When to remove a rubber band from grafted plants

Robert (zone 7a, Oklahoma)January 27, 2013


I got an awesome grafted 4222 plumeria from Florida Colors back on 10/17/12. It's been growing under a CFL since I received it and is putting out new leaves so I'm assuming the graft took? It had recently been grafted and still has the rubber band on the graft union (that's how I received it). I'm thinking I should remove it soon however being a newbie I'd like some expert opinions if possible. :)

I've snapped some pics and would love some advice!
One side the graft union looks deep, the other side looks fine.

Thank you,

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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Hey Robert. That gap in the graft concerns me. I have no experience with a grafted one but does not lokk right to me. You call carol and ask her.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 3:13PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Robert!!!

I would agree with Mike and call Carol and send her a pic of this graft. The tree looks healthy, but the graft doesn't look like it has (Healed) sealed properly. The tree iself looks healthy and im sure it has healed enough for the tree to continue to do well, but i would be concerned about the space left. She may even mention to seal it and give you the proper sealant to use. My concern would be protecting the opening.

I am no expert, but i would leave the band on and call Carol. She will give you the best advice.

Like i mentioned, the tree loooks great!! I think the graft healed in a different way and it just needs a little more protection. It would make you ( us) feel better. (The tree seems fine with it!!) ;-)

Take care,


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 4:19PM
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Robert (zone 7a, Oklahoma)

Thanks, guys!

I'll send Carol an email with the pics and see what she recommends. :)


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 4:27PM
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Hi Robert,
I am an expert on plumeria grafting and I am going to try to explain what is going on with yor plant and what the prospects are. In grafting plumerias there are two important things: a) making cambium contact between the scion and the rootstock so sap can flow from the rootstock to the scion, and b) maintaining the cambium contact over time. A rubber band (elastic) is generally used to make contact. A plastic tape wrap is used to maintain the cambium contact.

Sometimes in plumeria grafts the cambium line contact between the scion and the rootstock is broken for different reasons (no sap present, scion surface has dried, etc.). What happens then is that the scion acts like a cutting trying to develop roots. It center soft white core swells out to form a callus. If the graft wrap stretches some, it pushes the scion and rootstock appart and cambium contact is broken completely. Eventually the wrap stops stretching and the soft center cores of the scion and rootstock fuse together. In the picture below I show an example of this. I used clear fruit tree grafting tape, which is designed to stretch on purpose to avoid girdling of the graft. As you you see the scion was pushed away from the rootstock by more than 3/16". I eventually put a cable tie on it to keep it from stretching any more.

To prevent this from happening I use a thick green tape that does not strech much. I use duct tape to secure the end and two cable ties for safety (picture below). Luc at FC uses a similar green tape but puts a rubber band over the green tape. The rubber band (special elastomer for grafting), is design to disintagrate in a few weeks. He does this so he does not have to go around to remove all the tapes.

This is what typical grafts look like. Note how the cambium line is completely healed and filled with callus all the way around. There are no gaps in good graft unions.

These are some grafts from Florida Colors, when I received the plants. Luc's tape stretches a little like mine and creates a small scar. As you can see, typically Luc does a pretty good job grafting plumerias.

After I remove the green tape, the gap between the scion and the rootstock continues to become bigger. I have tried to put cable ties to hold the scar from getting bigger. It helps some but the ends deform and grow out (not very pretty). That growing callus just exterts a huge force.

I developed a new technique that gets around this problem and makes pretty grafts with very small scar every time, as the picture below shows (two weeks after grafting). Note how the cambium line is completely healed all the way to the bark in just two weeks!

Now your plant broke the cambium line contact and the swelling soft white center of the scion pushed the rootstock away and broke the cambium line contact. So the grafting has taken but it is healing slowing from the center out. It will take a while to fill the gap. When this happens, it is possible to leave a gap somewhere in the graft. I would take a thin flat metal piece and go around the graft and measure the depth of the open area, to see if there are any open areas, especially at the top of the graft (generally heals last in this type of graft). The rubber band that is on the graft is not the original rubber band they used in grafting. It is a new one (much thicker and stronger than used normally for grafting) and it is used to hold the graft union together until it heals fully. Do not remove it. The rubber band stretches and the scar will become bigger. If it was me I would put two cable ties on the ends of the graft cut to secure the graft union.

Now, what are the prospects for this graft? It is bad? The next picture shows a one year old graft with a large scar. It looks fully healed from the outside.

The next picture shows a cut-away view of this graft. The top tip is still open, it has not fully healed. However, the bottom part has completely healed and new wood has formed over the scion and rootstock original woods and has connected the two. The cuts have line up with solid wood and the bottom half of the cuts have fuse together. The bottom line is that it takes time to heal but when it does the graft union will be the storgest part of the plant (it will be solid wood).

