Use care not to dislodge the graft. If you're using a hand wax, you can soften the wax in your hand, then mould it around the graft union.

  6. 6

    Check the wax in two to three days to ensure that cracks have not formed. If the wax has cracked, cover the cracks with fresh wax. Check again after a few weeks have passed and reapply wax as needed.

  7. 7

    Cut and remove the tape one month after growth begins, if necessary.

Tips and warnings

  • Grafting tape consists of material that breaks down naturally before the tree grows to the point where the tape begins to cut into the bark, cutting off nutrient and water supplies, a problem called girdling. If you don't want to use grafting tape, electrical and masking tapes also work well, but monitor the tree and remove the tape about a month after the tree begins growing.
  • Grafting wax is highly flammable, so take care when working with it over open flames.

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