How to air layer?

Marcotting or Air Layering to produce new fruit trees

Joseph has been studying marcotting and visited my garden to practice on my mature fruit trees, his (Mums’) still being a little small.

We found it tricky to source upright branches close enough to the ground to work on and ended up doing two marcots, one each on the Wampi and Soursop (see pics below).

Below is a description of marcotting from the Archives of the Rare Fruit Council of Australia:

Marcotting is one of the oldest forms of plant propagation and is used extensively in South East Asia, notably Thailand, for fruit trees. In Australia its major usage is for litchis.

The criteria for marcotting are far less stringent than for grafting, the main essential being good healthy stock.

Morning, around 9 am, is the best time, providing there has been no rain.

Select a good branch, about finger thick and near vertical.

1. Remove a ring of bark 3 to 5 cm (the article actually says 30 to 50cm but I think this must be a typo) long from a position 400-600 mm from the tip of the branch. The cut must be deep enough to get through the cambium layer. Scrape the branch well to remove the soft material. 2. Dust the cut area with a growth hormone powder, making sure all excess is removed by tapping and blowing, otherwise burns will occur. 3. Take a handful of wet peat moss (we used coir), squeeze out well and place in the middle of a piece of plastic around 250 mm square. 4. Place this around the ringbarked area, tying first the bottom, firming down the peat moss and tying the top.

After 5-6 weeks a good root system should be visible and the marcot is then ready to be taken from the parent tree. This is best done by cutting halfway through and waiting two weeks before completing the cut.

Care must be taken in planting the marcot. In the first place, do not plant with a large ball of peat moss adhering to the roots as this will give rise to fungus; rather, eliminate as much as possible without damaging the young roots.

The marcot should be planted in good potting mixture, well-drained, taking care not to plant too deeply. Ideally, the top of the roots should be level with or slightly above the ground. The plant should be well staked and watered carefully.

Preparing marcot – ring of bark removed The marcot prepared with peat moss and covering

John answered a series of questions following his talk:

Q. Do you ever add more water to the peat moss?

A. Yes, when they have to stay on the tree a long time; after six months, add water from a hypodermic syringe.

Q. At what time of the year should you marcot?

A. Not during winter or a heavy wet season.

Q. Can you give us an idea of the different kinds of marcotting you have done successfully?

A. Most trees – except coconuts. Most trees are marcotted in Thailand, including guavas and mangoes.

Q. Should you use any special potting mixture when transplanting the marcot?

Q. Is there any advantage in mixing liquid rooting mixture in with the peat?

A. None.

Q. Do you add any fertilizer when initially transplanting?

A. This can be one of the main killers of plants. Do not add any fertilizer until the marcot shows some signs of growth. The plant only needs fertilizer if it is growing. There is a number of slow-release fertilizers on the market and these are a lot safer than the highly soluble types.

Q. How do marcots stand up to wind when they have no tap root?

A. Seedlings definitely stand up to drought conditions better because they have tap roots, whereas the marcot has mostly surface roots, which must be kept moist. Once a marcot becomes well-established after 6 to 8 years, it can look after itself pretty well, but they need more watering than a seedling during the first few years.

Q. How much of the stem do you chop off below the roots?

A. Not very close to the roots, about 3-4″ (8 to 10cm)below, as this is a temporary water supply for the marcot itself.

John Marshall

DATE: May 1981

What Happens at the Air Layer Site

The removal of the bark, cambium, and phloem, but not the xylem, prevents carbohydrates and photosynthates from flowing down the trunk past the girdling site but still allows water and mineral nutrients to flow upward to the leaves.

This keeps the leafy portions of the shoot from drying out and maintains them with an adequate supply of nutrients. The removal of the actively growing cambium layer prevents the regeneration of phloem and healing over of the wound. Because of this the carbohydrates and photosynthates flowing down the trunk collect at the girdling site. The presence of these excesses of carbohydrates and photosynthates (esp. auxin) at the girdling site, plus the presence of the water in the sphagnum moss, causes dormant adventitious buds in the area to grow into roots. When there are enough roots to sustain the shoot independently the shoot is cut off of the tree and then planted or potted.

Below: Joseph using the secatuers to cut through the cambium and phloem layers. He aims to remove a section of bark approximately 4cm long, just below a node.

Joseph used plier to work off the layer of bark then a sharp stanley knife to scrape away any remnants of the cambium layer, being careful to not nick into the woody section which carries water to the portion of plant being marcotted.

Feeling for any remaining (slippery) bits of cambium.

Dusting with rooting hormone. Joseph dusts at the cut end where the roots will emerge.

A plastic bag was packed with moist coir (spagnum can also be used) and, helped by Matt, secured around the marcott using sticky tape and string.

The finished marcott. We couldn’t find an upright branch within easy reach, so hoping this horizontal branch will still develop roots in 5 to 6weeks.

