How to Propagate House Plants by Air Layering

Overview

Air layering is a method of rooting a new plant while it is still attached to the parent plant. This method is suited to tall, leggy house plants. Once the new plant is removed, the parent plant will fill out with new growth. Any tall plant with sturdy stems is appropriate for air layering. Many tall, tropical house plants resist rooting by any other method. Plants commonly propagated by air layering include rubber plants, crotons, dieffenbachia, schefflera, fig and dracaena.

Preparing the Plant

Step 1

Find a location on the plant to make your layer. One-year-old stems layer best.

Step 2

Remove all leaves 3 or 4 inches above and below the layering site.

Step 3

Cut the stem at a 45-degree angle at the layering site with a sharp knife. Cut no deeper than a quarter or a third of the diameter of the stem. Be careful not to break the stem while making the cut.

Step 4

Coat the cut with rooting hormone, if desired. Most houseplants will root without rooting hormone, but in some cases the rooting hormone speeds the process.

Step 5

Insert a small piece of a toothpick into the cut to hold it open. Again, be careful not to break the stem.

Step 6

Saturate a couple of handfuls of sphagnum moss in water, then squeeze it lightly to remove excess water.

Step 7

Pack the moist sphagnum moss around the cut.

Step 8

Cover the sphagnum moss with plastic wrap. Secure the wrap in place loosely with twist ties.

Step 9

Check the plant every week or so make sure the sphagnum moss is moist. If the sphagnum moss fades to a light tan color, it needs moisture.

Separating

Step 1

Check the plant occasionally for root development. Some plants root in as few as 30 days, while others take months. When you see a mass of roots in the sphagnum moss it's time to cut the new plant away from the parent plant.

Step 2

Remove the plastic wrap and loosen the sphagnum moss.

Step 3

Cut off the new plant just below the root mass with a sharp knife.

Step 4

Pot up the new plant in a flower pot large enough to hold the roots. Water thoroughly.

Things You'll Need

  • Sharp knife
  • Rooting hormone (optional)
  • Toothpick
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Water
  • Plastic wrap
  • Twist ties
  • Flower pot with drainage holes
  • Potting soil

References

  • Iowa State University Extension: How to Air Layer a Houseplant
  • University of Wisconsin Extension: Propagating and Growing Houseplants
  • University of Missouri Extension: Home Propagation of House Plants
Keywords: air layer plant, layer house plant, propagate house plant

About this Author

Jackie Carroll is a freelance writer with more than 15 years experience. Her home & garden and nature articles have appeared in "Birds & Blooms" and "Alamance Today." She holds a Bachelor of Science in medical technology from the University of North Carolina.

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