How to graft citrus trees

When a citrus tree freezes, as many did during our frigid February, they tend to come back from the root system. That means, though, that growth will come from trifoliate or “sour orange” rootstock. And fruit from that, if any is produced at all, will likely be inedible.

That’s disappointing and frustrating for people who have put lots of time and effort into growing fruit. But what many don’t realize is that that the rootstock is a base onto which they can graft the right kind of citrus for the future, and in as little as two years they can have a productive fruit tree again.

Photo: Mississippi State University College of Agriculture; University of New Hampshire Extension

What stops many in their tracks is the word “graft.” I’m guessing that since they don’t have degrees in horticulture, many feel that grafting is beyond them. Well, I assure you that you don’t need to be a botanist, biologist or horticulturist to succeed with fruit grafting. But you do need a tiny bit of education.

Scores of grafting classes are held throughout the year at county extension offices, nurseries and garden centers. There used to be many more prior to the pandemic, but thanks to digital resources - from websites to YouTube channels - you can find lots of grafting education online.

Grafting is not as difficult as you think, and you might become quite proficient at it. Once you learn the basics, you’ll be eager to experiment with it again and again to see what kind of fruits you can grow. You’ll be able to perpetuate much of the fruit you enjoy and help sustain some rootstocks that, though they will likely never again produce edible fruit, can act as well-established home bases for practical grafting.

If you’re interested in learning how to graft citrus trees, check out these resources:

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