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How to Graft a Japanese Maple | 6 Effortless Steps!

Japanese maples, also known as Acer palmatum, are the epitome of beauty and elegance.

These stunning trees can transform any garden into a breathtaking masterpiece with their vibrant colors and distinctive character.

However, growing Japanese maples from seeds can be a challenging task, as the flowers openly pollinate with all the surrounding pollen in the area.

But fret not!

If you’re looking to get the exact cultivar of your choice, grafting a Japanese maple is the way to go.

This technique involves taking a stem from a seedling and attaching it to the rootstocks of another plant, specially selected for their robustness and ability to support the growth of the graft.

Grafting Japanese maples may seem like a daunting task, but it’s actually quite simple—if you have the right knowledge and practice. So why not embark on this thrilling journey and learn everything you need to know about how to graft a Japanese maple?

Let’s dive in!

What Is Grafting?

Grafting is a horticultural technique that involves attaching a piece of one plant to another.

In the case of Japanese maples, this typically means grafting a desired branch or trunk onto an existing rootstock. Grafting allows you to propagate desirable characteristics, such as color or shape, in the new plant while maintaining the rootstock’s vigor.

Below are the two types commonly used to graft Japanese Maples:

Splice Graft

The most common is called splice grafting.

It involves removing a bud from the desired plant and inserting it into a T shape slit in the rootstock’s bark. The bud will then grow and form a new branch that takes on the characteristics of the plant you took from it.

Cleft Graft

Another type of graft is called whip grafting.

It involves taking a thin branch from the desired plant, cutting it into a wedge shape, and then inserting it into a slit in the rootstock’s bark.

The two plants will then fuse and grow as one!

Whip grafting is often used to create multi-grafted trees, where multiple branches from different plants are grafted onto one rootstock.

Grafting is a skill that takes practice to master. However, anyone can learn to do it successfully with patience, trial, and error.

How to Graft a Japanese Maple? | The Steps!

This section discusses everything required to graft a Japanese maple, from the best time of year to the tools you will need and the aftercare of the graft.

It’s all here!

Keep reading to learn all about how to graft a Japanese Maple.

Tools Needed

You’ll need the following tools.

  • Grafting knife
  • Gardening shears
  • Cellophane
  • Grafting tape
  • Plastic bag

Ensure all your gardening tools are sterilized, ensuring the new plant is healthy. The best practice to do this is immersing your tools in sterilizing solutions or exposing them to fire.

Best Time to Graft

The best time for grafting is during winter and early spring because it is when scion and rootstock are dormant.

If you are grafting the potted plants, you can easily move them indoors, creating a suitable environment, i.e., unheated overwintering houses. However, the outdoor and field-grown plants will be grafted in their place.

Step 1: Choose Scion

So, now that you know the best time for grafting your Japanese maple, let’s start the grafting process that begins with selecting a scion.

  • First, it is essential to choose healthy donor and rootstock plants. (The shoots from the previous growing season give the best quality scion.)
  • Take sharp, clean shears to take your scion wood from the desired plant.
  • Take a 3- to 6-inch (7.5–15 cm.) piece of scion and trim its leaves back to the top.
  • Once you have your scion, enclose it in a plastic bag to keep it moist and fresh.

Harvest scion wood only if you can use it for grafting the same day to get the best results.

The plant you selected for the scion should be free from disease or pest infestation. Go for as healthy and fresh plants as possible.

Step 2: Select Rootstock

After harvesting a scion, you must graft it onto a seedling that (in grafting terms) is called the rootstock.

  • The rootstock should have the desired characteristics you wish to propagate as you will transfer them to grafted Japanese maples.
  • At least a 3 mm diameter of rootstock is required to carry out the grafting process.

It is best to look for a rootstock in its best-growing condition. Moreover, the rootstock plant should also be disease and infestation free.

Step 3: Prepare the Grafting Area

Here are some steps that you can take to prepare your grafting area:

  • The grafting area must be clean and free of debris.
  • The cut surface of the rootstock plant should be slightly bigger than the cut surface of the donor plant so that it can easily encompass it.
  • Although you can make different cuts to graft Japanese maple, the most suitable is splice graft. Cutting off the top of the rootstock trunk in a long diagonal about 3 cm long will form the splice graft.
  • The base of the scion should have the same cut to fit in the rootstock properly.
  • After making a perfect cut, fit the scion into the rootstock.
  • You may also opt for a cleft graft, in which you must make a wedge at the scion base and slice the bark to design an angled point. You should make the same wedge in the rootstock, and then the scion and rootstock will be ready to fit together.

Now, move to the next step.

Step 4: Secure the Graft

Once the two parts are joined together, they must be wrapped securely with grafting tape. You may use grafting wax or something similar to hold them together while the graft heals.

Step 5: Create a Greenhouse

Your graft needs a highly humid and warm environment for its proper growth.

  • You can place it in a greenhouse or create your own by placing it in a container or covering it with plastic wrap.
  • This practice will also help keep your graft away from insects and pests.
  • Remove the wrap once you notice new shoots growing, which may take 7–10 days.

With these guidelines in mind, grafting Japanese maples is a relatively straightforward process that can yield impressive results.

But we are not done here; you must know how to care for your graft!

Step 6: Caring for the Graft

Here are some tips:

  • It is vital to keep the grafted area well-watered (not soggy) during the healing process.
  • Keep on checking the graft to ensure your method worked or not. If it hasn’t, the grafting point will start to dry instead of healing and merging.
  • Remove the grafting wax when you see new leaves growing from the grafting area.
  • Prune the suckers that usually appear after grafting.

And you’re done for today!

How to Graft a Japanese Maple + Rooting Hardwood Cuttings – YouTube

Let’s head toward the conclusion.


The Japanese maple is a beautiful addition to any garden.

You can easily graft this tree if you follow the steps above. So, that is how to graft a Japanese maple.

Please let us know how grafting your Japanese maples at home went in the comment section.

Happy gardening!