Please help me rescue my ginkgo tree
July 29, 2008 7:51 AM   Subscribe

Calling all plant propagation / grafting experts. I have a small ginkgo (about 9 inches tall) with great sentimental significance - it was used in my wedding ceremony earlier this year. Until yesterday, I had it in a large pot on the back deck because it seemed too small and delicate for a permanent home in the ground. Yesterday when I went outside I found it on the ground, uproooted and chewed in half (!!). The stem had been separated from the roots about half an inch above the soil level by some animal.

Here's what I've done so far (for better or worse):

I made a clean cut on both sides and attempted a whip and tongue graft. I bound the graft together using twine and replanted the whole thing in a small pot inside and covered it with a glass jar to keep the humidity up. I didn't use wax or anything else to seal over the twine because a) I didn't have any and b) the whole thing is now in a humid environment. I also removed three leaves (out of six).

I have never grafted before so I have no idea if I did a good job. I did my best to align the cambium layers, but the stems were slightly different sizes because of the missing chunk so it's only really aligned on one side.

My question(s): I REALLY want to save this plant (for obvious reasons). Is this the best strategy? Would it be better to just try to root the stem? There are a couple of dormant buds on it.

Is there any way to encourage the roots to re-sprout?

Would it be worth burying the graft so that the stem has a chance to root OR take the graft? The graft is about a half inch above the original soil level, so it would mean burying the roots a couple of inches deeper.

thanks in advance for any help.
posted by aquafiend to Home & Garden (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
First of all, let me say that I'm not an expert on grafting woody plants ... so take these ideas with a grain of salt. I do have a bit of experience with Ginkgo and with plants in general.

My thoughts:

- Of all the plants that this could have happened to, Ginkgo is probably one of the best. Ginkgos are survivors.

- I'd guess that the rootstock is more likely to re-sprout than the stem ... without any particular encouragement other than having its top chewed off.

- DO NOT leave the glass jar in the sun. It will get too hot. Also - you may want to leave a little ventilation into the jar. High humidity is good for the top part of the graft, but it's also good for fungus.

Good Luck!
posted by balberth at 8:10 AM on July 29, 2008

We've had a ginkgo seedling that has gone through absolute hell. It 's was forgotten on a window ledge in a styrofoam cup and dried out completely and when my wife stuck it in the garden it came to life again in the spring...then I accidentally went over it with the lawnmower. It re-grew from the root but I mowed over it again so my wife moved it to a pot. It never seems to grow much but it hasn't died.
posted by bonobothegreat at 8:24 AM on July 29, 2008

You might want to sprinkle some rooting compound on the graft site.
posted by MrMoonPie at 8:47 AM on July 29, 2008

Not a grafting expert, but people often use rooting hormones when grafting. I´m not sure if you could still apply them, it might be too late.

Good luck with this.

Um, I´m guessing that the tree probably had some sort of role along the lines of growing as your relationship grows? Living things are fragile, but I am sure your relationship will be fine.
posted by yohko at 8:48 AM on July 29, 2008

If there's a really good nursery in the area, it might not hurt to bring it in for a look.

My now-thriving little ginkgo started as a ~12" pencil-thick stick that had been rooted and then sat outside in a jar of water for A YEAR before I found it and stuck it back in dirt. Perhaps try to re-root the top bit with hormone, and also baby the stump? You might wind up with two plants!

(And be patient with the stump... plants I was sure were goners have come back from seemingly nothing, but it took a surprisingly long time.)
posted by bunji at 10:16 AM on July 29, 2008

Sounds like you've done well so far, though I'm not sure I would have bothered with the graft.

As long as there's a little stem above them, I would have stuck the roots back into a pot (in seedling mix) and watered lightly and often with a bit of superthrive mixed into the water.

Of course, it should be noted that I tend to blunder my way through most plant issues. I seem to be lucky enough though...
posted by terpia at 1:57 PM on July 29, 2008

Just a note: Ginkgos survived both the Hiroshima blast and the Chernobyl meltdown. That should bode well for yours!
posted by limeonaire at 2:58 PM on July 29, 2008

« Older ants! ants! ants! kill! kill! kill!   |   What cheap non-digital SLR for sis? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.