This is a step-by-step tutorial on grafting durian at the hypocotyl stage. May the controversy over methods to slice and dice a baby tree rain down upon this post so that we can all get more delicious durian varieties. Many thanks to John Mood, an expert nurseryman and durian grower in Hawai’i, for teaching us how to do this (scroll down for the video↓↓) .
Note: John Mood has sold his property and retired to Oregon.
What is hypocotyl grafting?
First, let me define grafting for the non-horticultural nerds who brave enough to enter this post:
Grafting is a technique whereby tissues of plants are joined so as to continue their growth together. The upper part of the combined plant is called the scion while the lower part is called the rootstock. — Wikipedia
Grafting is how so many, many people are able to grow Musang King. Essentially, a stick from a mature Musang King tree is cut off and attached to a baby tree, which then grows up as a Musang tree. Does that make sense? It sounds like science fiction, but that’s just how plants work. They do it all the time in nature (click for cool pictures, G-rated don’t worry).
You can graft onto a tree whether it’s 100-years-old or 2-years-old, but most commercial nurseries graft their trees when the seedlings are about 1 or 2 years old. This means hundreds of two-foot high baby durians waiting around until they’re big enough to get sliced in nurseries like this:
Hypocotyl grafting is different. Another moment of definition:
Hypocotyl is the part of the stem of an embryo plant beneath the stalks of the seed leaves, or cotyledons, and directly above the root.
A durian hypocotyl looks like this:
This is a wee, wee baby durian, about 2 months old. The hypocotyl is the fat part of the stem just above the soil.
Most plants don’t have much of a hypocotyl. This big, fat hypocotyl is one of durian’s many quirky botanical features. But it’s convenient for durian lovers, because we can cheat.
Why All Durian Lovers Should Be Excited By Hypocotyl Durian Grafting
Okay, so you don’t have a durian farm. Or maybe you do. In fact, if you are reading this far down in the post, you’re probably pretty interested in growing your own durian.
The reason why we should all care that durians have hypocotyls is that we can shave off 1 or 2 years from the time it takes a durian tree to start producing fruit. Which means you can be eating durian 1 or 2 years earlier. In impatience terms, that’s a long time.
That fat hypocotyl is where we’re going to cut, so that for the rest of it’s life, this little seedling tree will be a Puangmanee durian variety. That’s the variety we chose for this tutorial.
- Baby durian tree, approximately 2 months old
- Fresh sticks (scion or budwood) from a durian tree you really like, like Puangmanee
- Pruning shears
- Sharp knife
- Rubber band, wide
- Pinch of luck
VIDEO: How to do Hypocotyl Durian Grafting
Here’s a video of John Mood, who until just recently had a small durian farm on Hawai’i and is still considered a Durian Patriarch here.
Steps of Hypcotyl Grafting
The specifics of getting your little durian seedlings set up will be covered in a future post, but make sure to check that you have the right conditions for growing durian before you get started.
Step 1: Find a durian seed and let it grow until the leaves are just forming. This usually takes about 2 months.
Step 2: Find someone with a variety of durian that you like. We selected Puangmanee.
Step 3: Wait until the mother tree is in a vegetative cycle, meaning that it’s showing signs of growing new leaves. This means that the wood will be active and full of yummy growth hormones just itching to latch onto your root stock. Look for little teeny buds on the branches that indicate the tree is thinking about putting out some new growth.
To check if the wood is ready, slice a rectangle around the bud and then peel it off with your finger nails. The bark should come off easily, as if it wasn’t even attached to the wood underneath. This is why they say that the bark is “slipping.”
The inside should be green and moist.
Step 4: Select and snip off a 6-8 inch-long twig (your scion) that matches the diameter size of your baby durian tree’s hypocotyl.
Step 5: Remove all of the leaves. This seems counter-intuitive, but until your scion latches on to the rootstock, those leaves are just letting water escape and drying your twig out.
Step 6: Slice the bottom of the scion into a pointy wedge shape with two flat sides. You need a very sharp knife so those edges are smooooooth.
Step 7: Cut the top off your rootstock toward the top of the hypocotyl. Then press the knife directly downward through the top, bisecting the baby tree.
Step 8: Wedge the wedge-shape of your scion into the cut. Secure it with a rubber band.
Step 9: Cover in plastic wrap, and then cross your fingers. In about a week, you’ll know whether or not the scion wood has merged with the rootstock by the appearance of new little buds. But, it takes a little bit of luck too. You can have done everything right and still fail. Which takes us to the pros and cons of this method:
Pros of Hypocotyl Durian Grafting:
- You can graft the tree earlier, meaning you’ll get fruit 1 or even 2 years earlier than normal grafting methods.
- The graft is lower on the tree, so it’s less likely to break off as the tree grows
Cons of Hypocotyl Durian Grafting:
- If you mess up, your tree is toast. On other grafting methods, even if the scion doesn’t merge and dies, often the rootstock will survive and you can try grafting again.
- The graft is lower, so it might be more susceptible to phytophtora and other soil-born diseases, if that’s something you’re worried about.
Did you enjoy this post? Do you want to see more tutorials on growing durian on this blog?
Are you a durian grower with tips and tricks you’d like to share with the durian-loving community?
Please post all your thoughts in the comment box below. Mahalo!