How to Propagate Houseplants by Air Layering

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Also known as air propagation, air layering is a simple technique for cloning a plant. It's become a huge trend recently as more people learn how easy it is to produce new houseplants with this method.

 

Air layering is ideal for plants that are difficult to propagate through cuttings or division. It's also just a straightforward and effective propagation technique that gives excellent results with many types of houseplants. Time to fill up the home with plant babies!

 

What Is Air Layering?

 

The explanation of air layering is way more complicated than the actual technique. Don't be intimidated – once you start implementing this propagation method, you'll see how easy it actually is to do.

 

The air layering process involves making a cut along the plant's stem to force nutrients to congregate in that one spot. This nutrient swarming prompts the plant to produce roots at the cut. Once the roots are formed, you clip off the stem beneath them, and you have a new plant.

 

Pros and Cons of Air Layering

 

Pros

  • Since air layering is cloning the mother plant, this is the best way to create a true-to-type replica. Propagating through cutting or division does not create a clone. This is the only way to propagate some unique hybrids.
     

  • Higher success rate because the new growth experiences less shock than from a cutting or division.
     

  • An excellent way to propagate from a superabundant vining plant.

 

Cons

  • It can take longer for the stem to produce roots than with other methods.
     

  • It's best only to do one at a time, so the mother plant doesn't get overwhelmed. You can often start multiple plant babies with cuttings or division propagation methods.

 

The Best Plant Candidates For Air Layering

 

Any type of vining plant propagates wonderfully with air layering. Woody plants are also good candidates. Air layering is especially effective with leggy plants or ones that have grown too big. This method physically shortens an already existing plant. Here are some plants which are great with air layering.

 

  • Croton

  • Dieffenbachia

  • Ficus elastica (Rubber Plant)

  • Philodendron

  • Pothos

  • Schefflera

  • Dracaena

 

How To Air Layer A Houseplant 

 

The best time to do air layering propagation is in early spring or summer, when your plant is strong and full of nutrients. Only use this method on a healthy plant!

 

What you need

  • Orchid moss (sphagnum)

  • Twine

  • Plastic wrap

  • Toothpicks

  • Sharp sterilized knife

  • Rubber gloves optional but highly recommended for plants like Ficus that emit an irritating sap)

  • Rooting hormone (optional – may deliver quicker growth but it isn’t necessary)

 

Let's Propagate!

  1. Soak the moss for several hours before getting started. When it is soaked through, squeeze out any excess water, so it is moist but not soggy.
     

  2. Choose the place on the stem where you'll cut.

    • It should be between 12-18 inches below the tip.

    • There should be leaves growing or have nodes.

    • Remove any leaves directly around the cutting area.
       

  3. Using the knife, make a slice 1 ½ -2 inches long and ⅓ of the way through the stem.
     

  4. Put a toothpick in the cut to hold it open.
     

  5. Apply rooting hormone, if you’re using it.
     

  6. Wrap a generous amount of sphagnum moss (lemon-sized) around the cut.
     

  7. Cover the moss with plastic wrap and secure it with twine.
     

  8. Leave a very small opening at the top for a bit of airflow.

 

How to Care For An Air-Layered Plant

 

  1. Keep watch on the bundle to make sure the moss doesn't dry out. Add a few drops of water through the opening as needed to keep it moist (not soggy).
     

  2. It may take 1-3 months for the roots to grow.
     

  3. Once the roots are 2 inches long and showing through the moss, it's time to remove the new plant from the mother.
     

  4. Cut the stem a couple of inches below the roots with sterilized scissors.
     

  5. Remove the plastic wrap; leave the moss in place.
     

  6. Plant the new baby houseplant in the soil and care for it as usual.