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Propagating by Air Layering

Roosie
Published on April 21st 2020
27

by Roosie. All rights reserved

A close up of a green Philodendron plant
Air layering is a method of propagation where you encourage plants to develop roots while they are still attached to the parent plant.
This technique is commonly used with shrubs and trees, particularly those that do not easily root from cuttings.
Air layering also works fantastically with a lot of houseplants and is perfect for those more expensive darlings you're reluctant to risk.
A close up of a flower

Plant Care

There are a range of other ways you can produce new plants, such as leaf, root and node cuttings. Learn more about them here:

Find a node

For air layering, you first need to identify nodes on your chosen plant. A node is the thickened part of a plant stem where new growth appears. New growth can be stems, leaves or roots.

Choose your plant

I've chosen this Philodendron 'Silver Sword' for air layering.
A Philodendron 'Silver Sword' plant with blue green leaves

Aroids take particularly well to this form of propagation. These are any plants in the Araceae family.

This includes quite a lot of common houseplants, for example:

Other plants that take well to air layering include Ficus, Acer, Magnolia, Azalea, Camellia and Holly. Read more about them here:

Getting started

The plant you are using to propagate from should be healthy, of a good size and free from any pests or diseases.
A close up of a green plant
A good, healthy stem with a couple of visible nodes
Start as you would with any plant task, using clean hands and equipment.
You'll need your fingers, some moss and clingfilm for now, and some scissors or secateurs for later.
The size of clingfilm and amount of moss will depend on your plant size.

Choose your location

Find a node - a bumpy bit in the stem where new growth appears. You'll need at least one node, preferably two, per cutting to increase the chances of them rooting successfully.
A close up of a green plant
Two healthy looking nodes
Here you can see the beginnings of air roots coming out of the nodes, these are the areas to wrap for air layering.
A close up of those little air roots.

Wrap

Once you've found your node of choice, you want to wrap it in moist moss, using the clingfilm to keep it all together.
Secure the cling film on the plant.
Not too tight, just enough to loosely contain the moss around the node.
Check the top and bottom, ensure the moss is secured in place and give it another spritz of water to create a nice humid microenvironment.

Wait patiently

It may take any time from weeks to months for roots to appear. While you're waiting, keep checking on the moss and spray to keep it damp, but not too wet!

Rooting

These have appeared in just a week!
It can be great to watch roots grow, and you get a pretty good view through the moss!

Tips

Careful with the wrapping, if the cling film is wrapped too tightly and/or the moss is soaking wet, there's a good chance of rot.
Reduce the chance of this with gentle wrapping and moist, not dripping moss.
Make sure to check regularly. You might need to rearrange or add more moss and rewrap or loosen the cling film as the roots develop.
Root development

Patience...

Over time your propagation should develop a healthy root system within its little cling film packet. This can take anywhere from a week for roots to start showing, to a couple of months for an established root system to form.

Eventually, it's time to cut

Deep breath, you can do it! As painful as some find it cutting into a prized plant, pruning can create a bushier, healthier plant overall, and provides more opportunities for propagating!
I think air layering is little less daunting compared to other methods of propagation - remember your new plant already has roots! This enables it to access water immediately after being removed from the parent plant.

Try to get clean, straight wound, not too close to the node.

Pot up!

Place your new, rooted cutting in its new home! A mixture of moss, perlite and potting compost is my mixture of choice.
Some Philodendron hastatum 'Silver Sword'
Note: Propagating plants is not always successful; sometimes, they just don't make it!
But I think the ones that succeed more than make up for those little disappointments.

If you're feeling inspired to have a go, I'd love to see your propagations!

Use the hashtag #propagation to share your propagations with the community:

Here are some other houseplants you could try air layering with:

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