Advanced Grafting of Figs

  By Jerry Meislik

Introduction: Why graft ficus?

Grafting is a technique used to improve a bonsai by introducing a branch where it is needed, replacing large foliage with smaller leaves, covering large scars, introducing new roots, adding aerial roots as well as many other improvements.
Ficus grow vigorously, heal rapidly. They naturally fuse to themselves so grafting is really easy and successful. In fact figs are one of the few trees that do not strangle themselves with encircling roots. The most frequently used types of grafts are free, and in-arch or approach grafts.

Types of Grafts

1. A free graft is a small branch with 3-4 leaves on a woody stem that is cut free from the donor tree and then grafted into the host or recipient tree. This is probably the most difficult type of graft since the alignment of cambium of host and donor are critical for the graft to survive. The success of this graft is very dependent on the skill of the grafter.

2. In-arch or approach grafts involve using a long and superfluous branch that is shaved to expose the cambium layer and then positioned into a grooved area on the tree where the new branch is desired. Again the cambium layers of host and graft are matched as closely as possible. The graft is not severed from its attachment to the plant until the graft is growing strongly. It is the easiest graft to perform and is often successful even by the beginning grafter.

3. An inlay graft is the grafting of a large fig plant with its root into a host tree to improve the host tree by enlarging its trunk, adding roots or a large branch. The recipient bed is carved out with a chisel is to prepare it for the inlay graft. This takes skill and time to do properly.

4. Thread grafting involves drilling a hole through the tree's trunk and threading through a very long branch. Over time the branch fuses into its new location and then is severed fro its origins.

To learn about basic grafting click here.

What can be done with grafting?

1. If a new root is needed it is easy to approach graft a seedling to the base of the tree. After 90 days and vigorous growth of the seedling, the top foliage is removed leaving the root and lower stem attached. In time the color of the root will match the trunk.

2. Add a branch where there is none by using an approach or free graft.

3. Covering a large scar with approach grafting one or more branches across the scar. In time the grafted branches can partially or completely cover the cut or disguise the original cut surface.

4. Adding an aerial root by approach grafting a small seedling to a specific spot where an aerial is needed. Once fused the top of the seedling is cut off flush with the branch.

5. Enlarging a trunk by fusing in additional trunks. Inlay graft of a second tree into the base and trunk of the host tree. The graft can also insert a large branch which is too big to be grafted with conventional free or inarch grafting.

6. Enlarging a branch by bringing together two or more smaller branches tying them all firmly together with wire,tape or cord. With time they fuse and form a much larger branch. Even trunks may be created by fuse-grafting multiple small braches.

Examples of grafting solutions

1. This Ficus benjamina started as a 13-foot tall containerized tree. It was selected because the base of the tree was beautiful and would make a lovely bonsai. After careful study revealed the future design of the tree, the top was sawed off. This left a two foot stump with no branches or leaves on the trunk. After 2 months new breaks were visible at the middle third of the tree but near the top of the decapitated tree no breaks developed. All the breaks were allowed to grow and thicken without any restraint. A small twig from the lower left break was approach grafted to the top left of the trunk while another approach graft was placed into the top right side of the trunk.

Above the red bar is the original small stub of the approach graft.

 Benjamina graft one

These grafts took well and prevented the cambium from dyeing back. Ten years later the grafts are indistinguishable from the non-grafted portions of the tree.

The fig's top consists of two approach grafts done 10 years ago.
 Benjamina full view

In reality the whole top of the tree is formed from two approach grafts. These grafts saved this tree from being discarded to the junk heap since no viable top grew after its initial reduction.

2   3  [next]

 Page: 1 of  3

All Rights Reserved © 2002 Jerry Meislik