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Can a Broken Sapling Be Saved

Home Improvement

It is easy to take pride in your yard when a lot of time and labor has been put into making it look nice. It comes as no surprise how heartbreaking it can be when a sapling that has been cared for gets damaged either by a storm, by pets, or by wildlife in your area. Can a broken sapling be saved? It’s hard to just let it go after so much love has been poured into this young plant.

Trees are complex organisms. Is it possible to save them after they have been damaged, considering their anatomy is so intricate? There are many factors that will determine if your broken sapling can be saved. It’s not always possible to save them, but it is definitely worth a little effort to try. First, let’s take a look at the structure of a tree to understand what is being damaged when part of the sapling breaks.

Tree Anatomy

As stated before, the anatomy of a tree is incredibly complex. Trees are vascular plants. The vascular system is an elaborate network of tissue that transports water and nutrients from the roots to the highest parts of a tree. It also transports the nutrients gained from photosynthesis throughout the conducting tissues of the tree, all the way down to the roots.

The vascular system does many things for the plant, one being interconnecting all the plant’s organs. The two main types of tissue in the vascular system are called the phloem and xylem. These two tissues are responsible for the distribution of water and nutrients in the tree. If there is enough damage to the vascular system of a tree, then it’s possible that part of the tree—or potentially the entire tree, depending on the extent of the damage—may not be savable.

What Does Your Sapling Need to Grow?


Saplings are characterized as young trees within a certain size. Their trunk at this stage has a diameter of between 1 and 5 inches and usually stands about 4.5 feet tall, not including the root system. Saplings at this size may be planted, containerized, bare-root, or balled and burlapped.

For a sapling to grow into a tree, it needs only a few things. The root system should have good, fertile soil. Depending on where your sapling is planted, you may need to use a fertilizer or root stimulator to help encourage deep root growth. And the sapling needs water. The strong roots will help pull in the water it needs to grow. The other thing your sapling needs is sunlight. This allows your sapling to get its nutrients by using photosynthesis.

A sapling doesn’t need a lot to grow, but each thing is very important to its survival. So how can a broken sapling be saved after it is damaged? If a stem or branch of the sapling is broken or severed, the vascular system can no longer reach the part that has been damaged. In many cases, the detached stem, or branch cannot be saved. However, if the damage to your sapling is caught quickly, there is a chance the broken sapling can be mended.

How to Reattach Severed Plant Stems

There are a couple of different methods that can be used. They’re very similar and have the same objective. It’s called splice grafting. This attaches the broken stem back to the main body of the plant, which, if successful, will allow that exchange of water and nutrients in the vascular system. It is easier to fix plants with stems or branches that have not been completely severed, but it is still possible to save a completely severed stem or branch.

The most common method is using flexible tape and a stiff support. The goal is to make a splint for the damaged plant so it can be held securely together while the sapling has time to heal. Depending on the size of the stem or branch, here are some items you may consider using as your stiff support: pencil, popsicle stick, dowel, stake, or paint stick. These are just some suggestions, though. You may find something else that works better for the size of your sapling and where the broken stem is located.

For the flexible tape, you may want to use plant tape, electrical tape, or nylons. Here again, you can be creative with what you use to bind the splint to the plant, but it needs to be flexible so it allows the broken or severed stem a little give as it grows during the healing process.

The other method of splice grafting is very similar, but instead of a flexible tape, a specific glue is used, along with applied tension to hold the stem in place during the healing process. This method will not work as well with a completely severed stem or branch, but it will work on a less damaged sapling.

Healing Process

There’s no guarantee that your injured sapling can be saved with a splice graft. The sooner the damage is noticed, though, the better your chances are. As your sapling heals, the broken stem or branch may look less healthy for a while, but it will perk back up if the water and nutrients continue to move through the vascular system of your sapling.

If your sapling doesn’t take to the splice graft, there will be signs of slow deterioration and the eventual death of the broken limb. Softer stems may not heal if a bacteria or fungus has been introduced to the wound. The stem may end up growing mold and will need to be removed. Purchasing a tree wound pruning and grafting compound to seal the wound on the main body will prevent bacteria or fungus from entering your sapling that could potentially cause disease.

It’s worth the effort to try to save your beautiful sapling. If you have any questions about the process or need help with any of your trees, one of our knowledgeable experts can answer any questions you have. Don’t hesitate to call. We take pride in our quality service and complete customer satisfaction. We are open 24/7, 360 days a year, and are happy to help with any of your tree service needs.