Air layering

In Japanese: “Toriki” – A slightly more advanced technique to propagate Bonsai is air-layering.

The concept of layering is to force a tree or branch to form new roots at a certain point by interrupting the stream of nutrients from the existing root system. This means you can use air-layering for several purposes; reducing the length of a trunk, growing a better Nebari (root flare or surface roots) or selecting a branch to be grown as a separate tree.


Air-layering should always be done during the spring, when the tree already started growing after its winter rest.

How to air layer a Bonsai?

There are two main techniques to air-layer a tree; the tourniquet method and the ring method.

The tourniquet method involves tightly wrapping the trunk/branch with copper wire to block the stream of nutrients partially. When the trunk/branch grows thicker the stream of nutrients will be decreased, forcing it to grow new roots just above the wire. This method is used for rather slow growing trees that need more time to grow new roots; these will not survive the more aggressive ring method. Tree species suitable for the tourniquet method include Maples, Junipers, Pines, Azaleas and Elms.

The ring method involves cutting away a ring of bark at the point on the trunk/branch where you would like new roots to grow. The portion above the ring will have to grow roots immediately in order to survive. The ring should be wide enough to prevent the tree from bridging the gap. Tree species suitable for the ring method include Maples, Junipers, Ligusters, Boxwoods and Azaleas.

The tourniquet method

  • Wrap a piece of copper wire all the way around the trunk/branch right at the point where you like new roots to grow.
  • The wire should cut about halfway into the bark; the thicker the trunk/branch the thicker the wire should be (see photo 1, below).
  • Dust some rooting hormone (available at Bonsai shops) around the ‘wound’ and now wrap a good quantity of sphagnum moss around the wound, covering it with some plastic (see photo 2 and 3, below).

The ring method

  • Use a sharp knife to cut two parallel slits around the circumference of the branch (keep enough space between both slits, at least once the diameter of the branch).
  • Now remove the ring of bark between these two cuts right till the ‘shiny’ hardwood (see photo 1 and 2, below).
  • Make sure the ring is wide enough so the tree will not be able to bridge the wound; also make sure you have removed the bark all the way to the hard wood; the tree will not start growing roots unless it has no other choice.
  • Dust some rooting hormone (available at Bonsai shops) around the ‘wound’ and now wrap a good quantity of sphagnum moss around the wound, covering it entirely with plastic (see photo 3, below).

And then? Aftercare

The moss should be kept moist at all times. After about one to three months roots should be growing in the moss. When the bag is filled with new roots carefully cut the layer just underneath the new roots. Do not try to remove the moss or sort the roots; simply plant the entire bundle without disturbing it in a standard Bonsai soil mixture.

Keep the tree protected from low temperatures and wind; a greenhouse or cold frame can be very useful. Leave the tree untouched until the next spring, when it can be trained for the first time. Small quantities of fertilizer can be used during the first summer.

Good method of air layering?

hau Joylynn, unfortunately I can not see the original youtube because of them being blocked on my computer (work comp.).
What I can do is give you a step by step of the method of air layering that has never failed me.
Items needed:
1 piece of visquene plastic (white or clear, not black) cut this 8 inches top to bottom and 3 feet long. (I like 4 to 6 mil thickness)
2 pieces of cotton or other type of string, I like to make mine about 12 inches long so I know I have long enough pieces.
1 bag of sphagnum moss, soaking in a pail of water.
1 sharp knife or a new bladed razor knife and a small glass of bleach water (1 part bleach to 2 parts water) for sterilizing (not needed if only doing one branch))
1 container of Rooting Hormone Powder (small, soft bristle brush is optional but recommended for applying the powder without any waste)
1. Select a good branch that would be pruned normally (this saves all the good branches and makes good use of a branch that would need to come off anyway).
2. With a sharp knife or a fresh bladed razor knife make four (4) slits approximately 3 inches long equidistant around the branch (I’ve tried the ring method and found it only works on easy to root tree varieties).
3. make a second slit parallel to the first set about 1/8th inch away from the first slit and remove the 1/8th inch piece of bark and cambium, leaving the rest of the bark intact.
4. dust the new wounds with a hormone powder any brand will do the job.
5. wet sphagnum moss and wrap around the treated area so it is about 2 inches thick.
6. wrap a piece of visquene plastic twice (2 wraps) around the sphagnum moss and tie the lower end tight to the branch, then tie the upper end a bit looser to the branch (use a bow so you can open this end if you should need to add water).
Watch the plastic to see if you need to add water (the moss should remain very damp (almost dripping water), do not add water if it looks damp inside the plastic wrapping.
When roots can be seen poking through the moss and against the plastic it is time to remove and plant up the new tree.
Cut the branch/new tree below the bottom of the plastic wrapping, and ready the container before you cut the strings and remove the plastic wrapping.
Once everything is ready, remove the plastic and plant the tree with the sphagnum moss still in place, water it and enjoy your new tree while it grows more roots.
In the late fall, the tree should be ready to be planted in the ground, wait till the leaves have dropped and the tree is dormant, then plant like you would any tree from a nursery.
Let me know if you need anything clarified.

