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  • Airlayering Questions - What works best for you?

    Ive done searching on this forum as well as the other forum and watched a bunch of videos on youtube as well as have gotten some advice from some brilliant foreign figgers... I still do have some questions though because everyone seems to have their own ways of doing it and a lot of it is contradictory. Im incredibly impatient so my goal is just to figure out what makes the most sense and what will produce the most roots in the shortest amount of time. Easy enough right?

    Here is the contradictory info im looking for your thoughts on:
    Girdle the tree / dont girdle the tree
    If Girdling: Remove the Bark only but leave the cambium / remove the bark and cambium down to the sap wood
    Put tinfoil on the outside to reflect sun and heat / no need to reflect sun and heat
    Clear plastic container or bag / opaque container (I assume white vs black)
    Use rooting hormone / do not use any rooting hormone

    These are my 2 add on questions:
    How much branch should you leave out the top of your airlayer, assuming 2-2.5 month growth before you pull it?
    Do you need to check the airlayer every few weeks or a month or would you just come back a couple months later?

    I plan on doing some airlayering on trees with land owner permission and I dont want to go back all that often if I dont need to, just dont want to bug the landowner if its not necessary.

    Just for a visual representation of what I was talking about. I tried airlayering a small branch and I was unable to girdle the bark only without removing the cambium. So thats part of where my questions are coming from.

    Bonus points if someone can tell me biologically how it all works. Obviously girdling inturrupts the flow making the branch assume its been cut so it pushes roots but is it still getting nutrient / water from the trees roots through the sapwood (if the cambium is girdled) or is it relying purely on nutrients and moisture in the soil / taken in from the leaves.

    Thanks guys! Im one of those pains that likes to understand everything before I go doing it. Ive searched forums for the last 45 mins and just havent really found what im looking for thread wise yet.

    Attached Files
    Last edited by LouNeo; 04-14-2016, 12:47 AM.
    2021: The year of figs and a new love of Citrus thanks to http://www.madisoncitrusnursery.com

  • #2
    The only thing I could do is tell you what I have done and it has worked 80% of the time. I don't gridle the tree or use rooting hormone. If you wanted to it would not hurt nothing. The trees I have air layered made roots fine without it. You will need to check it every week or so just to water in your air layer container to keep it wet so the roots don't dry out. Then when you get good roots the tree will have grown alot. So cut it back and leave two or three buds. Then you can give it a week or so to let the buds swell up some then cut it from its mother and repot. You can use the soft water bottles works good or a plastic bag with string. The bottle I like best cause its easy to water real quick and move on to the next tree. I think you could try a few different methods then find out what works best for you.
    Last edited by Erick; 04-14-2016, 01:17 AM.
    Kentucky Zone 6b


    • #3
      I make 2 pencil tip size knick on area I am to AL opposite sides of trunk. Then brush on Rooting hormone and then put Saran plastic in my hand. Spray plastic with water mist then soil then light mist again and wrap tree and seal air tight. No need to dewater. Condensation will take place. Then wrap foil tight and wait. Only small knick tho no girdle. Because if AL fail you no hurt tree. Wait till roots packed. Snip off and repot. If you have roots like in photo they will no drop off or wilt. More root better before sever. Keep plant in direct sun so heats foil.

      Proof is in photo
      Attached Files
      Last edited by Taverna78; 04-14-2016, 08:06 AM.
      Zone 5 Chicago IL Wish list:
      1) Rest peacfully Amico Bello Buddy πŸ‘ΌπŸΌ.
      2) This weeks ebay auctions.


      • #4
        I have done air layers by both girdling and not girdling and I didn't notice a difference when they were detached from the original plant.

        One thing I heard from a veteran member (Wills, Hershell or Pete) was that if you do not girdle and decide to not take the air layer, it has less of an impact on the tree. You can just remove soil/moss/coco coir and let roots dry out.

        The air layers I will be starting in a week or two will be of the non-girdling type.

