What Is The Purpose Of Air-Layering?

Published: 10th February 2009
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There are number of houseplants that either are difficult to root or have become leggy and very tall over time. This is especially associated with such houseplants as rubber plants,crotons,corn plant,and fiddle-leaf fig to mention a few.These plants and other plants which primarily exist in the house and grow as a result of a central stem can over a period of time loose all of their lower leaves. This gives the appearance that the plant is in its last days before expiring. However you need not fear because the plant can be rejuvenated by a method referred to as air-layering.

This procedure encourages roots to grow from a small segment of a stem. This produces a new plant with the rooting of the stem below the upper leaves that now exist on the plant. After the procedure is performed and, has sufficient time to grow and root, it can them be cut from the mother plant with the new roots and behold you have a new leafy plant from the very tip to the bottom of the plant. The reason this procedure works so well is that the new plant is attached to the mother plant during the air layering process and provides both
nutrients and water to the new developing plant.

There are two very interesting things you can do using air-layering the first being the growth of a new plant by choosing a spot three to four inches below the lower leaves to insert a wound in the main stem. Perhaps you just have the desire to lower the height of the
plant. Just determine how tall you feel the plant should be and at that particular spot on the stem remove all leaves a few inches above and below the spot you have chosen.

The tools and materials require to perform the air-layering include a sharp knife,a wooden tooth pick,a small bag of spaghnum peat moss,and either some plastic wrap or aluminum foil. Although considered optional I would have available a rooting hormone to encourage the root growth. You can purchase such a root nutrient at any local garden shop.

There are two methods of making an incision in the stem of the plant. The first method is recommended as the easiest way to perform the stem cutting. It requires a slanting upper cut into the stem with penetration no deeper than one-fourth or one-third of the diameter of the stem. The caution here is not to cut through the entire stem and you must hold on to the plant above the cut to prevent it from tipping over and breaking off at the cut. The second method is more tedious and stressful and involves cutting of a strip of bark no wider than one-half to one inch.

Here is where the sharp knife is necessary as you make your first cut through the bark and in a circle around the entire stem. Then you make a second cut using the distance mentioned above all the way around the stem. Apply just enough pressure to penetrate the bark without cutting all the way through the stem. Then peel back the strips by utilizing the point of the knife. There are two dangers here one being a crooked cut around the stem leaving a wider margin then desired and the unfortunate lack of total penentration which can result in a continuous strip of bark peeling off the stem.

The wooden took pick is used in the first method above to keep the the stem open a crack which is necessary to stop the wound from healing over without the formation of roots. Now is the time to apply the rooting hormone by pushing it into the wound made by your knife. As mentioned before the rooting hormone is optional but really promotes more rapid development of your root structure. Now soak a few handfuls of sphagnum moss with water squeezing just a little to remove excess water and press the moss into a very tight ball wrapping it around the cut area on the stem. Apply a sheet of clear plastic,better than the aluminum foil,tightly around the spaghnum moss. Check your wrapping method to ensure that no spaghnum is sticking out the ends of your plastic wrap. Your piece of plastic wrap should have been cut to provide the ability of wrapping around the ball at least twice. Now you can secure the wrap with a twist tie and you have completed the air-layering.

The second method is very similar to the first method and will produce the same results. I must say something here about the use of aluminum foil as it pertains to sunlight. If your plant is situated in full sunlight it maybe necessary to use the foil for sunlight
reflection and prevent the moss from overheating. It will require several months in either method to produce sufficient new roots. All you need to do at that point is cut the stem just below the new root growth and plant it in a new container. In the case of lowering the
height of the plant just remove the plastic and the moss and you have a new plant with slightly lower height. There it is an entire course in air-layering.

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