What Is Air Layering: Learn About Air Layering Plants

By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist

Who doesn’t like free plants? Air layering plants is a method of propagation that doesn’t require a horticultural degree, fancy rooting hormones or tools. Even the novice gardener can gather a few tips on the process and have a successful outcome. Read on for more info and some easy plants on which to try the process.

Plant propagation may be accomplished in numerous ways. Seeds are the simplest method, but often maturity will take months or even years. Additionally, plants started from seed are not always identical to the parent plant. In order to ensure an identical copy, you need the genetic material. In other words, you literally use the plant itself. Layering propagation will produce genetically parallel new plants which will carry all the characteristics of the parent and one of the most popular forms of layering is air layering.

What is Air Layering?

Of all the ways to create another plant, air layering plants is a simple, easy method. What is air layering? Air layering propagation is a process that often occurs naturally. In the wild it happens when a low branch or stem touches the ground and takes root.

Because it is an asexual process, the genetic material is directly transferred to the newly rooted stem, which may be cut away from the parent to start a new plant.

To learn how to air layer, you need to consider how to get the plant material to root. Each plant is different and responds differently to the methods.

Best Plants for Air Layering

Air layering plants requires a moist environment for aerial roots to form. Most plants can be air layered and, even if no rooting takes place, the original plant is not damaged by the process since you do not remove the donor material until it has produced roots.

Herbaceous tropical indoor plants and woody outdoor ornamentals are good candidates for air layering and may include:

  • Rhododendron
  • Camellia
  • Azalea
  • Holly
  • Magnolia

Nut and fruit producers like apples, pears, pecans and citrus are often air layered too. The best plants for air layering using the simple technique would be:

  • Roses
  • Forsythia
  • Honeysuckle
  • Boxwood
  • Wax myrtle

How to Air Layer

Air layering is pretty simple. You need moist sphagnum moss to wrap around a wounded section of the stem. Wound an area in the middle of a branch by peeling the bark away, then wrap the moss around the cut and secure it with floral ties or plant twine. Cover the entire thing with plastic wrap to conserve the moisture.

Note: You may also choose to make a simple cut with an upward slant about two-thirds through (be careful not to cut all the way). Then insert a small piece of hard plastic or a toothpick to keep the wound from closing. You can then wrap this with the moss and plastic as above. This method works well for less woody plants.

The actual time for any plant to produce roots will vary but will average a couple weeks to a month. Once you have roots, remove the plant material and pot it up as you would any plant and enjoy.

This article was last updated on

How To Propagate Rubber Plant? (Two Method-Step By Step)

We always come across a point when we find specific problems with the plant. Maybe they are not healthy and need some repotting perhaps you have not taken care of the plant for a long time, and it is dying, or it may be an insect infestation. Propagation is the last chance to save the generation of your plant.

It is also a best-guided way for the multiplication of your indoor houseplant without investing in a new plant.

In today’s guide, we will see the various techniques used for the propagation of the Rubber plant.

As we know, the rubber plant does not require direct sunlight and loves indirect bright light and lots of humidity, things might get bumpy, but you need not worry as we are here for your help.

We will try to cover all the steps used for the propagation and the benefits of each level. So, sit back and relax and continue reading.

Please note: Simplify Plants is reader-supported. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made by our readers with no extra cost added to you all! Some links in the post are affiliate links and I get a commission from purchases made through links in the post.

Tree peony propagation by branch layering

Tree peonies are most often propagated by grafting or division. A third method is by branch layering. In addition to creating new clones, this technique can also be used to make for a lower growing tree peony with a spreading growth habit. Though tree peonies do not root as readily as most woody plants, if a living branch is buried beneath the soil, it will eventually form new roots. This may happen over one season or it may take several years. After the branch forms sufficient roots, it can be cut away from the mother plant. At Cricket Hill Garden, we have found that tree peonies with P. rockii genetics in their heritage root much more readily than tree peonies from other cultivar groups. If you want to attempt branch layering a tree peony, the best time to do it is either in the early spring before new growth commences or in the summer and early fall.

