How to graft mango tree?

Mango Tree Grafting – Learn How To Graft A Mango Tree

Mango tree propagation may be accomplished by either planting seeds or grafting of mango trees. When propagating by seed, trees take longer to produce fruit and are more difficult to manage than those that have been grafted, thus mango tree grafting is the preferred method of propagation. In the following article, we’ll discuss how to graft a mango tree and other pertinent information of this technique.

Mango Tree Propagation via Grafting

Grafting of mango trees, or other trees, is the practice of transferring a piece of mature, bearing tree or scion to a separate seedling called rootstock. The scion becomes the canopy of the tree and the rootstock the lower trunk and root system. Mango tree grafting is the most reliable and economical method of mango propagation.

There are several types of mango recommended for use as rootstock, both Kensington and common mango are suitable; and in South Florida, ‘Turpentine’ is the recommended choice. What matters most is that the rootstock is vigorous at the time of grafting. Its size and age can vary as long as it is strong and healthy. That said, the most common stock should be about 6 months to one year of age.

Grafting is not difficult provide you keep a few things in mind. Along with using healthy rootstock, use only healthy scions or bud wood with active buds. Although bud wood can be wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for a time, for best results, use fresh scion wood. Practice good sanitation. Think about grafting as doing surgery.

Attempt your grafting during the warmest months of the year when temps are above 64 F. (18 C.). There are a few grafting methods that are successful with mangos. These include wedge or cleft grafting, chip budding and whip grafting, but the most reliable method is veneer grafting.

How to Graft a Mango Tree

Remember, you want vigorous, healthy rootstock. The chosen seedling stem should be between 3/8 and 1 inch across, vibrant green in color, free from rot or disease and showing signs of healthy leaves and buds.

Cut the chosen rootstock from the tree about 4 inches above the soil. Use a very sharp pair of pruning shears or a special grafting knife. Make the cut level and take care not to damage the stem below the cut. Use a knife to split the remaining stem in half going from top to bottom, to about an inch above the soil’s surface.

The next step is locating a new growth shoot or scion on an existing mango tree. The thickness of the scion should be equal to or slightly smaller than the harvested rootstock and should have fresh buds and leaves. Cut the 3- to 6-inch long piece of the scion from the tree and trim back the uppermost leaves.

With a knife, make a wedge in the cut end of the scion and slice the bark away along each side to create an angled point. Place the scion wedge into the slot you’ve cut in the rootstock. Be sure they line up. Use grafting tape to secure the rootstock to the scion.

Put a plastic bag over the new graft and tie it off at the bottom to create a warm, humid environment and protect the new graft from insects and pests. Once the tree has begun growing, remove the bags. Remove the tape from the graft once the tree produces new leaves. Water the tree, but do not over water after grafting. Suckers are often prevalent post-grafting. Simply prune them out.

adult mango trees can be converted to another variety by top-grafting

Top-grafting, or topworking, is the grafting of the top portion of a plant that is already mature or large enough to have several branches. An equivalent technique in which budding is used is called top-budding.

The technique is not new, it has in fact been thoroughly discussed by Hartmann and Kester (1975) in their book Plant Propagation: Principles and Practices. The authors say that the technique is used to convert an already established long-lived plant, either a tree, a shrub or a vine, into another variety or cultivar. Accordingly, apple and pear are examples of long-lived plants that can be top-grafted.

Reminiscing . .

Back in year 1999, we were familiar with intervarietal conversion of adult plants by top-grafting only as applied in rejuvenating old, unproductive coffee in the Philippines. The procedure essentially involves the cutting of the tree about 30 cm (1 foot) from the ground and allowing sprouts to develop from the stump. When the sprouts reach graftable size, 5-7 are cleft grafted but only 3 to 5 are usually retained and allowed to develop.

12 years since this mango tree was top-grafted and the wounds had completely healed.

But then one day in one of our personal weekend expeditions intended to educate ourselves, we happened upon Pabon’s farm in Polo, Polomolok, South Cotabato close to the foot of Mount Matutum, with vast plantation of Dole pineapple to the west. The farm was planted to hundreds of mango trees which, aged about 5 years old with trunk diameter of about 10-15 cm (4-6 in), have already started producing fruits.