What Is Air Layering: Learn About Air Layering Plants

Who doesn’t like free plants? Air layering plants is a method of propagation which doesn’t require a horticultural degree or fancy rooting hormones or tools. Even the novice gardener can gather a few tips on the process and have a successful outcome. Read on for more info and some easy plants on which to try the process.

Plant propagation may be accomplished in numerous ways. Seeds are the simplest method but often maturity will take months or even years. Additionally, plants started from seed are not always identical to the parent plant. In order to ensure an identical copy, you need the genetic material. In other words, you literally use the plant itself. Layering propagation will produce genetically parallel new plants which will carry all the characteristics of the parent and one of the most popular forms of layering is air layering.

What is Air Layering?

Of all the ways to create another plant, air layering plants is a simple, easy method. What is air layering? Air layering propagation is a process that often occurs naturally. In the wild it happens when a low branch or stem touches the ground and takes root.

Because it is an asexual process, the genetic material is directly transferred to the newly rooted stem, which may be cut away from the parent to start a new plant.

To learn how to air layer, you need to consider how to get the plant material to root. Each plant is different and responds differently to the methods.

Best Plants for Air Layering

Air layering plants requires a moist environment for aerial roots to form. Most plants can be air layered and, even if no rooting takes place, the original plant is not damaged by the process since you do not remove the donor material until it has produced roots.

Herbaceous tropical indoor plants and woody outdoor ornamentals are good candidates for air layering and may include:

  • Rhododendron
  • Camellia
  • Azalea
  • Holly
  • Magnolia

Nut and fruit producers like apples, pears, pecans and citrus are often air layered too. The best plants for air layering using the simple technique would be:

  • Roses
  • Forsythia
  • Honeysuckle
  • Boxwood
  • Wax myrtle

How to Air Layer

Air layering is pretty simple. You need moist sphagnum moss to wrap around a wounded section of the stem. Wound an area below the node with an upward 1-inch slash. Wedge a toothpick or small piece of wood into the cut to keep it from closing, then wrap the moss around the cut and secure it with floral ties or plant twine. Cover the entire thing in aluminum foil to prevent sunscald and plastic wrap to conserve the moisture.

The actual time for any plant to produce roots will vary but will average a couple weeks to a month. Once you have roots, remove the plant material and pot it up as you would any plant and enjoy.

This following post has been in the making for a few months now. It is finally time to publish it. Remember the pretty tree peonies that bloomed in May?

The striped tree peony at the entrance to our garden.

We have three mature plants, which were all in need of some trimming. And wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could propagate these lovely plants at the same time? That is what we attempted at the beginning of June of last year.

The method of choice is called airlayering. We had tried it previously successfully with our peach tree. The idea is to encourage roots to grow on a branch while it is still on the tree. With the new roots, this branch can be cut off and planted into soil. For the peach tree, it worked really well.

New roots that grew among peat moss on a peach branch over three months in 2015.

Airlayering begins with cutting the bark on a branch all the way around in two places so that a ring of bark can be peeled off completely. This is where the new roots will sprout. To encourage root growth, we also applied some rooting hormone. Now, this branch is wrapped with wet peat moss. The peat moss is antiseptic and prevents bacterial growth in addition to providing a moist environment. To keep everything moist, the branch is wrapped in a sheet of plastic, applying a butcher’s fold. The plastic is carefully tied at both ends. Then it is time to wait.

Airlayering. Top row: peeling a ring of bark off a branch; applying rooting hormone; surrounding the branch with moist peat moss. Bottom row: wrapping the peat moss on the branch with a plastic sheet; tying a string tightly on both ends; the final package.

What should happen is this: by cutting the bark, we interrupted the flow of nutrients from the leaves to the roots. Water still flows on the inside of the stem from the roots to the leaves; therefore, the branch will not dry out. The leaves continue to perform photosynthesis and make organic nutrients, which can now fuel root growth at the cut site.

In September, we decided to check on our roots. We wanted to give the new plants a chance to establish themselves in soil before winter arrived.

Here is me with two cuttings. One branch after removal of the peat moss.

The root growth was not as vigorous as we had wished, but the method clearly worked. We potted our new cuttings and hoped for the best.

Now, in February 2017, we know that we were successful. One of our cuttings looks really good and is starting to grow. The mild winter may have helped us here. Seeing these swelling buds is very encouraging. We will try again this year and start a bit earlier in the season to give the roots more time to grow. We can also use this method to propagate roses and other shrubs. Pretty cool, right?

The same plant on February 23. It is still alive and the buds are opening.

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