poor success grafting persimmons

cousinfloydJuly 19, 2012

I grafted at least 41 stems (mostly one stem per tree but a few with two or three stems per tree) to scions from six different persimmons this year between April 3 and May 5. Of the 41 I recorded 27 were kakis and 14 were virginianas, all grafted onto native seedlings in my pastures except for 2 potted virginianas. Only 3 of the 41, one of each of the three virginianas, all in the pasture, are growing now, although one or two kakis are still green when I scratch the bark but without any growth or bud swell. The first 18 grafts I did were whip and tongue. All of those failed, although some grew really nicely for about a week, some even with a little shoot extension, before shriveling up and dying. (About three years ago I whip and tongue grafted some virginianas and had a little success with that, and they're mostly doing fine still.) The last 23 grafts I did this year (after April 18) were all bark grafts. Several of those had buds that swelled, turned green, and lengthened out a little before drying up and dying. Each of the varieties I grafted at least made it that far on at least one stem. I used David Osborn's bark grafting method from his online article for Quality Whitetails except I didn't use parafilm and I used pine rosin to seal the cut tip. I had pretty good success using the same method with a few pears this year. One of the 3 virginianas that's growing looks really vigorous: a foot or two of new growth and the stem above the graft is even larger in diameter than the stem of the stock right below it. The other 2 virginianas look really weak with really small leaves and probably not even an inch of shoot extension, but they're hanging in there.

So that's my long story. Is there better hope for me? Should it tell me anything that so many of my grafts started to grow and then dried up? I'd much rather not buy specialty products like parafilm, but maybe it's better than spending $35 or more per tree. Would parafilm make that much of a difference? Is there any other way to achieve better success?



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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Sorry to hear that Eric. You picked an excellent source for information, that is one of the best articles I have seen on grafting. I would definitely use either parafilm or Doc Farwells (the latter is better in my opinion, as long as you make sure its not going to drip into the graft itself) to cover the grafts to prevent drying out. My personal method is to use parafilm to wrap the graft itself and then doc farewells to seal the graft and scion. I hope you also used the alu foil mentioned in the article, it is important to avoid overheating. You didn't mention how religious you were about removing shoots below the graft -- all need to be removed every few days or they will sap the graft.

Overall I have found persimmons hard to graft and have also had years of tons of failures in spite of best intentions. Some people think they are easy but I don't fall into that group. Some of my failures were traced to being too early or too hot. I would wait until at least 1" of growth has appeared on your stock, maybe more. Also if its going to be really hot (high 80's or more), wait for that hot spell to pass.


    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 6:09PM
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Eric,parafilm and grafting film are not specialty products to me rather essential and very cheap. I buy 2 rolls of parafilm and one roll of grafting film that enough for plenty of spring grating. That's all i do,about $10.0 bucks.
results : nice tree's, actually too many.I like to cleft graft asian persimmon because barkgraft are not strong enough in high wind area's like mine.If you have price sions you have to go the extra mile to make a succesful take.If you like to bark graft make sure you support the the new growth with a piece of bamboo or something.If you do a lot of grafts that could become a choir. You can google cleft grafting or bark or anything else with good succes.The video's are pretty clear.
i PREFER to wrapped twice with parafilm and a few times with grafting clear tape because it need to stay there for a long time before i unwrapped the graft by making a slit through the grafting tape only(3 to4 months).
My succes is at about 80%,some sions just don't take or maybe i am a little clumsy with some.To some it might be overkill to me i got all the time in the world,been retired for plenty of years.

    Bookmark   July 19, 2012 at 6:32PM
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When the grafts start growing and then fail there are a few things I think of. Scott and Persimmonbob covered most of them. They would be incorrect graft timing, too much initial sun exposure, not enough water, not removing competitive shoots, incompatibility of rootstock and scion, and poor quality of scionwood.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 12:55AM
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Scott, Bob, and creekweb, thanks very much for the helpful advice.

