Growth below the Graft

About 6 weeks ago I planted 2 passionfruit vines, “Nellie Kellys” in golden and black varieties. So far they seem to be going well and with the combination of the warmer and the root system having had some time to get established I am hoping to see some major growth soon.

I was, however, displeased to notice some growth below the graft on both vines when I was tending them the other day.

For those of you who don’t know grafting is a horticultural process which takes a part of a tree or plant and attaches it to another. It is used for a variety of reasons, but some of the most common reasons plants you buy will have been grafted are:

1. Because that is the way the plant is propagated

Some plants and trees, like apple trees, do not reproduce true to type from seed. If, for example, you plant seeds form a Granny Smith apple, they will most likely not grow into a tree which produces Granny Smith apples, but some other ‘type’ of apples, which usually are nowhere near as good as the seed apple.

Therefore, to get new apple trees, budding wood from existing trees is grafted onto a rootstock apple. This creates a new tree which is genetically identical to the original tree the budwood is taken from.

2. To create a stronger plant

Passionfruit vines are a classic example of fruits that are commonly grafted to produce a hardier plant. Passionfruit can be a bit sensitive, being prone to disease and i tolerant of frost. By grafting a passionfruit vine which produces good fruit onto a hardy, rootstock passionfruit ,which normally don’t make that nice of fruit,a vine can can be created that is frost tolerant and more resistant to disease.

3.To create a tree with specific characteristics

Ever bought a dwarf fruit tree? While some dwarf trees are genuine small varieties, most are trees which have been grafted onto dwarfing stocks, such as flying dragon commonly used for citrus, which prevent them from growing to full size.

4. For fun!

Some trees are grafted using bud wood from different trees to create trees not present in nature, such as a tree which grows half nectarines and half apricots. These so called ‘fruit salad trees’ are great for small gardens.

Similarly some garden enthusiasts graft different plants together just to see what will happen and what the resulting tree will be like.

Now that the basic reasons for grafting are covered, back to the title topic of this post, growth below the graft. This is a bad thing and something you want to get rid of immediately. The main reason is that growth below the graft is stealing effort and energy from the part of the plant you paid for and want to grow. If let go too long, the graft can actually take over, killing your plant and leaving you with a rootstock with bad or no fruit. Also, rootstock passionfruit vines can become an environmental pest and take over large amounts of your garden.

To remove growth, just cut off with a sharp knife or pruning shears. This ‘blinds’ the off shoot and prevents growth from that point again. It is not recommended to pull off the growth as this can cause more shoots.

Close up on the graft and growth.

Removed growth.

I’m reading Call the Midwife by Jennifer Worth.


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