When the farm owner bought the grafted seedlings, he was assured by the vendor that the seedlings were those of the “Luzon” variety, supposedly one of the best of the Philippine Carabao variety. But, to his dismay, he discovered that the fruits were entirely different from that of the Carabao variety, now also called Manila Supersweet mango or simply Philippine mango and others.

Totally convinced then of the viability of mango farming, the farm owner had no choice but to replace the mango trees by replanting new seedlings. Luckily, he did not right away cut the trees. He started planting grafted seedlings from a reliable source in between the existing rows. That was when we passed by, noticed the new plantings, and became curious why he did it.

Actual Demo on Top Grafting Did It

Three years from topgrafting and this mango tree flowered after chemical floral induction

To cut it short, we advised him that he could still proceed with his plan of going into mango farming without replanting which would mean another expenditure and waiting years for the seedlings to mature. To convince him further, we conducted two demo-studies to compare methods of rootstock preparation: (1) cutting of the trunk above the graft union, (2) cutting of all lowermost scaffold branches with short stubs left and of the trunk above these branches, and (3) similar to 2 except that one branch was retained intact to serve as nurse branch. A nurse branch is one that is deliberately left to ensure continuity in the production of food through photosynthesis for the whole plant that is devoid of other leaves. It is intended to be removed later.

Joefran Gallego and Rogelio Gonzales did it all, including the actual top-grafting works, and recorded the results. The demos were, at the same time, their undergraduate thesis.

In just a few days, multiple shoots emerged from the decapitated trunk and from the stubs of the branches. At 30-40 days from cutback, 7-8 shoots around the trunk (in rootstock preparation 1) and 2-3 shoots from each branch and upper trunk were cleft-grafted with scions collected from a nearby fully grown carabao mango tree. Grafting success was nearly perfect. In contrast, potted mango seedlings usually reach ordinary pencil size, the right size for grafting, 6-8 months from seed sowing.

This is a practical method of applying the concepts in grafting plants. The technology involved the application of cleft grafting, topworking or top-grafting, and double grafting. The cleft grafting technique was used in grafting individual sprouts; top-grafting was applied in regrafting the tops of the trees; and double grafting was applied because there were two successive grafting operations, the first grafting consisting of the original grafting of the seedlings and the second being made on the part of the original scion which here became the interstock or intermediate stock.

Adoption of the Technology

Thereafter, the top-grafting technique following the preparation of the rootstock by cutting of branches was applied to the other mango trees. From time to time, we received updates that there was rapid development of the tree canopy and that in only two years the tree sizes were already comparable to other mango trees in nearby farms that were planted at the same time.

Just recently after 12 years, we visited the farm on our way home from a neighboring farm whose owner needed technical assistance. We were told that for years Pabon’s mango trees have been producing fruits regularly through the application of chemical floral induction technology.

We entered the farm and found that the trees were generally healthy without any sign of previous cut and top-grafting except those of the original union when the seedlings were first grafted. The wounds completely healed and there was no indication whatsoever that the trees were topworked. The farm is now popularly referred to in the community as the one where adult mango trees were converted to Carabao mango.

Is top-grafting applicable to old and large mango trees?

The answer should be yes. We recently tried this on trees more than 20 years old mostly with trunk diameter of about 40-50 cm at the base at the Mindanao State University, General Santos City. These trees were intended to be removed as part of a thinning operation. The topmost cut was made about 8 feet (2.4 m) from the ground.

A top-worked tree reverted to juvenile growth (see above photo of double-trunked mango) and we learned many lessons including the realization that the process is labor intensive. We concluded that any tree to be top-grafted should be healthy; cutting-preparation of the tree should be done when climatic conditions are favorable for growth; water supply should be ensured until the tree has developed a relatively large canopy; the flushes of growth should be timely protected from insect pests; new sprouts keep on emerging every few days; and that new, ungrafted sprouts as well as the excess or out-of-place surviving grafts should be removed.


HARTMANN HT, KESTER DE. 1975. Plant Propagation: Principles and Practices. 3rd ed. New Jersey: Prentice Hall Inc. 662 p.

(Ben G. Bareja and Efren M. Sioquim 2012, edited May 26, 2015)

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