To follow up on what creekweb said about grafts starting to grow and then failing, I noticed you didn't say anything about parafilm on your list. Is parafilm just to keep the scion from drying up before it starts to grow? That particular problem with grafts starting to grow and then failing is the one I'd most like to address. If I had only done bark grafts and if I hadn't lost all the ones that started to grow, I'd be pretty happy right now. The only other point on your list I can see improving on would be too much initial sun exposure. (I didn't use the aluminum either, Scott.) Would you add that right away or would within a week of bud swell probably be good enough? I suspect a shield like that doesn't last in the wind and rain very long. If I had more potted persimmon rootstocks, would grafts on them get going better in heavy shade? Incompatibility may have been another issue, but I'm hoping the problem is something I have more power to influence. I can't realistically see doing much better with regards to timing, competitive shoot removal, water, or scion quality.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 8:14AM
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I missed the use application of parafilm or some other sealer to the graft on my list, but it does belong there. I always use parafilm or a similar product so I don't think about it so much, but that can certainly be your problem. The idea is to prevent the scion from drying out before it's properly callused. I would apply the shields when you make the grafts to protect the grafted scions from the drying effects of the sun.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 8:43AM
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Scott F Smith(6B/7A MD)

Eric, the problem with persimmon grafts is they can just sit there for a few weeks doing nothing, and suddenly they decide to start callousing for a take. You need to keep the scion from dying in that idle period. Both sealing it and wrapping in alu foil are necessary steps in my mind. You don't need to make that fancy shield thing, I don't do it that way. But do wrap the whole scion and whole graft area plus a couple inches below.

Why do persimmons have such a strange behavior? I don't know, I wish I understood them better. They "think" a lot differently than other fruit trees.


    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 9:27AM
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I forgot a couple little things: really sharp knive for your wedgecut on the sion and trimmed a little of the sides,i mean a litle.On the barkgraft i only open one side and match the other side perfectly with the sion side.
If you use a splice graft like some nurseries do with paw paw's, which is more difficult in takes then persimmon, if rootstock and sion are the same size,you can taped the two together and make one cut through both at the same time so that you have a perfect match.Don't use an anvil pruner.

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 11:26AM
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I have not found persimmon grafting any more difficult than any other fruit tree. I usually do a t bud but have also done whip/tongue and chip bud. Dormant graft wood is essential in the spring. It is best to wait until the rootstock is actively growing. I have not been successful in temperatures exceeding 90F. I always use vinyl budding tape which is really cheap and cover the whole graft including the bud. IMHO scientific parafilm is not strong enough for grafting and you can't wrap it tight enough. The parafilm specifically made for grafting should be OK but I haven't tried it as vinyl tape works so well and is far cheaper. After 3-4 weeks I uncover the bud and if it is still green, force the bud. I get 90%+ takes. The best thing for you to do is to find someone local who can give you hands on guidance.

Here is a link that might be useful: mrtexas

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 11:45AM
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This is an excellent article. I've have done the same method with success.

"That particular problem with grafts starting to grow and then failing is the one I'd most like to address. If I had only done bark grafts and if I hadn't lost all the ones that started to grow, I'd be pretty happy right now."

The problem sounds like bad budwood or poorly stored budwood to me. I prefer 1/4 thick budwood with nice fully formed dormant buds. I always cut off the end bud if the budwood is from the tip of the branch.

Here is a link that might be useful: grafting

    Bookmark   July 20, 2012 at 11:55AM
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I'm quite new to grafting, but wanted to try persimmons and figs. A F4F forum friend told me about a detailed persimmon grafting tutorial by Joe Real, on the Citrus Growers Forum (http://citrus.forumup.org/; Scroll down to: Tutorials (Grafting and Budding)>
Limb Bark Grafting Pictorial Demo.); note that you have to register before you can see the images.

Using his method (and this is the first time in my life that I ever tried grafting anything), I had 100% success on both persimmons and figs.

