Air layering is an old method used to propagate plants.

It is useful for propagating a few plants of relatively large size for special purposes.

Some tropical trees that are difficult to root from cuttings are still propagated by this method.

Photo showing air propagation technique with developing roots inside plastic bag, and with bag removed.

Steps for making an air layer include:

  1. Girdle stem.
  2. Remove several leaves around wound.
  3. Pack area with moist sphagnum or peat moss.
  4. Cover moss with polyethylene plastic and tie each end.
  5. Check to make sure moss remains moist until roots form.
  6. After roots are visible inside the bag, the rooted stem can be cut from the mother plant and potted.

Four panel illustration showing the steps for making an air layer.

Reflective foil or black plastic may be used to protect the rooting area of the layer.

Photo of example of air layering using black plastic.

Photo of example of air layering using reflective foil.

Air layers are usually made on stems from the previous season's growth. Best results are from shoots with several leaves on stems that are actively growing.

Photo of roots developing inside a plastic bag on plant stem.

Photo showing three different bags with roots developing on plant stems.

Because it can be so humid in the tropics, air layering can be successful by girdling the stem and covering with aluminum foil.

Photo of plant stems covered with aluminum foil.

Photo of foil opened up to show girdled stem developing roots.

Schefflera (Brassaia)

Photo pf stem that has developed a mass of roots through air layering.

A variation of air layering uses specialized containers during layering.

This has been referred to as pot layering.

Illustration showing use of pot layering on both a tree and a shrub.

Historical engraving showing an example of pot layering.

Charles Baltet 1903

Several types of containers have been designed for air layering.

These were split or open on one side to fit around the layered branch.

Historical engraving showing pots with one side split or open to fit around layered branches.

Liberty Hyde Bailey 1896