        Good Luck with whatever you decide to do.
        Kevin (Eastern MA - Zone 5b/6a)


        • #5
          Lou - check out some of tom's videos on youtube. He has done many air layers and usually girdles the bark and has great success. You can leave as much branch above the airlayer as you want, but its proportionate to the amount of roots that grow, so you dont want to remove a large airlayer with only a little bit of root forming. You can come back to your airlayer after a few months as long as it is open to get some water for the roots, after 2-3 months the container might be overwhelmed with roots though and starving for a larger container.

          May the Figs be with you!


          • #6
            If the trunk has lignified wood where you want to place the airlayer I would go ahead and girdle it maybe 3/4 of the way around. Some folks girdle all the way around and it sounds like that works too. However, I often like to make smaller airlayers where the wood is still green. In that case I don't girdle at all. Either way works but if you don't girdle it might take a bit a longer.
            D-i-c-k-e-r-s-o-n, MD; zone 7a
            WL: Nantes Maroc


            • #7
              The way I do air layers is probably not the way others do theirs. I take the minimal approach. No girdling, no hormones and give no attention to them once set.
              1. I put the layer as close to the growing tip as possible, just enough to attach the bottle, plastic bag or whatever I'm using at the time. (Preference is water bottles)
              2. Depending on how close the leaves are I remove one or two where the growing medium will be for roots and enough to fit the bottle on trying to leave a leaf at the bottom of bottle for support.
              3. When using a bottle I fill it with very moist potting soil.
              When using a plastic bag I use either a rooting cube or sphagnum moss.
              4. To seal any opening when using bottles I wrap a piece of plastic covering the whole bottle and use twist ties at both ends but not tying them just wrapping them around the branch allowing for any branch growth.
              5. Double check to make sure soil didn't dry while setting it up and all openings are sealed then cover with foil so sun doesn't bake any roots forming.
              6. Check in 3 weeks or so. Usually by the fourth week there are roots showing. I'll leave on for another week then cut and pot it up leaving it in the shade and gradually introduce it back to full sun.
              Out of 12 air layers that I did last year 11 took. I'm sure results will differ depending on variety, weather and location.
              Wishlist; Green Michurinska, St. Rita
              Sarver, PA Zone 6A.


              • #8
                The reason there are different instructions is because both ways work. But only 1 may work for you so you're just have to try them and see.
                Bob C. KC, MO Zone 6a. Wanted: Martineca Rimada, Galicia Negra, Fioroni Ruvo, De La Reina - Pons, Tauro, BFF, Sefrawi, Sbayi, Mavra Sika , Fillaciano Bianco, Corynth, Souadi, Acciano Purple, LSU Tiger, LSU Red, Cajun Gold, BB-10 any great tasting fig


                • #9
                  Thanks everyone for sharing what had worked for you. Harborseal, you are right, I will try a couple ways. Was just hoping to skip trial and error and get straight to efficiency

                  Those of you that girdle, do you cut away the cambium down to the Sapwood or leave that green layer intact.
                  2021: The year of figs and a new love of Citrus thanks to http://www.madisoncitrusnursery.com


                  • #10
                    My personal preference is root riot cubes, to me they are the quickest,and easiest. Some times I lightly score the branch and then I put a little clonex. I've separated many air layers just after two weeks or so. Also I can be a little impatient and I've separated a number of air layers with just a few little roots showing that turned out just fine, as long as I let them recoupe in the shade a few days. I know most people like to leave them till they have plenty of roots.
                    You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 2 photos.
                    Ryan- CenLa, zone 8a/b


                    • #11
                      My best has been;
                      Remove bark with cambium layer.
                      Opaque container or shaded under canopy (from sun/heat)
                      Rooting Hormone

                      As much branch above the air layer as you like for a larger caliper tree,see attached photo..
                      Large plastic jugs (gallon) if properly sealed and moistened need to be checked after about 3 - 4 weeks.

