Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Lower South
September, 2005
Regional Report

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Roots are visible inside the air-layered section on this bay tree branch.

Air Layering for Easy Plant Propagation

Propagating plants is a great way to make many plants from one, however many gardeners have not been very successful with rooting new plants from cuttings. Well there is a better way. Air layering is easy, and the success rate is much higher.

Perhaps you have a great plant you want to share with friends. Maybe you are moving soon and have a special plant that you can't dig and take with you. Or you may have a houseplant that's grown too tall for the room it's in. You can use air layering to root the top and replant it, thereby starting over with a much smaller plant.

The Basics
First, select a section of stem, and with a knife cut all the way around it in two places about half an inch to an inch apart. Remove the ring of bark between the two cuts. In response to this wounding, the plant will start to grow a callous-type of tissue, like a scar tissue. From that callous, roots can form. Dust this wounded area with rooting hormone powder.

Next, take a piece of plastic to wrap around the stem and hold the rooting mix. I like to use an old bread wrapper but any plastic will do. Slice down the wrapper to open it up into a single sheet and then place it around the stem below the area where you exposed the wound. Take a twist tie and tie it around, securing the wrapper to the stem at the bottom.

Now fill the plastic wrapper with some moist potting soil or peat moss. It helps to wet it first as it's a lot easier to handle. You want to form it around the wounded area, then completely wrap the area with plastic. Then take another twist tie and wrap it around the top to secure the plastic wrap to the stem and hold the potting soil or peat moss firmly in place.

Wrap a piece of aluminum foil around the plastic to keep it dark inside. If the plant is in an outdoor location, the foil covering will also keep it from getting too hot. Within a few weeks, roots will start to form, and you'll occasionally need to open the bag and remoisten this mix.

Once you've got a good set of roots forming in the bag, you can cut off the plant below the rooted zone, and this top part becomes a new plant.

If you use this technique to root the top of a large houseplant, you may find that after you remove the rooted top, the stem below will resprout to form a bushier plant.

Try your luck at air layering this season. It is easy and fun. There is still time to make some new plants before cold weather arrives to shut down the season.

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