Here is a more extreme example of a really large graft scar. The angle was too large and the scar kept on growing. On the surface it looks weak. It looks like one can break it appart easily.

The next picture shows the cut-away view of this graft union.The cut is fused together with solid wood. The scion and the rootstock are connected around the perimeter with solid wood. This graft union is the strongest piece on the whole plant! It cannot be broken appart.

The bottom line is that your plant will be fine. Eventually it will make a very strong connection. However, it will take time. The fact that the plant is growing leafs shows the graft has taken. Now, do not get me wrong. I would prefer a plant with a "normal" graft that has healed at the cambium line first rather than this one that has fused at the soft white centers because the graft union heals quicker and makes a much stronger union much faster.
I hope I have answered all your questions. Good luck Robert.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 8:10PM
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By the way Robert, do not worry about the graft line. Inside is healed and growing. It is OK if it gets wet, it will not rot. It will not dry up either because the callus at the graft line has bark on the outside.


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 8:18PM
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wow! outstanding explanation of grafting and great photos as well...cannot wait to try my 1st one...roxanne

    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 10:10PM
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Robert (zone 7a, Oklahoma)

Wow indeed!
Thank you so much for all the detailed explanations and pictures, George!
I'll do as you advised and add some cable ties to the graft.

Thanks again for taking the time to share your knowledge!


    Bookmark   January 27, 2013 at 10:24PM
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mksmth zone 6b Tulsa Oklahoma(6b)

Thanks George

I think that will give a lot of us more confidence in buying grafted plants.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2013 at 8:44AM
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George, would you be able to share your new grafting technique with us? Judging by the picture you are not using cable ties anymore?!
Looks great.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 1:12AM
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I have a question, why do people like to graft plumeria, is there a special reason?

For me the cut tops do not do so great but do put out sprouts which so far I have been able to remove for new plants either to share or to start a new plant without any problems.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 9:43AM
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I am still developing and evaluating the new technique including long term effects in comparison to the standard method. When I am done I am going to publish it in the PSA newsletter. The key is to cause the scion and rootstock to fuse at the cambium line before a callus develops in the center and pushes the two appart. Here is a graft that was broken off accidently (I hit it with the ladder's end). Note that the graft did not open up. It broke below the graft and there is a piece of the rootstock attached to it The graft line is the faint brownish line that runs from the bottom brown spot to the top at 30 degrees. Note that there is no callus between the scion and rootstock but the two are fused together! This type of graft makes a hairline graft scar and by far the strogest bond in the shortest time. I do not use cable ties with this technique.

Wally, grafting is a great technique that can be used in many instances. Some varieties are impossible to root, like Bill Moragne (only available grafted). A lot of varieties (a lot of the reds, Katie Moragne, Hilo Beauty. Pink Wave Rage, etc.) are very difficult to root and it is best to graft them. I do not graft all my trees, just the difficult ones. Most people are scared of grafts because they appear weak. There is nothing farther from the truth. Grafts, when fully healed, are the srongest pieces on the whole plant. A lot of people object to the graft scar as not aestetically nice. You can burry the graft union below the soil with no problems.

Another use of grafting is called 'downgrafting'. Plumerias grow leggy and tall and do not look vey good in pots. They also get blown down by wind easily. There are two ways to make more compact plants: a) root a multi-tip cutting from the top of a tree, and b) use 'downgrafting' to make a compact plant. The picture below shows a multi-tip top cutting. You can use iron fence post to pull the branches to train them to make a nice canopy.

However, most people do not have access to large multi-tip cuttings (very expensive and expensive to ship). So you start with normal multi-tip cuttings, like in the next two pictures. The problem is they grow leggy by the time they first bloom and split or the branches are bent from the mother tree.

You can reshape these plants by downgrafting. It is a technique where you remove a middle section of the branch and graft the tip back on. You can also use tips from other plants. This also allows you to orient the tips to get a nice shape plant. Here is a plant whose two out of the three branches were downgrafted. It makes a more compact plant with a nice shape.

Here is another plant where all three branches where downgrafted.

Another use of grafting is to make rainbow plants. You can graft multiple varieties on a single plant. You can pick the varieties so they all bloom together and you have many different colors on the same plant. You can also pick the varieties so they bloom at different times, in which case the plant becomes everblooming and blooms all year. No more plumerias that just have leafs most of the time. Here is an ever blooming plant with multiple tips of four different varieties.

As you can see you can use grafting to do some neat things. It is a great technique.


    Bookmark   January 29, 2013 at 12:32PM
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