Air Layering Plants: Which Are Best & Complete How-To Guide

Air layering plants is a smart and easy way to propagate countless identical clones. The process is simple, few supplies are necessary, and practically anyone can do it.

However, unfortunately not every type of plant works with the air layering technique.

What plants can be air layered? Most types of plants, including bushes, shrubs, flowers, herbs, vines, houseplants, and trees, can be air layered successfully. The difficulty involved varies based on growth rates, hardness, and species-specific conditions, but it is possible to create a clone of most plants with this technique.

Below, we discuss the basics of air layering plants in depth. Read on to learn more!

Air Layering: The Basics

The air layering propagation method works on most plant life, including trees, shrubs, houseplants, and more. 

It involves a small incision, a bit of wet growing medium, and a plastic sheet, bag, or box to seal the area. 

Once the air layering is applied and sealed, new growth is encouraged by the incision and growing medium as well as the protective layer holding in the moisture. 

Once roots form and poke out through the growing medium, the air layered plant is ready for removal from its parent.

This basic air layering technique is applicable to countless plant species.

Benefits of Air Layering Plants

The main benefits of air layering plants are pretty straightforward:

  • It is a quick and easy way to make identical clones of mother plants.
  • It costs very little (especially compared to buying new plants).
  • Almost anyone can do air layering (it only takes a bit of time and practice).
  • There is no damage to the parent plant (even if the air layering fails).
  • There is no limit to the amount of air layering you can perform on one plant.
  • It is one of the fastest ways to clone full-size plants (other forms of cloning produce much smaller plants).

How Long Does Air Layering Take To Root? 

The amount of time involved with air layering from start to finish varies widely. Some plants require little more than a couple of weeks to take root via air layering methods. 

That said, many woody-stemmed species, shrubs, and trees may require months or even a year or two to completely develop new roots.

The main factors that determine the time it takes to complete an air layering include:

  • The plant species.
  • Weather conditions.
  • The exact technique performed.
  • How well the job was actually done.

Can All Plants Be Air Layered?

All plants can not be air layered, unfortunately. However, a massive number of plants can indeed be air layered. 

Most trees, shrubs, bushes, and numerous houseplants and flowers work well with air layering methods.

What Time of Year Is Best for Air Layering? 

Spring is almost always considered the best time of year for air layering. That is because plants are waking up from the winter-time dormancy and are producing abundant new growth.

It is during these phases while plants are producing rapid new growth that air layering is best performed. 

That way, you are taking advantage of the plant’s natural, integrated survival instincts and urge to reproduce itself.

Do You Need To Water Air Layering?

Air layerings don’t require any additional water besides what is used in wetting the growing medium that you apply during the initial air layering process.

If your air layering dries out before the rooting process is complete, the procedure will not be a success. 

Typical reasons for air layering drying out too soon include poor sealing, not enough moisture in the growing medium, or unusually hot weather.

When To Remove Air-Layered Plant From Parent

Air layerings should only be removed once new roots appear through the growing medium. 

If you’re using a clear plastic wrap for your sealant, you can check on the air layerings quite easily by simply looking through the wrap.

When air layering boxes or pods, like this 9-pack of reusable pods in three sizes, are used for air layering, you may need to unlock the pod, remove it, and check the air layered area for signs of new roots growing through the medium.

That is if you didn’t get clear ones like these.

How Big of a Branch Can You Air Layer?

Technically, there is no real limit to how large a branch can be air layered.

That said, for the most optimal air layering results, branches with a similar diameter to that of one of your fingers are most preferable.

In terms of length, 2-3 feet long branches are most desirable for air layering.

Much taller branches are possible to air layer, but they also require much more intensive aftercare as the root systems catch up with the size of the new plant.

You can find more information on air layering trees in our article here.

Can You Air Layer a Grafted Tree?

Air layering of grafted trees is possible, but it isn’t highly recommended as a propagating method. 

Rather than a stand-alone cloning technique, air layering can also be used as a means to preserve grafted branches of trees (more than one species growing together).

This technique is seen often in cases of air layerings on grafted trees.

That being said, there is little to no reason to assume that a branch from a thriving grafted tree wouldn’t produce a successful and healthy new tree.

How To Air Layer Plants

Air layering held in place on a mango tree with blue zip ties.

