While grafting may be one of the most interesting forms of plant propagation, it is also known as one of the most tedious and the least used form of propagation. Due to its labor-intensive nature, many wholesale nurseries stay away from grafting. If they want to offer grafted plants, most will buy small grafted plants from someone who specializes in grafting and grow them on in the nursery.
But please don’t let that scare you away from trying this at home. Nurserymen run their business to make money. If it’s too much trouble to produce a particular plant, most will stay away from it. By growing varieties that are easy to produce, most correctly feel they will do much better financially. However, if you are daring enough to try your hand at this fascinating propagation technique, it can provide a tremendous amount of pride and self-satisfaction. Grafting plants and trees is not inherently difficult, it just takes a bit of patience.
Without question, one of the most beautiful and as a result, the most popular, landscape plants on our planet is known as the Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Red Maple. This tree grows very low to the ground as most are not any taller than 4 feet. As the branches spread out, the tree becomes wider than it is tall. The branches cascade, or weep, from the top of the tree to the ground, while the foliage has a deep red color and the leaves are finely serrated along their edges. This plant is absolutely breathtaking during the spring and summer months. Nobody with any appreciation for nature walks by this plant and doesn’t take notice. Most are just as interesting in winter since the weeping branches create a very unique effect even without leaves.
There is only one method of propagation for the Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Red Maple. Grafting. This is why very few nurseries grow them and why a relatively small 3-foot tall plant at your local nursery is likely to sell for $150.00 USD or more. But you can grow one yourself for a whole lot of nothing.
Grafting is the art, and science, of melding a piece of one plant into a different plant in such a way that the two parts will join and become one. One plant serves as the root system and occasionally the stem, while the other plant is grafted, or attached, to the top or side and will eventually grow into the variety of plant the grower is actually trying to produce.
Propagating the Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Red Maple, the root stock would be any Japanese Maple grown from seed. Since the Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Red Maple is the desired variety, a small piece of this would be grafted on to the standard Japanese Maple rootstock to create a new Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Red Maple.
Obviously, if you would like to create a Laceleaf Weeping Japanese Maple through the power of grafting at home, the first order of business is to grow a regular Japanese Maple tree from seed to use as your rootstock. You can do this using the techniques described in the section of this website on propagating plants from seed.
Since Japanese Maple seeds have a hardened seed coat, they must be pretreated by soaking in hot water first. After perforating, store the seeds in a bag of moist peat moss in the refrigerator for a period between 100 and 120 days before planting. This procedure will induce germination and the seedlings should then start growing shortly after planting.
If your seedlings end up sprouting quite closely together, you should transplant so that they will have more room. Ideally, this should be accomplished either in the late fall or early spring. Before transplanting, allow the seedlings to grow until they have a diameter between 3/16 of an inch to 1/4 inch.