Air Layering - Clone Your Trees & Other Plants the Fast and Easy Way

You may be familiar with grafting, but not layering. Grafting is a method in which two plants are joined together in such a way that two stems join and grow as a single plant. This technique is very useful in propagating improved varieties of various flowers and fruits. But what is layering? And what is the difference between grafting and layering?

What is Air Layering?

What is Air layering or Just Layering? Air layering is a method of plant propagation that allows you to generate roots from branches while it is still attached to the parent plant. SO Why is it Done? And Why not just grow from cuttings or seeds. Because, It is useful for plants that are hard to propagate by cuttings or if you want your new plant to have a larger size instantly and also if you are not sure about the percentage of success you can achieve from cuttings.

What Types of Trees Can Be Air Layered?

This method can be used to propagate any plant and commonly used for Fig tree, Rubber tree, rose plant, jasmine and many others. Air Layering is actually more complicated than taking cuttings, but has the advantage that the propagated portion continues to receive water and nutrients from the parent plant while it is forming roots. This is important for plants that form roots slowly, or for propagating large pieces. Air Layering is used quite frequently in the propagation of bonsai.

How to Do Air Layering?

In air layering (or marcotting), the branch is wounded by a 2 to 4 cm long cut with the strip of bark removed to expose the cambium layer. Ideally the cut should be made below a node (below the scar of a leaf). Then lightly scrape the cambium layer, this will prevent the reconnection of the sap flowing tissues (phloem). Most air layers work without this previous step. So, it can be skipped, especially if the branch is thin - it may break, otherwise.

For this process you need a sharp clean blade, a scissor, a plastic cup or polythene bag, tape and peat moss or coco peat or even plain soil or a mix of these.

For woody plants you might need to go deeper using incision method on both sides and then exposing the cambium. For beginners, Cambium is the inner layer of plant underneath the bark layer. You might need a surgical blade or knife for woody plants.

Optionally Rooting hormone is often applied to the wound which can speed up the development of roots , but it is not absolutely essential to the process. Well, then take a disposable plastic glass and cut it as a container, and fill some soil and then wrap it around this exposed area. Then nicely strap this with a tape. Or you can use a kind of air layering ball instead to make the procedure much more easier.

How Do You Use Air Layering Balls?

Using air layering balls will help plant branches to take root quickly and complete reproduction and replication. The stems of green plants and the branches of trees can quickly grow into new plants by using these propagator balls. But how to use these balls, please kindly check the below video:

After finishing the above procedure, then its time to keep the soil moist, you can use a medical syringe and inject water into the pouch once a day - about 10 ml of water, depending on the season. After about 2 to 3 weeks, when sufficient roots have grown from the wound, the stem is removed from the parent plant and planted independently. You might have to remove a few leaves to assure a good balance between leaf surface and root ball.

You can always remove the film, open the lid and check for roots. Close and reapply the film if the roots are not yet developed. Pre-soaking the dried root ball in water might be needed in this situation, to rehydrate the roots. With freshly developed roots, soaking isn't necessary. Finally, plant the rooting ball into a pot or ground/ soil (remember to remove the air layering balls or any other containers you used).

How Long Does Air Layering Take to Roots?

By the way, the amount of time needed to develop roots varies according to species and time of year, from 3-5 weeks to several months, that depends. Experience will let you know how many weeks are needed to develop roots, in your conditions, for each type of fruit tree.

What Time of Year is Best for Air Layering?

In the spring, when the plants are actively growing, it's the best season to do air layers, since the bark can be removed easily due to the layer of sap underneath, and there will be plenty of time to produce roots in the growing medium before the tree enters dormancy. Well, they can be done throughout the year, as long as the plant is still growing.

Conclusion

Air layering is not hard, or mystical. The prep work is also easy, what is or makes it seem difficult is knowing which trees/ shrubs will accept this method of propagation easily and grow well. To air layer you need follow below:

  1. A good subject plant.

  2. Sharp knife that is sterile

  3. Large amount of sphagnum moss soaking in a container of water till you are ready to wrap it on the stem.

  4. Enough plastic sheeting to go around the stem (or using air layering balls that showed in the above video which will make the job done more quickly).

  5. Two lengths of string to tie the ends of the plastic wrapped moss ball

  6. Rooting hormone powder (well, this is optional).

If you are in a hot climate, check the ball every week to make sure it is moist, if it is just right moss might be greening inside the wrapper, don't worry. Hard to root trees may take as long as 6 months before you see roots growing through the moss ball. Wish you clone your fruit trees and other plants successfully with this air layering methord.