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Air Layering In Bonsai (Ultimate Propagation Method)

Do you know air layering in the bonsai has been continuing for centuries in China and Japan?

Generally, you can propagate the bonsai through air layering by two methods including the tourniquet and ring method. It may take six weeks to two years based on the age, health, species, and other bonsai factors. 

If you want to learn more about the air layering in a bonsai tree, keep reading this article. 

Can You Air Layer a Bonsai Tree?

Air layering is a plant propagation method in which you need to create a wound or incision on the branch of the tree or shrub (host plant) and wrap the wound with damp and moss-like materials.

When the moss is covered under plastic or aluminium wrap, it helps create a humid environment that interrupts the flow of nutrients from the existing root system and encourages the growth of roots. 

Once the roots form, you can cut the newly rooted branch from the parent plant and plant and grow it as the independent plant. 

Air layering is used in big trees to bonsai trees. 

Air layering helps control the characteristics, including the trunk’s thickness, branch structure, and foliage density of the newly grown plants.

newly grown bonsai in container
The air layering in bonsai helps improve nebari, which is the root flare.

It is faster propagation than others, including seed germination or grafting. Also, this propagation method helps trees maintain their age for longer.

You need to start air-layering the bonsai trees during the spring season or the period after passing the winter rest. 

Air layering the bonsai can take from 6 to 12 weeks but also take as long as 2 years. You can uncover the plastic wrap from the branch when the roots develop big enough.  

How To Use Air Layering in Bonsai?

To start, you need to inspect the branch of the bonsai, verifying the age, species, health, size, and location. 

The branch should be one year old, thick enough to store nutrients, receive air circulation,  and be pests or disease-free. 

The next step would be making a clean cut on the branch. 

  • Take a sharp knife or tool and make a cut at a slight angle, approximately 1/4 to 1/2 inch above the leaf node.
  • Remove the bark and leaves from the cut area.
  • Apply the rooting hormone on the exposed cambium layer before wrapping it with moss.

When propagating bonsai through air layering, there are two primary techniques.

1. Tourniquet Method

In this method, you need to wrap tightly trunk or branch with copper wire. This helps block the flow of the nutrients slightly,

Once the trunk or branch develops thicker, the nutrient flow will be reduced, allowing it to develop new roots above the wive.

This method is a great fit for slow-growing trees, including Maples, Azaleas, Junipers, Pines, and Elms.

You can start with the following steps:

  • Wrap the piece of copper wire around the trunk or branch at the point where you wish it to develop new roots.
  • You need to cut the wire halfway into the bark. Remember, the thicker the trunk, the thicker the wrapping the wire needs to be.
  • Now spread the rooting hormone around the cut or wound and wrap the sphagnum moss around the wound, veiling it with some plastics.

2. Ring Method

In this method, you need to cut the ring of the bark at the point on the trunk or branch where you need to grow new roots.

The area above the ring grows roots instantly to survive. For this, the ring needs to be wide enough to reduce the tree to bridge the gap.

This method can be best for trees, including Maples, Ligusters, Junipers, Boxwoods and Azaleas.

Start this method with the following process:

  • Take a knife and cut two parallel slits around the rim of the trunk or branch, keeping once the diameter of the branch.
  • Peel the ring of bark between the cuts until the shiny hardwood reaches.
  • Ensure the branch is wide enough so the tree cannot bridge the wound. Also, you need to have removed the bark all through the hardwood.
  • Now spread the rooting hormone around the wound and wrap the sphagnum moss around the wound, veiling it with plastics completely.

Here is the air layering in bonsai YouTube video for your guidance. 

From Editorial Team

How to separate the air layer from the parent plant?

Once the new roots grow, release the plastic wrap, aluminium foil, and moss, and remember not to harm the roots. 

Now tease the roots and separate the newly rooted bonsai tree away from the parent plant by cutting closely at the base as much as possible.

Finally, you can plant and grow the newly grown bonsai tree in the bonsai soil in the container.