I just checked the website to make sure the tutorial was still available, and the text is there but no photos. However, he uses the same method for citrus, and has another tutorial (Citrus Bark Grafting Tutorial - the Real deal!) that does have images, so my recommendation is to give this method a shot. It sure worked for me!

Some photos of my persimmon grafts can be seen in this thread: http://figs4funforum.websitetoolbox.com/post/Any-suggestions-where-to-buy-a-persimmon-tree-online-5725932?

    Bookmark   October 28, 2012 at 7:22PM
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skyjs(z8 OR, USA)

Hi Eric,
I'm not in the same league as Scott,Joe Real etc. but I will chip in my two cents.

One thing Joe REal said that makes sense is "don't whip and tongue graft until the rootstock has made one leaf in the SPring". That's a great timing pattern that has helped me. It adjusts itself to your climate. In my experience, many people graft way too close to apple and pear grafting time and it will not help you. It's way later.

Another experience I had which is similar to Scott's, Mr Texas' and creekweb's is that since you are grafting later, it can be really $%#& hot. Once I had a successful Szukis graft, but I hadn't put drip water on it and it got real hot then. The one I put water on is alive and growing today. The other one died. Be careful with both heat and water. I do agree with wiping out the undergrowth, although here in the PNW it is not much of an issue.

ANother thing to remember is don't graft onto rootstock that you just planted. For some reason, persimmons will take much better on rootstock that has been in the ground at least one year. Maybe it is a deep root thing. These are just my experiences but they have helped me be more successful with my persimmon grafting.
John S

    Bookmark   October 30, 2012 at 12:18AM
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IMO, aftercare is as important, if not more so, than the type of graft. Persimmons want to 'do their own thing' - they seem to be dedicated to pushing growth from below the graft, and it's essential that you keep any shoots arising below rubbed off.
I've had a difficult time getting grafts to take on individual limbs in a branched tree; they just have a hard time getting established and growing, as the tree seems to shunt energy away from them and to it's own growing points.

    Bookmark   November 2, 2012 at 4:47PM
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I'm starting to think more about grafting persimmons again, and I just got to wondering if how high I'm grafting on the rootstock isn't contributing to my problem. Since I've been grafting onto volunteer seedlings I was mostly grafting onto about 4'-5' tall trees, and the grafts seemed tidiest if I more or less matched the scion diameter to the stock diameter, but that meant I was (without considering it) mostly grafting pretty high onto the little seedling. Bill Reid says about pecans on his pecan blog: "To ensure that there will be plenty of tree energy directed to pushing the graft, I like to place the graft union no higher than half way up the stock tree." I wonder if the same rule should generally be applied to persimmons, or does position not especially matter with persimmons?

    Bookmark   March 14, 2013 at 7:18AM
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I thought I'd follow up on my post from last year with the early results from this year and a few curious anecdotes. I grafted as many or more persimmons this year as last year with the new addition of potted rootstocks. I brought the potted trees (rootstocks) into the house to get them to break dormancy early, so I grafted them a few weeks earlier than the in-ground trees. I also started using parafilm this year and initially shielding most of my grafts from direct sun with little aluminum foil bonnets. I also experimented with different styles of bark grafts (as in Osborn's demo folding the stock's bark flap over the scion with the bark scraped away; a more basic/standard bark graft as in JoeReal's demo on the citrus forum; three flap/banana grafts; etc.) with no noticeable differences with regard to grafting procedure. So far my grafting success may be marginally better but I'm largely seeing the same results as last year: buds elongate and green up very nicely (pushing through the parafilm now that I'm using it), sometimes leaves start to unfold, and then the graft starts to look like the stock just doesn't want to feed it any more, and the new growth dries up and dies. I have tried to rub off competing growth at least 2-3 times per week, and if I've had any improvement over last year I'd be inclined to say this is the main reason (and secondarily perhaps weather/rainfall differences.) However, it's easy to miss a bud or shoot (when it comes up near the ground in the grass on trees in the field; sometimes under the protected graft union area; even on my potted trees.) Some grafts just seem to be looking for an excuse to wither up and die, and a few grafts seem to really want to grow for no apparent reason. Perhaps the presence or absence of the fly psylla is the reason for that difference? I just realized in the last week or so that they were a factor in all this.

