Bonsai Gardening Secrets:
Using the Propagation Technique Known as Budding to Grow Beautiful
by Michael J. McGroarty
Flowering Dogwood trees can be easily
grown from seed, however 99.9999% of the seedlings that sprout will be
Cornus Florida, which is White Flowering Dogwood. It doesn’t matter if
you collect the seeds from a White Dogwood or a Pink Dogwood, the
seedlings are likely to be white.
The only predictable way to grow a Pink Dogwood, Red Dogwood, or one
of the beautiful Dogwoods with variegated leaves, is to bud or graft
the desired variety onto a White Dogwood seedling. That’s why the
botanical name for Pink Dogwood is Cornus Florida Rubra. Cornus means
Dogwood, Florida indicates White, Rubra indicates Red or Pink. Cornus
Florida Rubra indicates Pink Dogwood grown on White Dogwood rootstock.
Between budding and grafting, budding is the most common technique
used in the nursery industry. Grafting is usually done in the late
winter months when the plants are dormant. When you graft a plant you
remove a small branch (4 to 6 inches) from the desired variety, trim
the end of the branch to expose the tissue under the bark and then
trim a taper on the end. You then trim the seedling in such a way to
match and receive the branch you are grafting on to it. Timing,
temperature, and humidity are all critical to the success of the
procedure, which is usually done in a greenhouse.
Budding is much easier, and does not have to be done in a controlled
environment. Most budding is done later in the summer when the bark on
the seedling slips easily. That means that when a cut is made in the
bark of the seedling it can be easily pulled away from the tissue
layer under the bark. This tissue is known as the cambium layer. Here
in the north Crabapples and other fruits are usually ready to bud
around mid to late July, while Dogwoods are not ready until late
Unlike grafting where you use a small branch to attach to the
seedling, when you bud you insert a single bud under the bark, budding
is usually done down low on the seedling, very close to the soil. You
can bud up higher, but any new growth that appears below that bud must
be removed because it will be identical to the rootstock and not the
The budding process is quite simple. Just clip a branch from the tree
of the desired variety, this is known as a bud stick because it has
many buds that can be used for budding. The buds can be found at the
base of each leaf. Look closely where the leaf emerges from the branch
and you will see a very small bud. In the fall when the tree goes
dormant the leaf will fall off, and bud will remain. The following
spring the bud will grow into a new branch.
When you slip that bud under the bark of a compatible seedling, it
will grow the following spring just as if it were still on the parent
plant, with all of the qualities of the desired variety. All most all
fruit bearing and ornamental trees are grown this way.
Just make a “T” shaped cut in the bark of the seedling. A horizontal
cut about ¼” long, with a vertical downward cut about ½” long. The two
cuts should intersect at the top of the “T”. Don’t cut into the
cambium tissue, just slice the bark and open it up slightly with your
knife or razor blade. Now you are ready to remove the bud from the bud
First clip off and discard the leaf from the bud that you are about to
remove. When you remove the leaf, leave the stem attached to the bud
stick, just remove the leaf itself. The stem makes a nice little
handle to hold on to. To remove the bud from the bud stick just cut
into the bark and under the bud, it should pop off easily. Again,
don’t cut into the cambium tissue, but make sure you are under the
bark so you don’t damage the bud. Along with the bud you will have a
small piece of bark shaped like a tiny banana peel, and the stem from
Visit this page for photos of this complete process: http://www.freeplants.com/budding_fruit_trees_and_ornamental_plants.htm
Holding the bud by it’s handle (the stem) slide it into the “T” shaped
cut you made on the seedling. Make sure you put it in right side up.
The stem and the leaf should protrude through the slit, and the stem
should be pointing toward the sky at an angle. Push the bud all the
way down into the slit by catching the bark, (Not the Bud) with the
tip of your knife.
Now cut a rubber band so that it is no longer a loop and wrap it
around the seedling to close the opening so dirt, water, air, and
insects can’t get in. Make a wrap below the bud, and a few wraps above
the bud. Use a rubber band approx. ¼” wide, and be careful not to wrap
too close to the bud, nor to tight.
You don’t want to strangle the seedling, it needs to be healthy and
happy so the new bud will bond to the cambium layer. Leave the rubber
band on until early spring, at which time you should remove it, and
clip off the top of the seedling just above the bud. As the plant
comes out of dormancy the bud will begin to grow into a new branch
just as if it is still attached to the parent plant, except that now
it is going to grow upright and form the stem of a tree.
When this new growth reaches a height of 3 to 4 feet, clip the tip
off, this will force it to start putting on lateral branches. Once
these lateral branches are 18” long or so, you can remove all the
growth from the stem below where the lateral branches start. Now the
plant should look like a beautiful little tree. And that makes you the
With all of that said, today it is possible to grow Pink Dogwoods by
rooting cuttings under intermittent mist, however, it is tricky, and
my few attempts have failed. ??? Most nurseryman still bud them.
Michael J. McGroarty is the author of this article. Visit his most
http://www.freeplants.com and sign up for his
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