Propagation: Air Layering

by Bryce Fulton

Do you have a plant that you love, but you've heard that it's difficult to root cuttings? Are you scared of cutting your plant because you don't want to risk losing it? Air layering is a simple process that will help you have more success.

Layering is a natural process where a portion of the plants stem comes into contact with the ground and begins to grow adventitious roots. When the roots have grown enough, that portion can be separated from the original growth point and continue on its own as a clone.

You don't need to grow or train your plant into or along the soil, but you can replicate the process by air layering. There are multiple ways to do this, with some having more risk, but all have a high chance of success and require little effort. 



This method has the lowest risk, but has a small chance of being unsuccessful and takes the longest to produce roots. On plants such as Philodendron  and Monstera, which already produce aerial adventitious roots without this process, it can be very fast to produce roots, and can be performed on nodes that already have aerial root/s.

Required materials:

  • Plastic Wrap/Cling Wrap
  • Rooting hormone (gel is best)
  • Sphagnum Moss or similar moisture retentive material 


Step 1: Inspect the plant and find an appropriate area to begin. This is best performed on a larger plant that is in good health. Remember that the larger the section you want to remove is, the more roots you will require for them to support the plant (that is, the longer you will have to wait).

Step 2: Apply rooting hormone gel on, above and below the node with a clean tool like a cotton swab.

Optional: You can puncture the plant with a toothpick or sterile blade tip to slightly increase the penetration of the hormone and have more surface area exposed. Make sure the tool is clean, as this is opening the door for other pathogens (bacteria, viruses, fungus, etc) to enter the plant.

Step 3: Soak and squeeze the Sphagnum Moss so that it is hydrated and moist, but not wet and dripping. Apply evenly around the area you have chosen in a ball, completely covering the section that you had applied rooting hormone.

Step 3: Wrap the ball in plastic wrap (you might need a second set of hands), and enclose the sphagnum, sealing it above and blow, making sure there are no open sections. You can use Velcro, string or zip ties to hold the plastic wrap in place if you need to.

Step 4: Wait for roots to form. If the section is small (1-3 leaves), wait until you see roots growing through the moss before inspecting. If the cutting is large, you want to fill up the moss ball with roots to be sure that the roots can support the plant after cutting.

Step 5: Using your best judgement, make a clean cut to the plant just beneath the root mass and plant into your preferred growing medium and container. Treat the plant as a fresh cutting, even though it has roots. Higher humidity, not too-intense light and in a warm environment.

The only thing you really need to monitor here is that the sphagnum moss is remaining moist. The plastic wrap will help to retain moisture and limit evaporation, but if it is taking a long time, you may need to re-moisten the moss. The time for roots to form will vary, usually 2-4+ weeks. 



This method is the most commonly used, as it works for a wider variety of plants, including those with woody stems and branches. It does carry a higher degree of risk and requires slightly more effort in monitoring to be sure no rot or disease has entered the plant. 

Required materials:

  • Sterile blade
  • Cling Wrap
  • Rooting hormone (gel is best)
  • Sphagnum Moss or similar moisture retentive material 


Step 1: As above, inspect the plant for an appropriate area that you would like to create roots, keeping in mind that the larger the cutting, the more roots you will need to develop.

Step 2: Using your clean blade, make a slice at an angle towards the new growth (upwards). This wound creates more surface area for the rooting hormone to be absorbed, but may not necessarily be where roots form. The depth of the slice will depend on the thickness of the stem, but don't go too deep. The section to be propagated still needs to be attached to the parent plant. It's safest to keep the slice less than halfway into the stem.

Step 3: Apply rooting hormone (powder or gel) into the wound using a cotton swab and wipe any excess around the wound.

Optional: You can insert an object into the wound to keep it open, such as plastic plant identifier tags, a wooden ice cream stick, or anything that is clean, thin and not toxic to the plant. We personally just use Sphagnum Moss and make sure that we put some into the wound.

Step 4: Apply moist Sphagnum Moss evenly around the wounded area, making sure it is completely covered both above and below the cut. 

Step 5: Wrap in plastic wrap to seal in the moss and moisture.

Step 6: Wait for roots!

This method will likely yield faster results and in a wider range of plants, but be sure to open and inspect it to make sure there are no signs of disease. You don't need to check it every day, but definitely have a look after 1-2 weeks for any discolouration, soft sections, rot, or other signs of an unhealthy cut.


Overall, air layering may seem intimidating, but it's a really easy way to get more out of your plants. Try it out on a climbing plant if you have some extra moss and understand the process before jumping to your most uncommon or expensive varieties.