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Experiments in Gardening: Air Layering

I've been meaning to try air layering - a method to propagate plants that seems to me less risky than cuttings - and now that circumstances suggested to me it would be a good time, I thought I'd document my attempt, so it might serve as a sort of how-to.

First, let me introduce you properly to one of my Japanese maples.

This is the one that went feral. It was a grafted one with leaves that had white edges, but that graft died either last summer, or the summer before that, presumably because I too often neglected to water it.

Now, I wouldn't mind, because the wild shoots are pretty enough, but there's a problem: It looks like the rot from the stump is spreading.

That means this maple it now a guinea pig.

The idea of air layering is to have the plant grow roots on a branch, so that that branch can be cut off and planted elsewhere.

I picked an interesting looking part of the plant, removed some twigs that were in the way, as well as an about 1 cm wide stripe of bark and a layer of wood below that. Then I spread some plant hormone that should encourage root formation on the upper edge, and put a loop of wire right below it. (The wire I think is meant to encourage the roots to grow sideways, so they'll look neat if you turn the resulting new plant into a bonsai.)

I got a flimsy plastic flower pot (the kind you buy plants in and that are supposed to be thrown away) and cut a slit in the side and a hole in the bottom, so I could slip it around the cut. I placed that pot so the cut was in the middle of it, put adhesive tape over the slit down the side, and filled the pot with potting soil meant for seedlings and cuttings.

We'll see how this goes, eventually.

I also stuck some onions from the kitchen that started growing leaves in the ground, to see what happens.

One successful experiment is the azalea. It had been a very unhappy plant on the graveyard, and the autumn before last I brought it home, put it in a pot, and cut it down to nothing but two sticks. It looks like this now:

Blog tags: Plants Resources