A few curious anecdotes:

One of the two grafts that took last year and survived until this spring did the same thing this spring that most of my grafts do: the buds started the swell and begin to green up, and then everything from above the (last year's) graft dried up and died. This was a graft from a local, wild tree that I especially liked, so I figure the stock and grafted portion would be as closely related as possible. The graft had gotten of to a slower start than the one other graft that survived, but it had put on close to a foot of new growth with a couple side branches before winter.

A 'hana fuyu' graft I made this year started off really nice, grew about 5 or 6 inches of new (nice, thick) stem, and had some leaves at least as big around as a golf ball... I thought the graft had taken for sure, but then it dropped all its leaves about a week ago and the stem has since withered up.

I grafted a rosseyanka onto one of my potted stocks. There were three buds on the scion, and the top one followed the pattern of greening up, starting to unfold leaves, and then losing vigor and withering up. I figured that was the end of that graft for sure, but now a few weeks later three buds (even one in the same position as the one that dried up before) have initiated a second attempted growth and are about ready to unfold leaves.

    Bookmark   June 14, 2013 at 2:42PM
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I used Dave's article as a starting point and had great success last year. I'm sure you've seen my Sex Change thread on the QDMA forums.

I was pretty cocky this spring and only 2 out of 10+ trees took! I have (fingers crossed so far) never had a graft fail after a bud opens. All of my failures are grafts not taking at all.

I've talked to some other persimmon grafters. One thing I did differently this year that they think might be a problem is that I skipped grafting rubbers. I just used parafilm. Folks tell me that with persimmons, you need a lot of pressure between the bark and the scion and that while parafilm hold it together, it does not apply enough pressure. My good experience last year compared to my poor experience this spring would suggest they are right.

I have focused on several things after a conversation with Dave that may account for my 100% success after buds break. He tells me that keeping the scion from drying out is extremely important. I use parafilm to cover the entire scion to hold in moisture. I use Doc Farwell to seal the wound. I use an aluminum foil shield on the south side to shade the graft and scion from direct sun.

Seems like if I could get your bud breaking success and you could get my after budding survival, we would be in shape!

    Bookmark   July 23, 2013 at 2:35PM
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Hi all, hope this help. I had 100% success with 4 grafts this year. I used green wood with clearly formed buds and side graft. I did this in early summer after the initial spring growth. Tiny branches (2 buds) slipped into the side cut of 1 year seedlings and completely wrapped with parafilm. Now each of them grew 1 foot after 4 months. The trunk has double in size to #2 pencil size.

Background story: My newly planted and only saijo was dying from winter damage (ring barked by nature). I couldn't wait anymore. So I stick two healthiest branches into 2 seedlings and did 2 more similar grafts with my giombo. All 4 takes and planted 2 and gave 2 away.

    Bookmark   October 13, 2014 at 4:54PM
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I may have already said this in another thread, but even if I did I thought it might be good to follow up here. After 3 years with probably over 100 failed attempts at grafting Asian and AsianX persimmons on volunteer D.v. seedlings, I think I finally figured out my biggest problem, which I suspect was persimmon psylla. Apparently the psylla are a lot worse here than elsewhere, because I went from having basically no success to having more success than failures when I covered the grafts with bags made of row cloth material (aka remay.) I also, incidentally, had some success last year but only on some potted trees that I brought in the house early to encourage them to get a head start on the season. I assume that being the house at first likewise protected them from psylla. Do you all think I'm interpreting the facts correctly?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2014 at 10:07PM
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I had a bout with psylla this year on young persimmons I had started from seed. I sprayed the leaves with Sevin at the first sign. I pinched off any leaves that had significant curl. All survived but they were slightly stunted.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2014 at 11:11PM
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