This P. rockii cultivar, ‘Black Tornado‘, is about 17 years old and now measures 11 feet wide. We have achieved this spreading growth habit by pinning new growth to the soil so that they form roots and then send up new shoots farther and farther away from the original base of the plant.

A look at the base of this plant shows how branches buried in the soil form roots and then grow new stems away from the original trunk of the plant.

It’s best to attempt branch layering on a tree peony which naturally has a lower growing or pendulous habit.

This lower growing tree peony would be a good candidate for branch layering.

As a contrast, this tree peony has a much more upright habit. With only a few upright stems, this plant would not be an ideal tree peony to branch layer.

The best branches for layering are vigorous with strong new growth.

Remove three or four of the leaf stems on the area of the branch which will be buried. Be sure to leave the leaves on the top part of the branch which will remain above the soil.

An optional step is to remove a patch of bark on the stem right below a new bud. During the summer, the bark on new growth will easily peel off. We have done many successful branch layers without removing the bark though some horticulturalists contend that removing the bark stimulates new root growth.

Pin the branch 3 inches beneath the soil.

After securing the branch, cover it with soil and water deeply so that there are no air pockets around the branch.

Let’s check on a branch layer which we set up last fall.

After digging away the soil, new white feeder roots are visible. This indicates that the layer has succeeded. If the purpose of this layer was propagation (rather than creating a spreading plant), this branch should be buried for another year before cutting it off from the main plant and replanting in a new location. This is because the root growth is not yet sufficient to support a whole plant.


For optimum results, select branches that are the size of a pencil or larger. If air layering in the spring, select shoots produced during the previous season. If using this technique in mid-summer, select shoots produced during the current season. Choose an area just below a node and remove the leaves a few inches above and below this point.

Make two parallel incisions in the bark about 1.5 inches apart.

Next, cut a line in the bark between the incisions.

Remove the bark and scrape the cambium (green tissue) away to prevent callus tissue from forming.

Apply rooting hormone to the exposed wound. Wrap the wound with a hand full of damp sphagnum moss.

Next, wrap polyethylene film around the moss and secure each end of the film with twist ties, twine or electrical tape. The plastic film should contain all of the moss and should be snug against the bark above and below the wound. It is important to retain moisture around the wound but limit excessive amounts, which could lead to disease.

If the plant receives a lot of direct sunlight, or if the weather is hot, wrap aluminum foil around the mass to help retain moisture. Check the moss weekly to ensure that it remains moist. If the moss dries out the layering will fail.

How to Propagate Hibiscus by Air Layering

How to Propagate Hibiscus by Air Layering. Hibiscus is a popular tropical plant because aside from its very attractive and colorful flowers, it is one of the easiest plants to propagate. The various ways to multiply hibiscus are through seeds, cuttings, grafting and air layering, also called marcotting or aerial rooting. Air layering is forcing a chosen branch to grow roots and become a whole new plant. Here's how.

Prepare the things you'll need: a plastic sheet, aluminum foil and brown paper (all about 4-by-4 inches), rooting medium and a soft paintbrush, a handful of sphagnum moss (soaked in water), tying material like twine, cord, floral wire, tape or rubber band and a sharp knife.

Choose a mature and healthy branch on the mother hibiscus plant. Through air layering, this branch will eventually be rooted and cut off to become the new plant. Pick a branch that is about the width of a pencil.

  • How to Propagate Hibiscus by Air Layering.
  • Choose a mature and healthy branch on the mother hibiscus plant.

Using the sharp knife, make two cuts around the bark of the branch, 1 inch apart. Scrape off the bark and cambium layer (green layer) between the two cuts to expose the white core of the branch.

Use the paintbrush to apply a thin coat of rooting medium to the bared section of the branch. The rooting medium provides the nutrients necessary to induce root growth.

Lay the plastic sheet on the aluminum foil, and then lay the moist sphagnum moss on the plastic sheet.

Wrap the sphagnum moss, plastic sheet and aluminum foil around the bared section of the branch and squeeze tightly to secure the bundle. The plastic and aluminum sheets will seal the moisture in and provide the required humidity for root growth.

