Air layering is a great way to propagate many types of plants, especially woody plants. It’s also about the only way to propagate plants that don’t root from cuttings or produce seed.
Propagating plants by air layering is an easy process that will create a whole new plant for your usually in about six weeks, but some plants can take several months to form roots.
For the best results stems should be at least the size of a pencil or even as large as your finger. You can either slice off about an inch or two of the top layer of the stem or you can make a circle around the stem and remove all of the bark for several inches. Either way you want to remove the outer layer to completely expose the bare wood.
For non-woody plants you only need to gently scrape the outer layer of the stem off. Be careful not to scrape too deeply, small stems won’t be able to hold the weight of the root ball and will break. You can also just make a small slit into the stem and use a toothpick or other small object to hole the wound open.
Applying rooting hormone to the wound will help the plant take root much faster. Just apply a small amount with a cotton swab or the tip of your finger into the cut area of the plant.
Wet some Sphagnum moss and squeeze out the excess water, don’t use peat moss. The amount of moss that you’ll need to use will depend on the stem that you’re air layering. Smaller stems can’t hold the weight a larger stem can hold, so adjust the amount you use accordingly.
Wrap the moist Sphagnum moss completely around the wound and use some fairly thick plastic to secure the moss into place. The plastic should extend a few inches above and below the cut section and can be held in place with string or small wires. You can use aluminum foil to cover the moss instead of plastic, but you won’t be able to see the new roots.
You want to seal the plastic or foil so that it’s fairly water tight. Securely fastening the moss ball will help keep the moisture from evaporating and you’ll get much faster, better results.
The last thing that you should do is to cover the moss ball with foil. Of course, you’ll only need to do this if you used plastic as your covering. Direct sunlight can damage the newly forming roots and the foil will protect them.
Now all you need to do is wait for the roots to grow. If you use plastic, remove the foil covering and check for roots after about six weeks. If you see some well established roots you can cut the stem off about two inches below the moss ball and plant it in it’s own pot. If there aren’t any good roots, just replace the foil and wait a few more weeks to check again.
When you do get ready to pot your new plant, be very careful when removing the plastic. You should leave the moss around the roots, it will help the plant retain moisture and trying to remove it will break a lot of the tender roots off.
Written by Connie Corder for HouseplantsForYou.com, Copyright 2008 All Rights Reserved.