The air layering method is a form of propagation in which a wet growing medium is used to promote root growth on the plant you wish to clone. A weather-proof sleeve is attached over the growing medium and target area. Once roots begin to develop, the clone is removed from the parent plant.

Air Layering Propagation: The Basicsย 

The air layering method of propagation is one of the most straightforward techniques for propagating trees, bushes, shrubs, and plants with woody stems. Itโ€™s a tried and true form of propagation, but it takes a bit of time and patience to perfect.

When To Use Air Layering

Air layering of trees and shrubs is best performed in the early spring or autumn. However, depending on climate zones, weather patterns for the year, and other factors, air layering may be successful during the summer or winter months as well.

Advantages of Air Layering

Air layering has several advantageous benefits in addition to being an easy way to clone plants:

  • There is far less work involved with air layering than other propagation methods
  • Clones and parent plants both benefit from new growth
  • Full-size trees are able to be created within weeks or months rather than years
  • No damage is caused to the parent tree or plant
  • High success-rate of plants and trees cloned via air layering
  • You are able to create identical copies of parent plants
  • Quicker and stronger root development than other methods

Disadvantages of Air Layering

There are only a couple of real disadvantages associated with air layering:

  • Air layering involves a learning curve
  • There is more work involved in the beginning phase than with other propagation methods

Common Problems When Air Layeringย 

If applied correctly, there are very few known problems with air layering. The main problem occurs when you use clear sleeves while attempting the air layering technique on a slow-growing species.

In this case, a dark solid colored sleeve should be used in place of a see-through type. That is because various forms of algae tend to grow in damp environments that are exposed to light, which could in turn slow down the growth rate of new roots or even kill them entirely.

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The only other real problem associated with failed air layering is creating wounds that are too shallow or leave too much cambium (cellular plant tissue) on the target area. Both of which result in slow growth or no growth of new roots.

How To Propagate Using the Air Layering Method

Propagating trees, plants, and shrubs via air layering is a breeze. But, before you get started, youโ€™ll need a few things.

Supplies for Air Layering:

  • Sphagnum moss (or an alternative growing medium)
  • Polyethylene film (or plastic bag)
  • Waterproof tape (or adhesive, twist ties, and twine)
  • Snippers
  • A razor knife (or another sharp instrument)
  • Rooting hormone (optional)


1. Select a Proper Branch for Cloning

To propagate a plant or tree by using the air layering method, you must first prepare the parent tree. Start by selecting a proper branch or shoot that is roughly two or three years old. A proper branch or shoot will be flexible, but strong, and show signs of new growth from bottom to top.

2. Trim and Wound the Target Area

Next, start where the branch or shoot stems off of the mother plant and trim off all the leaves, stems, and knots that occupy the 12 to 14 inches.

After trimming it up, create a shallow wou

nd by peeling back a one or two-inch section of the shoot or branch as close to its base as possible.

Creating the wound on a bud, or side-shoot is preferred as it is already growing out of the new branch and is more easily converted into roots than producing new roots from scratch.

3. Apply a Wet Growing Medium

Using a wet growing medium, like moss, slip a bit under the wound and then cover the entire base of the branchโ€™s base with a couple of inches worth of the same wet growing medium.

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Cover the medium with a see-through plastic sleeve (or bag) that will keep out rain and dew and seal it up with waterproof tape or glue.

4. Cut the Tree/Plant Off After it Roots

Keep a close eye on the growing medium inside the sleeve for the next several months. Once root tips appear through the medium your clone is ready to be cut away from its parent and transplanted into the soil or a container.

Air layering also works on many plant varieties that are otherwise often slow to develop new growth, lack shoots for rooting or are generally considered hard to clone.

What Fruit Trees Can Be Air Layered?ย 

Nearly any fruit tree is able to be air layered. Below, we list 18 of the best fruit tree types to air layer:

  1. Almond
  2. Apple
  3. Apricot
  4. Avocado
  5. Cherry
  6. Citrus
  7. Fig
  8. Kiwi
  9. Loquat
  10. Mango
  11. Papaya
  12. Peach
  13. Pear
  14. Persimmon
  15. Plum
  16. Pomegranate
  17. Rambutan
  18. Starfruit

How Long Does Air Layering Take To Root?ย 

The amount of time that passes between applying air layering techniques to trees and plants and when the first roots appear varies drastically from species to species. Also, the time it takes for roots to develop enough for the new clone to be removed for the parent plant also widely varies from tree to tree and plant to plant.

That said, many trees take as much as an entire year to root via air layering. Others may shoot out new roots in just several weeks.

Likewise, when air layering certain plants and vines like lilacs and grapes, roots may grow in as little as two to three weeks.

Do You Need Rooting Hormone for Air Layering?ย 

Rooting hormone may be applied during the air layering process, but it is not required. Some gardeners swear by it, while others report little difference between air layering with rooting hormone versus with pure moss.

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Do You Need To Water Air Layering?

If you apply it correctly, there is no need or purpose to water an air layering once it is applied. When applying air layering techniques to clone trees and plants, a wet growing medium like moss should be applied and covered in a sleeve that keeps the moisture from escaping.

Polyurethane film is highly preferred for covering air layerings because it allows the grow site to breathe while simultaneously keeping the majority of the moisture trapped inside.


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