  • Using the sharp knife, make two cuts around the bark of the branch, 1 inch apart.
  • Use the paintbrush to apply a thin coat of rooting medium to the bared section of the branch.

Wrap the bundle in brown paper and secure the ends with twine, floral wire, tape or rubber band. The brown paper will deter insects and birds from damaging the bundle.

Check the rooting after four weeks. If the air layering is successful and there is sufficient rooting, cut the branch below the root ball and transplant the new plant into its own pot or location in the garden.

Give the new hibiscus plant the same care needed by transplants: semi-shade, sufficient watering and moisture and regular fertilizer after 4 to 6 weeks. Trim some of the leaves to compensate for the breakaway from the mother plant.

Soak the sphagnum moss for at least half an hour for optimum moisture. Consider securing the sphagnum moss to minimize moisture loss by tying off the ends of the plastic sheet onto the branch before wrapping with aluminum foil.

When transplanting the rooted branch, do not try to remove the sphagnum moss because most of the small roots are already entwined in the moss.

  • Soak the sphagnum moss for at least half an hour for optimum moisture.
  • Consider securing the sphagnum moss to minimize moisture loss by tying off the ends of the plastic sheet onto the branch before wrapping with aluminum foil.
  • When transplanting the rooted branch, do not try to remove the sphagnum moss because most of the small roots are already entwined in the moss.

Ruby is a freelance writer by profession. She has written extensively about a wide variety of topics in print and online, but here at eHow, she shares her passion for home and garden. Whether it’s housekeeping, home organization, do-it-yourself restorations, or creative renovations, chances are she’s tried it herself. A big fan of power tools, always eager to get her hands dirty, and happy to answer questions, Ruby’s always puttering around the house or digging in the garden.

If you already have a forsythia bush, you can easily make more with one of the following methods:

1. Air Layering

One way to start a new shrub is to force one of its stems, or canes, to sprout roots.

This technique works with any size bush that is over a year old, because it requires “old wood,” or last year’s growth that has hardened off.

The technique I like best comes from the Royal Horticultural Society. Here’s how to do it:

In the spring, select a cane that is almost finished flowering, but hasn’t leafed out yet.

Choose a place where there is at least one leaf node, and the cane is straight and firm.

As though you were whittling, hold a paring or pocket knife parallel to the cane, and starting about an inch below the leaf node, pare away a thin layer of the outer bark.

Cut straight through the leaf node to create a flap of bark that is still attached at the upper end, just above the leaf node.

Snip off all other leaf nodes, so that it is bare for six inches above and below the “wound” you created with your knife.

Gently lift the flap and press some rooting hormone powder into the inner wood.

Place a bit of sphagnum moss under the flap as well, and close it down.

Wrap sphagnum moss around the wound site to achieve a thickness of about four inches, two above and two below. The length should be three to four inches.

Cut a piece of black trash bag to a size of about five by five inches.

Wrap the plastic around the moss bulge, overlapping it for complete coverage.

Secure the plastic at each end with duct tape, for a snug package.

In late summer, open the package, and you should find that the cane has grown roots. If it hasn’t, replace the plastic and tape, and allow them to stay in place until late next spring.

Cut the rooted stem off at its point of origin.

Make cuts in the rooted stem three to four inches above and below the sprouted roots.

Plant the rooted stem two inches deep in soil that has been worked to a depth of six to 12 inches and drains well. It will sprout and have time to harden off before winter dormancy.

Provide an inch of water per week in the absence of rain until the first frost.

2. Division

Another way to make one shrub into two is by dividing it in the spring, after it flowers.

This method works best with small shrubs that have had a chance to establish themselves for two to three years. They have substantial hard wood and are able to withstand the shock of unearthing.

Use a pitchfork to loosen the soil around the shrub in a circle about one foot out from the base.

As you walk the circle, push the pitchfork in with your foot, and bend it back to loosen and lift the roots. Take it out and do the next section, until you have gone completely around.

Lift the bush out and lay it on its side on flat ground.

Use an axe or other sharp tool to chop through the crown, where the canes meet the roots, to create two independent shrubs.

