Air Layering

Air layering: is a method of propagation recommended for plants such as Draceana, Ficus and Magnolia.

It is a simple way to propagate a new plant as it encourages a plant stem to produce roots at any given point on the stem.

The method is often used when it is difficult to lower the branches of a plant down to soil level, or when the lower leaves have dropped off a plant exposing a lot of unsightly bare trunk.

Air-layering can be carried out all the year round, but is generally more successful if done in May-June.


In the case of Magnolia select a healthy one or two-year-old side shoots and cut a 20mm (¾") slit under a leaf node, approximately 150-300mm (6”-12”) below the growing tip.

Do not make the cut deeper than half the diameter of the stem being prepared.

If deemed necessary remove some leaves to create a clear section of stem to work on.

With Draceana and Ficus cut the slit below a point where a leaf has dropped off (leaf node)

Dust the wound with fresh hormone rooting powder and keep the tongue (formed by the split) open by means of a matchstick then pack it with moss (preferably sphagnum moss)

Wrap a piece of polythene sleeving (cling film) 200 – 250mm (8”-10”) long and about a similar width around the stem.

Secure the lower end 50-75mm (2”-3”) below the wound, using adhesive tape, string, or a twist tie.

Pack the sleeve firmly with thoroughly moistened rooting compost*

*2 parts sphagnum moss, 1 part peat and 1 part sand (parts by volume)

Fill the compost 50-75mm (2”-3”) above the wound, and secure the top of the sleeve firmly to the stem with adhesive tape, string, or a twist tie.

The polythene must be completely airtight so that drying out will not occur.

Allow the plant to grow normally, and when the roots are visible through the polythene film, cut the top section off the parent plant from a point just below the polythene, and pot it up in a similar manner to the parent plant.

Prior to potting up, remove the polythene, leaving the rooting mixture undisturbed to avoid damaging the fine root system.

Finally; place the new plant in a protected spot until it becomes established.

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