Before you begin, gather all the supplies needed:

  • Clean, sterilized, sharp knife
  • Rooting hormone
  • Sphagnum moss
  • Plastic wrap or sheeting
  • Tape or twine

Step 1 – Select a Branch and Create a Wound

Choose a 2-3 foot long branch about the diameter of your finger from a healthy plant.

Using a sharp, sterilized knife, create a wound almost all the way around the branch, ensuring it goes all the way through the outer layer of the plant.

An inch or so below this wound, create another, and remove all the bark between the two. Remove all leaves, twigs, and buds growing within 1 foot of the wound.

Step 2 – Apply Spagnum Moss and Secure It in Place

Dust the wound with rooting hormone (this powder is excellent).

Thoroughly soak sphagnum moss in water, and wrap it all around your newly created wound, ensuring the entire area is covered.

Secure the moss in place with plastic wrap or lightweight plastic sheeting, and tie or tape the ends closed.

Step 3 – Check Routinely and Remove When Roots Have Formed

Inspect the air layering every week or so, looking for signs of root development.

Depending on the plant, roots may be visible in just a few weeks, but others can take months before root growth is seen, so be patient.

Once multiple, healthy roots are clearly visible through the plastic, you can gently remove the covering and separate the branch from the plant by cutting it off just below the area you wrapped.

Plant the new tree or plant either directly in the ground or in a pot and water thoroughly. Make sure the soil is amended to perfectly meet your particular plant’s ideal growing conditions.

Air Layering Fruit Trees

The practice of air layering 2- or 3-year-old branches is a common method for producing exact clones of the specific fruit tree species the air layerings are applied to.

The steps for air layering tree branches are a bit more complicated. Bark and cambium need to be removed during the “wound” or “cutting” step during the air layering procedure.

In addition, make sure to select a branch no thicker than a pencil’s diameter (for optimal results). Aside from that, carry out your air layering just as you would for any other plant.

Best Fruit Trees for Air Layering:

  • Ambarella
  • Apple
  • Apricots
  • Blueberries
  • Carambola
  • Carissa
  • Cherry
  • Currants
  • Elderberries
  • Figs
  • Gooseberries
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Longan
  • Loquat
  • Lychee
  • Pears
  • Saskatoons

Air Layering Houseplants 

Houseplants are a bit easier than trees to propagate via air layering.

However, each species may require a slightly different approach to air layering as there are a plethora of diversely different houseplants to choose from (check out these trending plants).

That said, for the most part, air layering indoor plants is relatively simple, albeit you may need to perform a bit of further research about the specific species you wish to air layer.

Best Houseplants for Air Layering:

  • Chinese evergreen
  • Croton
  • Dicots
  • Dieffenbachias
  • Dracaenas
  • Dumbcane
  • Fiddle Leaf Fig
  • Indoor dwarf trees and shrubs
  • Leggy houseplants
  • Monocots
  • Oleander
  • Philodendrons
  • Rubber tree
  • Vining houseplants
  • Weeping fig
  • Woody houseplants

Air Layering Shrubs 

Performing air layering on shrubs is another popular practice. Whether indoor or outdoor plants, air-layered shrubs tend to turn out just as successfully as trees and other plants.

The best time to air layer shrubs is in the early spring, but is also possible in the late summer and early autumn (if the weather is cool enough and the shrub is thriving).

Best Shrubs for Air Layering:

  • Acers
  • Azalea
  • Boxwood
  • Camellia
  • Chaenomeles
  • Daphnes
  • Evergreen shrubs
  • Ficus
  • Flowering shrubs
  • Forsythia
  • Hamamelis
  • HoneySuckle
  • Jasmine
  • Lilac
  • Philodendron
  • Rhododendron
  • Roses
  • Viburnums
  • Wax myrtle
  • Woody-stemmed shrubs

Air Layering Evergreens 

Evergreen species are also excellent candidates for successful air layering.

That said, as evergreens tend to be much harder stemmed than other trees, shrubs, and plants, they are rarely successfully air layered at any other time of the year other than spring.

Additionally, evergreens that are slow-growing species may take up to a full year (or even two years) before they fully develop roots and are ready for removal from their parent plant.

That means it could take up to two years or more before you can transplant certain air layered evergreens.

If you decide to perform air layering on an evergreen, keep in mind that they require an extra delicate hand as their branches tend to be brittle and easily breakable.