Replant where desired, taking care to set the crown at ground level, covering the roots with about two inches of soil.

Maintain one inch of water per week in the absence of rain.

By fall, the young bushes will be well-established and ready for winter dormancy.

3. Soil-Rooted Stem Cuttings

This is my favorite way to make new forsythias from old.

It reminds me of a little story that you may already know if you follow my articles…

My sister-in-law was the first grandchild in her family, and her gardener grandfather loved it when she visited.

He’d give her a lollipop to eat, and when she was finished, they’d go out to the yard and “plant” the stick in the garden.

And – you guessed it – when she returned the next time, a fresh lollipop had “grown” and was waiting for her.

Rooting hardwood stem cuttings in soil is that easy!

In late fall, when shrubs are dormant, choose a sturdy cane.

Snip off the top two inches to remove the weakest, narrowest part.

Cut the cane at its point of origin, to remove it from the shrub.

Lay the cane down and notice where the leaf nodes are. These are not the flower buds, but the bumps where the foliage will sprout.

You can get multiple cuttings from a long cane.

Make your bottom cuts about a quarter of an inch below a leaf node, so that each stem section has a leaf node near its base.

Make your top cuts a quarter of an inch above a leaf node, so that each has a node near its top, as well.

Dip the base of each stem section into rooting hormone powder.

Plant the cuttings in a container of compost or sterile potting medium, about four to six inches apart.

Keep the container indoors or in a greenhouse.

Maintain even moisture, but don’t oversaturate.

When the danger of frost has passed in the spring, transplant the rooted stems to the landscape in groups of three to five, with about four to six inches between them, for a sturdy shrub base.

Provide an inch of water per week in the absence of rain.

Another way that’s even easier is to use the clippings you have gathered when you prune your forsythia in the spring. Rather than throw them on the compost heap, use the firm “old” wood that was last year’s growth to make your cuttings.

If the leaves have already sprouted, use them as a guide for cutting above and below the leaf nodes.

Snip off the foliage to redirect energy toward root growth.

Make your stem sections, and dip each into rooting hormone.

Plant the hardwood cuttings directly into the ground in groups of three to five placed four to six inches apart.

Keep the soil evenly moist.

When foliage sprouts, you’ll know you’ve got roots, and can water once a week if it doesn’t rain.

4. Water-Rooted Stem Cuttings

In addition to starting stem cuttings in soil, there’s another approach you can take.

While your forsythia is still dormant in late winter, you can cut stems to force indoors.

Choose long canes and place them in tall vases with four to six inches of water.

The warm home environment and the water will cause the stems to break dormancy and bloom.

When the flowers begin to fade, the leaves will sprout.

Be sure to keep fallen flowers and leaves out of the water, and change the water daily, for a healthy environment conducive to root formation.

When the danger of frost has passed, transplant rooted stems into the landscape.

Work the soil to a depth of six to 12 inches, until it’s crumbly.

Place clusters of three to five stems approximately four to six inches apart for sturdy shrubs.

5. Tip Layering

This method is so easy, weeping forsythia varieties do it all by themselves.

And, it’s really fun for gardening with children, because all it takes is bending a stem to the ground and keeping it there.

If your forsythia has gracefully arching canes with tips that drag on the ground, they are likely to self-root.

You can cut these fledgling bushes away from their mother by snipping the canes that join them at the point where they originate, to encourage a new, long cane to grow on the mother shrub.

Then, you can dig up the babies, cut the long canes to within a few inches from the rooted shrublets, and move them wherever you like.

For bushes that don’t reach the ground themselves, bend a cane, bury the top four inches of the tip in two inches of soil, weigh it down with a rock or brick, and it will grow roots.

When you lift the weight, the stem won’t budge, and it will likely have a flush of foliage at the tip.

It’s best to do this very early in the growing season, so you have time to get the baby transplanted and hardened off for winter.

If you get a late start, just leave everything where it is – rock and all – until next spring.

Watch the video: When is The Best Time For Air Layering Fruit Trees. In Your Country

Previous Article

Fires: Fire prevention

Next Article

How to protect your garden and vegetable garden from pests in winter