Gardening Techniques

Air Layering Plants

Almost all ( if not all ) plants can be propagated using air layering very easily, its a great way not only to get more plants for free, but also to get identical copies of a plant you really like, unlike growing from seeds you get a genetically identical copy.

Many plants for example fruiting plants such as citrus take years to flower and fruit, by  air layering a fruiting age pant you will get an exact genetic age plant of the one you copy, so it will fruit when roots are established and it will be the fruit you had on the other tree.

Compared to propagating by cuttings, air layering is more reliable, because the part you are rooting is still attached to the mother plant it still gets water and food so harder to root plants can be rooted without so many failures, air layering has a far greater success rate.

Its easy!

I use it all the time, on everything from soft stemmed plants to hard wood plants.

Its great for plants such as citrus, figs, fruit trees, roses etc.

You will need a few items:

Rooting powder ( any brand should work, rooting gel also works ), sharp knife such as a new Stanley knife or as I am using a scalpel, some garden wire, some sticky tape, a piece of polythene ( I have cut it from an old plastic bag ). some damp compost or many people use sphagnum moss, I use compost with some Perlite added, and a small mist spray bottle of water.

How to propagate a rose using air layering ( the technique is the same for all plants )
  • 1) Find a good stem of the plant you want, a stem that has grown this year roots fastest, one that has fruited or flowered is best so you can tell it is exactly what you want and not for example a stray rootstock growth.
  • 2) Pick the right place, just under a leaf node around 1mm away
  • 3) Carefully cut around the stem , just under the leaf node, all the way round right through the bark, do the same again about 1.5 inches down the stem.
  • 4) Cut between the 2 ringed cuts, and peel the bark from the centre of the cuts on the stem.
  • 5) Mist the cut area with a tiny bit of water , just to keep it damp ( especially in hot weather )
  • 6) Dust the area of the cut with rooting powder, especially the top edge of the bark cut.
  • 7) Attach the plastic sheet around the stem, below the lower cut , use sticky tape to attach it firmly to the stem, then a bit of tape up the join in the plastic sheet to form a tube around the stem, leaving enough area inside the tube to fit the compost, on a small plant leave 25mm ( 1 inch ) each side is enough, on plants such as roses and citrus leave about 50mm (2 inch) each side so a larger root system can form, it all depends on size of plant and the size of the stem you are using.

  • 8) Fill the tube with damp compost, pack it quite tight.
  • 9) Seal the top of the bag around the stem again using sticky tape
  • 10) After the bag of compost is formed, use some garden wire to secure the ends, over the tape to hold it firmer, and around the bag to press the compost onto the stem, if the stem is weak you an use the same wire to form a brace to another stem or onto a garden cane etc. , to give more strength
  • 11) Wait! , leave the bag in place for around 6 weeks and most plants will have rooted, many sooner in around 2 to 3 weeks, some a longer time.....if you want to root a pine tree they can take 3 years!, most plants are quick, lemon trees about 3 or 4 weeks.
A tip is to use clear polythene bag and then roots can be seen when the bag is full its ready! ( cover the bag with something dark though such as kitchen foil as roots grow best in the dark )
  • 12) Once the roots are filling the bag, cut the stem off the plant and pot it up in suitable compost, keep it out of direct sun while the roots grow a bit

Copyright 2014 Dr. William Hesketh

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