Propagation Technique Known as Budding to Grow Beautiful
by Michael J.
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
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
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 desired variety.
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 stick.
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 the leaf.
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
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 proud parent!
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.