Picture of Propagating Plants by Air Layering
Air layering is a propagation method for woody plants that allows you to root branches while still attached to the parent plant. It is useful for plants that are hard to propagate by cuttings or if you want your new plant to have a larger size than could be accomplished by taking cuttings.

I've used this method successfully for
- Weeping Fig (Ficus benjamina)
- Long-Leaf Fig (Ficus binnendijkii)
- India Rubber Tree (Ficus elastica)
- Fiddle-Leaf Fig (Ficus lyrata)
- Umbrella Tree (Schefflera arboricola)
- Elephant Yucca (Yucca elephantipes)
- Cornstalk Dracaena (Dracaena fragrans - pictured below)
It should work for most, if not all, woody houseplants, and even for outdoor plants.

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Step 1: Tools and materials

Picture of Tools and materials
- the plant you want to propagate
- a sharp knife
- Sphagnum moss (should be available at garden centres)
- a piece of (preferably transparent) plastic foil (an old plastic bag will do fine) (about 30x30 cm)
- string
- a piece of thin, hard plastic (I used a piece of a plant tag, a piece of a plastic bottle or yoghurt tub or something similar would work just as well. Basically, you just need something thin that will not decompose if it's damp for a couple of weeks). It should be just a bit longer than the width of the branch you want to root.
- scissors for cutting string and plastic foil
- water
- a bowl to soak the moss in

A couple of weeks later, you will also need:
- a flower pot
- potting mix
- maybe a stake and more string.

Akin Yildiz6 months ago

out of all the cool things one can do with plants, air layering must be my favorite, and most interesting aspect of growing. thank you for sharing your knowledge, i am still yet to try this one day :)

canucksgirl3 years ago
Thanks Ivynettle for this Instructable! I have the same umbrella plant and require air layering to deal with a loss of leaves. There are 3 branches coming from the soil in the same planter and all 3 branches suffered defoliation. The top half of the branches are healthy and full of leaves, and there is frequent new growth, making the poor plant a bit top heavy and vacant looking in the lower half.

I have 3 questions for you:
  1. Can I perform this air layering method on all 3 branches at once or is that not advised?
  2. What should be done with the branches after the air layering process is complete and the branch is cut below the new root ball? (i.e., does the "stump" have to be discarded, trimmed or will it continue growing after the upper portion is detached?
  3. Can I begin the process now (December), or do I have to wait for Spring?
Your advice is appreciated.
Ivynettle (author)  canucksgirl3 years ago
1. I think doing all three branches at once shouldn't be a problem.

2. It might take some time, but the lower part should resprout. Depending on how long the bare branches are, you might want to cut them back some more, and then it's waiting, waiting, waiting. :-) Don't forget to reduce watering until the plant grows new leaves - without leaves, it will need very little water, and keeping it too wet means the roots might rot. (I usually lift the pot to see how heavy it is.)

3. Generally, plants grow more strongly the more light there is. You don't necessarily HAVE to wait, but it's probably a good idea.
Thanks for the reply. (on Q3, that's what I thought, so I'll have to mull it over.)
Thanks for that going to try it on a Japanese Maple that has had failed cuttings from.
dwoloz4 years ago
There's also a method where you cut a ring of the outter woody material away leaving the "core" exposed. Depends on the type of plant
logikly4 years ago
This was very instructive! Thank you for sharing that, I have a tree that I have never been able to clone.. hopefully this will work!!
A great walk through on the technique.
I'm the 'plant lady' of my friends and family.
Whenever we have plants that need a little extra love they end up at my house.
I've used this method on a lot of varieties with great success.
xhellabentx4 years ago
i love the idea that someone is out there experimenting with other methods of propagation i have learned about using honey recently and i really enjoy anything i can do without having to spend money or drive all the way to town to spend money and gas THANKS ALOT and KEEP POSTING
ChrysN4 years ago
This is cool, I'm going to try it!