Best Evergreens for Air Layering:

  • Cedar species
  • Evergreen magnolia
  • Fir species
  • Hemlock species
  • Holly species
  • Juniper species
  • Laurel species
  • Pine species
  • Photinia species
  • Southern live oak
  • Spruce species
  • Tsuga species

Air Layering Berry Plants 

Berry plants aren’t the most common plant to air layer simply due to the fact that they are quite easy to propagate via more basic methods, such as cuttings, seeds, runners, or other forms of cloning.

That said, many berry plants can be air layered if you so wish to do so. Blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are among the most popular berry plants to practice air layering with.

Berry plants vary as far as how much time it takes for air layerings to complete. Many species are capable of being air layered successfully in as little as one to two months.

Best Berry Plants for Air Layering:

  • Blackberry
  • Blueberry
  • Currants
  • Elderberry
  • Goji
  • Raspberry
  • Seaberry
  • Most vining berry plants
  • Most woody-stemmed berry plants

Air Layering Deciduous Trees

Deciduous trees are among the most frequently air layered trees of all. That’s probably due to how convenient these species are to have around.

Deciduous trees provide pleasing shapes and beautiful leaves in the fall and are generally all-around beneficial for landscaping purposes.

Furthermore, they are some of the easiest trees to air layer if done at the right time of the year.

In the early spring when trees are coming alive again, perform air layering on any deciduous tree that you wish to clone.

If all goes well, your new air layered tree will be ready to plant before the end of autumn. 

Best Deciduous Trees for Air Layering:

  • Aspen
  • Beech
  • Birch
  • Cedar
  • Elm
  • Fig
  • Fir
  • Magnolia
  • Maple
  • Oak
  • Walnut
  • Willow

Air Layering Nut Trees 

Nut trees are the best air layered in the spring or summer, as are many trees. That said, unlike certain species of trees, nut trees don’t take well to autumn air layering. 

Nut trees have the most abundant energy in the spring when they first come to life for the year and begin shooting out new growth.

By the middle of the year, they are spending their energy on producing nuts. In the fall, nut trees direct their energy to storage for the coming winter.

That means if you miss the opportunity to air layer nut trees in the spring, the best possible option is to wait until the following spring to attempt it.

Best Nut Trees for Air Layering:

  • Almond
  • Chestnut
  • Hazelnut
  • Macadamia
  • Pecan
  • Pine nut

Air Layering Roses 

Roses should be air layered in the spring directly after their first blooms for the year. It is at this point that they have the most energy to produce new growth.

Follow the standard air layering steps, wounding, compacting with growing medium, and wrapping with plastic.

Clear plastic tape works great for sealing up the moist growing medium applied to the incision on rose stems during the air layering process.

Although a countless number of roses are capable of air layering successfully, climbing roses and species that grow quickly are the most preferred.

Best Roses for Air Layering:

  • Ausmus species
  • Beach species
  • Bourbon roses
  • Cabbage species
  • Climbing species
  • Damask species
  • French species
  • Multiflora species
  • Prairie species
  • Rosa Peace
  • Most old garden species
  • Most modern rose species
  • Most wild rose species

Air Layering Vines 

Vines can also be air layered with little to no difficulty. The procedure is no different than it is on most houseplants and trees, and success rates are often high.

A major difference between air layering vines in comparison to trees, shrubs, and other outdoor plants is that vines often produce roots at a much more rapid rate of growth.

Best Vining Plants for Air Layering:

  • Black-eyed susan
  • Bougainvillea
  • Climbing hydrangeas
  • Climbing roses
  • Grapes
  • Kiwi
  • Mandevilla
  • Trumpet vine
  • Scarlet runner bean
  • Sweet pea
  • Wild berries
  • Wisteria

More Easy Plants To Air Layer

Many of the easiest plants to air layer are included in the lists above.

However, not all of the plants that gardeners have the most success at easily air layering fit into the categories above.

Here are a few of the easiest plants to air layer: 

  • Blackberries
  • Bonsai
  • Currants
  • Grapes
  • Climbing Rose species
  • Lavender
  • Magnolia
  • Ficus
  • Philodendron
  • Rhododendron
  • Rose of Sharon

A Final Word About Air Layering Plants

Air layering plants is a fun and exciting practice.

Not only do you get plenty of free plants, but they look and act exactly like their parents – not to mention how much cheaper it is compared to buying more plants!

That said, the difference in time that it takes to air layer specific types of plants does vary greatly.

Many plants air layer properly in as little as a month or two, while certain types of trees and other woody plants may require up to a full two years.