Grafting on Ponderosa—

I’ve been grafting smaller ponderosas with black pine and red pine for some time. Before I went to Japan I grafted a very small ponderosa with 10 Mikawa Black pine scions. 9 took, and one failed the next year as it was weak. So I had eight grafts on a small tree…and then when I styled it years ago, I only used two grafts to create the tree, and cut the rest off. People in my backyard have been surprised it is grafted as the black pine and ponderosa bark match so well.

The first photo: A few grafts on a bankan (twisted-trunk) Ponderosa pine. The scions are a black/red pine hybrid, which I chose for the thin Red pine-looking needles. This tree has a very Red pine feel to it. And ponderosa foliage on small and moderate sized trees just does not look good to me. I know for some this is controversial, but it does look a lot better than the ugly grafted trees we see with black pine base and white pine top. And it is a way to use the wonderful material we have in a new way.

(The scions are slipped inside plastic bags, with spagnum moss, and duct tape is placed over the bag to prevent overheating in the sun.)

The second photo: This is another ponderosa with a big powerful trunk that I’m grafting with black pine. The grafts on pine do not need to go in any particular direction, as in deciduous grafts. You can reverse polarity in the scion, and have it go backwards…as in this photo. That way your branches can come off the trunk in the ‘downward angle’ that is preferred for pines.

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  1. Jeremiah says:

    I’d really like to see some pics of a ponderosa with black or red pine foliage that’s a bit further along, do u have any? I like this idea a lot

  2. danbartonbonsaipots says:

    Fascinating! What time of the year or season do you initiate the grafts? I would be grateful if you could let me know.

    Cheers, Dan Barton

    • crataegus says:

      Hello Dan,

      About a month prior to bud swell in the spring is a good time. Gives time for the hormones to balance before growth begins. If the candles are elongating on the scions already, it is unlikely the graft will take.

  3. Dan Barton says:

    Many thanks. Info much appreciated.

    Cheers Dan

  4. Brian Drake says:

    Any tips or tricks to use a ponderosa’s own branches for grafting in a different location? I have a tree with some leggy branches, so an approach graft is a possibility, although I’d prefer the flexibility that a scion would provide for branch placement. However, I’m a bit more nervous about cutting scions, crossing my fingers and hoping for the best.



    • crataegus says:

      I’ve thought of doing this myself, but have not yet. you’ll need a longer bag for the scions. and the timing is the same, in the early spring before the buds begin moving. hard to graft at other times. just make sure you’re matching the cambium on one side of the cut scion with the cambium on the stock, and don’t worry about the other side. you need only one side to match. eventually the other side will take too, but often a few years later.
      Hope that helps—

    • crataegus says:

      Also, make sure you have a very strong tree. lots of sun, don’t under-water, and fertilize very heavily this year if you want to graft next year, to get a big fat cambium layer. don’t worry about needle length.

  5. bonsaiquinn says:

    Any thoughts on polarity and the cuprecaceae family (Junipers, thuya, chamaecyparis, etc.)?

    “The grafts on pine do not need to go in any particular direction, as in deciduous grafts.”

    • crataegus says:

      Reversing polarity on pines is easy to do, I’ve done it grafting many times. I’ve also reversed juniper. I have no experience with the others, but suspect one could with success. (by reversing, for those new to the concept, we mean sticking a graft in backwards, so for instance, making an upward cut in the trunk of the stock plant, and inserting the scion from the bottom—which gives you a downward hanging branch immediately. But the fluid flow must change directions for this to happen.)

      Most deciduous will not reverse orientation, with the exceptions of some rose family plants like apple, hawthorn, quince which will do so for a root cutting turned upside down. And elm will do the same. Maybe others to, those are the ones I’m aware of-

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