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Propagation Methods- Air Layering

Created by John Terry, UF/IFAS Clay County Master Gardener.

Have you ever wanted to try new propagation methods in the garden?  Maybe air layering is for you!

Materials Needed
  1. Sphagnum moss and optional rooting hormone
  2. A sharp knife
  3. Alcohol swabs
  4. Water and a container to moisten the moss
  5. Aluminum Foil
  6. String or wire to wrap the foil to the trunk of the tree.
How to Air Layer

Step 1: Girdle trunk of an existing branch, removing all the bark and cambium layer down to the white heart wood of that branch.

 

Step 1: Girdle the Branch (Photo: John Terry)

Step 2: Wrap sphagnum moss around the cut area and then wrap in aluminum foil or plastic wrap.

Step 3: Wrap in Sphagnum Moss. (Photo: John Terry)

Step 3: Secure the area of foil with string or wire. Wrapping so that it is sealed tight at the bottom and somewhat loose at the top of the wrapping.

Step 3: Seal The Wound and Allow for Root Growth.

When to Try Air Layering

This procedure works best in the spring months of February and March in north Florida. It can also even more successful in the months of September and October. The chosen tree, shrub or bush should be actively growing at the time of air layering.

How Does this Work?

The cambium layer can give rise to many different types of growth, such as roots, leaves, buds, stems or flowers. The heartwood of the plants is responsible for transporting water and nutrients from the roots throughout the living plant. On the other hand, the cambium layer is responsible for transporting the product of photosynthesis back to the roots for the plants needs in survival. By cutting the cambium, the plants is stimulated to repair the damage. Since there are nutrients as well as water held in place by the Sphagnum moss, roots will grow.

A successfully air layered branch, showing root growth. (Source: Beth Bolles, UF/IFAS Extension)

Over a period of growth, ranging from a couple of months to six months, roots will form at the top of the cut area. Upon removal of the wrapping, you can cut the  branch  from the tree and planted in its own pot to continue growing as a new plant.

Although there is an unknown substance in Sphagnum moss which is supposed to enhance the growth of new roots, you can add a small amount of rooting hormone powder which can ensure some additional chances of success. Although each type of plant has its own species of fungi and bacteria, it is a good idea to clean the knife or cutting tool between use on different species of trees or shrubs to avoid cross contamination. The use of alcohol swabs is recommended.

For more information, see Plant Propagation Methods for Florida.