Air Layering: How to Propagate Plants Using This Unique Method

It’s trusted that air layering goes back to old China and Japan, where air layering bonsai was a prominent propagation technique. It’s not the most widely recognized propagation technique, for the most part since it takes a while for a cutting to develop when it’s air layered.

The reason why you should pick air layering over another sort of propagation method? Seeds are less difficult to begin, yet take longer to achieve development and are not genetically identical.

If you need a precise of a specific plant you adore, you need to propagate off of it directly. Air layering utilizes existing plant material, so it delivers genetically identical clones.

You may be astonished to discover that air layering occurs in nature with no human intercession. In the event that a plant’s branches hang and touch the ground, they’ll flourish from the branch itself. This new stem is identical to its parent and can be disjoined from the parent to form another plant.

What’s Happening When You Air Layer?

When you air layer a plant, you expel a 1″ wide area of the external layers of a plant stem (bark, cambium layer, and phloem) in a procedure known as girdling.

At that point, you apply a rooting hormone to the area to invigorate root development from the cut area and wrap the area in sphagnum peat moss to hold dampness.

At last, you wrap the moss in a plastic wrap of some kind and secure it with rope or string.

By expelling these areas of the plant, you keep supplements from moving beneath the cut range. In any case, water and supplements can even now climb to the zone. This implies that the leaves on the stem will stay healthy, and the development of supplements at the cut site (alongside rooting hormone) will initiate what are known as adventitious buds, making them transform into roots. Once these roots have sufficiently developed, the stem can be removed from the parent plant and potted up.

Plants Suitable to Air Layering

  • Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
  • India Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica)
  • Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola)
  • Fiddle-Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
  • Rhododendron
  • Camellia
  • Azalea
  • Holly
  • Magnolia
  • Roses
  • Forsythia
  • Honeysuckle
  • Boxwood
  • Wax myrtle

It’s also a popular method for fruit and nut trees like:

  • Apples
  • Pears
  • Pecans
  • Oranges
  • Lemons

Materials you’ll need

You can find most of these materials around the house, except for the rooting hormone, which I’ve marked as optional. It will probably speed up propagation time, but it’s not mandatory and plants will propagate fine without it.

  • Sharp, sterilized cutting instrument
  • Sphagnum peat moss
  • Rooting hormone (optional)
  • Plastic bag or plastic wrap
  • Small piece of thin plastic (piece of plastic bottle works fine)
  • String or twine
  • Scissors
  • Water
  • Bowl

After successfully air layering, you’ll also need:

  • Pot
  • High-quality potting mix
  • Stake and / or string

Step 1 – Prepare The Materials

First, you need to get your materials in order.

Soak your peat moss and squeeze out until moist, but not soaking. You should have a moist ball the size of a tennis ball. If you want, you can add rooting hormone to the water you soak your moss in to spur root growth.

Cut a sheet of plastic wrap to about one square foot and place aside.

Cut two pieces of string long enough to wrap around the stem on both sites.

Choose the stem on your plant that you want to propagate and the section you will cut. A good rule of thumb is to cut a 4-6 inches below a node.

Step 2 – Make Cut In The Branch

It’s time to make the cut! With a sterilized knife, make a 45 degree cut through at least ½ of the branch, but no more than ⅔. Be sure to support the other side of the branch, but keep your thumb in a position where it won’t be sliced if you accidentally cut through the branch!

Step 3 – Insert The Plastic

Take your small piece of cut plastic and slide it into the cut. This is necessary to prevent the plant from healing itself and sealing the cut over the next few weeks.

Step 4 – Wrap Moss Around Cut

Grab your moist ball of moss and firmly press it around the stem. It should surround the stem and be firm, but not extremely compressed. Over the next few weeks, the cut area will start to send roots into the moss, giving you a nice little root ball to pot up.

Step 5 – Wrap Plastic Around Moss

Making sure to hold the moss ball in place around the stem, take your plastic wrap and cover the moss. Take your pieces of string and wrap them around the top and bottom a few times, then tie them tightly. You may also need to stake or tie up the top side of the branch, as the severity of the cut might weaken its ability to stand on its own.

Step 6 – Sever Branch From Plant

Depending on the plant you’re air layering, you’ll need to wait at least a few weeks. In some cases it may even take months. Monitor your progress by looking through the plastic wrap to see if there are roots forming. When you see a critical mass of roots, you can sever the branch from the plant completely by cutting about 1” below the air layering site.

Step 7 – Pot Your Plant!

Once you sever the stem, remove the plastic wrap. Do not remove the moss ball — remember, this is where all the roots are!

Using a high-quality potting soil suited for your particular plant, pot up your plant in a small pot. You want to keep the pot small so the soil doesn’t stay wet for too long. The last thing you want is to rot the roots of your newly air-layered plant, especially after all the time you put into getting it to this point!


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