Budding is actually a type of grafting but the techniques are sufficiently specialized to warrant separate consideration. The rootstock is similar to that used in other grafting methods; that is, seedlings, rooted cuttings, and branches of young trees and shrubs. The scion is markedly different, though. It is only a single bud with a patch of bark and sometimes a bit of wood attached. Budding is comparatively simple as a grafting method. It is the most rapid method of propagating roses for commercial sale. Fruit trees and other nursery stock are also propagated and top-worked through budding. (Top working is the grafting of scions onto the existing framework and root system of a large, established tree. It is done to produce a crop faster than natural growth permits.) Since one budstick can provide as many scions as it has buds, budding is often a means of maximizing limited propagative materials.
Budding involves removing a piece of bark on the stock plant and replacing it with a comparably sized piece from a compatible plant. The added piece contains a bud which develops into a new shoot. Afterward, the stock above the newly grafted shoot is cut back, along with any buds that develop on the stock below the graft.
Successful union requires that the bark of both the stock and scion separate easily (termed slipping) for removal. The bark slips most readily when the plant is actively growing. Budding can be done almost any time from spring through the fall as long as the bark is slipping and buds, not shoots, are available from the scion plants.
Fall and spring are the best seasons for budding, but attention must be given to the state of development of the buds. In the fall, buds may be used after they have formed prior to the onset of winter. Normally, they will remain dormant through the winter and begin growing in the spring. For spring budding, the budstick often must be collected early in the winter while still dormant, then kept in moist, cool storage until the bark begins to slip on the stock plant outdoors. Summer budding, most often done in June, requires that the leaves on the scion be sufficiently mature to have formed an axillary bud that can be used. When a leaf is attached to the bud, the blade should be cut away allowing the petiole to remain. The petiole provides a handle to lift the bud patch. It will later die and drop away.