How To Save Your Leggy Houseplant – Air Layering
Do you have an old houseplant that lost many of its lower leaves and you want to give it a new lease on life? Or maybe your houseplant has reached the ceiling and you don’t know what to do with it? If so, a technique called air layering would be a perfect way to save and propagate your plant! It is easy and quick to do, and only requires a few simple steps.
What is Air Layering?
Air layering is a propagation technique that is often used on older plants that have become woody and would be difficult to propagate otherwise. This technique allows your cutting to actually form roots while it is still attached to the parent plant! This technique minimizes the shock that your cutting will endure while it is rooting, and maximizes your success!
Materials You Will Need
- Sphagnum moss
- A bowl with water
- A sharp knife
- Garden twine or a thick string
- Rooting Hormone (optional, but I like to use it)
- A toothpick (you’ll want the sturdy round kind with pointy ends)
- Clear plastic wrap
- And of course, your plant! Below, I will show how I air layered this Ficus elastica (rubber plant) at Agnes Studio in Cleveland, Ohio.
Step 1: Prepare the Sphagnum Moss
Take a handful of sphagnum moss and soak it in warm water for at least a couple minutes. You will be using this as the medium that the roots will be growing into.
Step 2: Make an Incision
Take your sharp knife and carefully cut about halfway into your stem. I don’t think it really matters what direction you slant your cut. Some people do it perpendicular to the stem, but I chose to do it on an angle as you can see from the picture below. You can see some latex oozing from the cut and this is normal if you are air layering a rubber plant.
Step 3: Prop Open the Incision
Before you prop open the incision, the next step is optional but I like to use it to ensure the most success. Take the tip of a toothpick, dip it in water, and then dip it in a rooting hormone. Then take the toothpick and gently apply the rooting hormone to the incision that you’ve made.
Then take the toothpick and gently insert the center of the toothpick horizontally into the incision so that it can hold open the cut while the roots are growing. Then take your scissors and cut off both ends of the toothpick. You’ll want to do this so that the points of the toothpick don’t pierce holes into the plastic wrap once you wrap it in Step 5.
Step 4: Wrap with Sphagnum Moss
Take your sphagnum moss that you have soaking in water and squeeze out all the excess moisture with your hands. You want it damp, but not dripping wet otherwise your plant may rot. Then gently wrap the moss around where you cut the stem and gently squeeze it into a ball so that there is proper contact between the moss and the cut that you’ve made.
Step 5: Wrap the Moss With Plastic Wrap
After you have a nice ball of moss surrounding your cut, take some clear plastic wrap and wrap it around the moss a few times.
Step 6: Secure the Plastic Wrap
Finally, firmly tie both ends of the plastic wrap with garden twine. I like to tie it like I’m tying my shoe laces. This way, you can easily remove it when the cutting has rooted.
Step 7: Wait!
This is the hardest part…waiting! It may be a few months before your cutting roots, so it’ll require a little patience on your part.
Step 8: Separate your Cutting and Pot It Up
After a few months, you should be able to see the roots growing through the moss inside of the plastic wrap. At this point, you can cut the cutting off of the parent plant and pot it up. This actually has two benefits:
- You’ve propagated a whole new plant!
- The stem on your original plant should grow a new branch (or maybe even two) and your parent plant will get more full.
I will update this blog post later on with what the rest of the process looks like after the cutting has rooted.
So try it out! What plants do you have that you would like to try air layering? Comment below!