WHAT IS AIR LAYERING?

Air layering on Acers by kind permission of Peter Chan


Although it sounds like something out of a science fiction novel, air layering is a valid - if not rather specialized - plant propagation technique. Although fiddly and time consuming, air layering is used for those plants which have a history of difficulty when it come to propagation by cuttings, or for those species which lack low-growing shoots suitable for conventional layering.

Air layering is also the technique of choice when it come to producing large, high quality bonsai such as those produced by the multi award winning Peter Chan.

What is air layering
Plant that are typically propagated using the air layering technique include magnolia, hazel, cotinus, flowering cornus species, acer, beech, camellia, chaenomeles, daphne, ficus, forsythia, hamamelis, hornbeam, jasmine, philodendron, rhododendron, azalea, lilac and viburnums.

Put simply, air layering is a propagation technique by where a section of branch is encouraged to break into adventitious roots.

Adventitious roots are those which arise out of sequence from the more usual root formation, and instead originate from the stem, branches, leaves, or old woody roots.

Air layering is executed by wounding a section the stem with a sterilised blade where the roots are required to form. If necessary, a dusting of rooting hormone powder can be applied to these wounds in order to encourage the adventitious roots to initiate.

Wrap the wounded stem section loosely with plastic, sealing it at one end with some weather-proof adhesive tape

Air layering on hornbeam
Pack the wrapping sleeve with a moist rooting medium to a thickness of 3-4 inches. The rooting medium is then secured in place using clear plastic.

The rooting medium should always provide aeration and a constant supply of moisture. Peter Chan prefers to use sphagnum moss.

Leave the wrapping in place from 3 months to a year depending on the species, checking it occasionally for signs of rooting.

When strong new roots are visible through the moss, remove the plastic sleeve. Cut through the stem just below the rooted section

Once sufficient root has been produced, a cut can be made below the adventitious roots, and this new plant can be potted on until it is large enough to plant outside

This saves years on trying to produce stock by seed or cuttings, plus you have the advantage of an instant, mature plant.

Peter Chan also uses this technique on hornbeam, and on rare occasions beech.

For related articles click onto:
HOW TO GROW COTINUS COGGYGRIA 'ROYAL PURPLE' BY LAYERING
HOW TO GROW JAPANESE MAPLES FROM SEED
HOW TO GROW WITCH-HAZEL - Hamamelis species
HOW TO PROPAGATE SHRUBS BY LAYERING
HOW TO TAKE CUTTINGS FROM FICUS ELASTICA
How to Take Hardwood Cuttings
The Secrets to Growing Bonsai
What is Air Layering?
WHAT IS DOGWOOD?
WHAT IS FASCIATION?
WHAT IS HOMEOSTASIS
WHAT IS PERLITE?
WHAT IS A STUMPERY?
What is Poison Oak?

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