More than 800 species of plants fall within the ficus genus. Ficus plants thrive in warm, semitropical climates with humid conditions. These plants also make attractive houseplants in cooler climates. These plants prefer sunny locations that maintain even temperatures throughout the year. Although ficus plants form seeds and reproduce in nature from seeds, air layering provides a quick alternative to growing ficus from seeds and produces plants with characteristics that closely resemble the characteristics of the parent plants.
Choose a healthy ficus specimen in the springtime to reproduce into another plant. Look for one that exhibits uniform growth and even color throughout. Select a long stem from the previous year's growth. Use a stem that is larger than the diameter of a pencil.
Locate a leaf node about 1 foot below the tip of your selected stem. Nodes are areas where leaves emerge. Pluck off the leaves about 3 to 4 inches in both directions of the node. Make a small, slanted gash just below the node. Use a downward slice with your knife, making an inch-long cut about one-third of the way through the diameter of the stem. Do not cut all the way through the center of your stem.
Slide a toothpick into the gash to hold it slightly open. Soak a handful of sphagnum moss in a bowl of clear water for a few minutes. Purchase this type of moss from a craft store, gardening center or florist shop.
Squeeze the excess moisture from the handful of wet sphagnum moss. Wrap this damp moss over the cut in your stem, encircling the entire stem with moss. Wrap a layer of plastic wrap over your moss to hold it in place and retain moisture around the wounded area. Secure the plastic wrap with a couple of pieces of string. Wrap a piece of aluminum foil over the plastic wrap to limit sunlight to the area.
Watch for the formation of new roots around your air layering. Gently peel back the foil to check for roots showing below the surface of the plastic wrap. Dampen the sphagnum moss with a little water if it begins to look slightly dry. These roots may take a few months to form in the damp moss.
Remove your rooted section from the parent plant with a sharp knife. Cut through the area below the air layer. Carefully unwrap the foil and plastic wrap from the air-layered section. Do not disturb the sphagnum moss.
Prepare a pot for your new plant. Fill the bottom one-third of a pot with well-drained potting soil. Place the pot in a drip tray to collect any excess moisture. Set the unwrapped roots into the pot. Gently hold in place while scooping potting soil over and around the roots. Fill the pot to a level about an inch below the rim. Lightly press down on the surface of the soil with your fingertips. Lightly water the soil until evenly moist. Keep the soil slightly moist while your ficus plant adapts to its new environment.