                      The outer layers (under the bark) transport Hormones, Auxins/down and Cytokines/up the branch or main stem. The Cambium layer cells "Callus" and differentiate to form roots or branches. The cambium layer on the upper part of the girdle forms roots for the air layer. Without girdling younger branches with thin bark will root sooner than un-girdled thicker lignified branches. Good luck.
                      You may only view thumbnails in this gallery. This gallery has 1 photos.
                      Pete R - Hudson Valley, NY - zone 5b


                      • #12
                        I'm liking air layering with gallon pots on ground level laterals and/or suckers . I just cut the side of the pot, wrap it around the limb and tape it back, then fill with media and water when I water the rest of them, about every three days being it was hot. I did this in mid August last year and left them on until dormant. Remove and store for winter. They take off growing in Spring like nothing happened. All fifty or so I did this with last year are now growing, even after losing their leaves and some tips in a freeze a few weeks ago. I didn't use all gallon pots but the ones I did are bigger. I did transplant the ones done with cups and bowls to gallons when set into the garage for Winter.

                        Didn't girdle any or use hormones. Most were done with a media of 50/50 kitty litter and compost. Some just compost. Can't really tell any difference.


                        • #13
                          I never girdle at all, ever, or hormone and still get 98% to root. A few tips:

                          make the airlayer wrap as water tight as possible top and bottom. You don't want extra water getting in and you sure don't want water to get in with no way out.

                          Make the soil moist but not too moist, excess soil moisture can cause slow or no root formation (no clue why)

                          Make the soil around the stem is TIGHT. Adding twine around the plastic or around the foil and cinching it tight helps a LOT.

                          Don't be in a hurry to remove it, if you remove the airlayer and open the plastic up and any soil falls out you should have waited a bit longer.

                          When you do remove the layer make sure it is not too much top for the bottom so container/bag size is very important, I use about 30 ounces of soil per layer. If the top is too big for the roots it will wilt and sulk, if roots outweigh the top the plant will take off right away when potted.

                          Be careful what you use to secure the top and bottom of the airlayer. If you use something that is too strong to stretch and gets too tight it will self girdle the stem as the plant grows. If the bottom girdles due to the wrap it can and will tell you when it is ready to remove as the branch will snap off where you tied it, no big deal if you see it soon after it happens. If the top is too tight it will snap there and that sucks. (don't ask how I know this one).

                          Cutting sales have ended for the season. Plant sales will start March 1 at 8 eastern time. If it is still too cold in your area I can hold your plants till a date of your choosing.


                          • #14
                            Girdling traps rooting hormones (auxins) (generated in the growing buds) above the girdle, rather than letting them flow down to the roots. Girdling speeds rooting, but commits you to layering off the branch, and physically weakens the stem. I've had them break from weight of wet media, wind, and clumsy handling by yours truly. Too much moisrure at the girdle point can also lead to stem rot. It also appears to interfere with sugar transport, so the roots on a given stem will depend on only the leaves above the girdle point for energy to grow. If the plant has lush growth on other branches and anemic growth on the branch you wabt to layer, you're out of luck.

                            For these reasons, I generally prefer not to girdle. I make long vertical scratches in lignified bark, just deep enough to expose the cambium. I paint them with .3% IBA. I get long lines of roots on the scratches similar in appearance to a bottle brush in 3 or 4 weeks. I use a coffee cup sized to the amount of leaf and stem above the air layer. 50% cocopeat and 50% peat moss with a few grains of osmocote is the medium I use. I seal the top of the cups with aluminum gutter tape. I used to wrap the cups in foil but that makes it difficult to check progress, so I will switch to making skirts of black PVC plastic to shield roots from solar heating while allowing occasional peeking.


                            • LouNeo
                              LouNeo commented
                              Editing a comment
                              That all makes a lot of sense too. As usual, I think the plants will to to survive is in my favor so now it's just a matter of trying it. My only question is, using black pvc seems like the opposite of what you'd want to do in order to keep solar heating off the roit's. The black will heat soak and stay hot even longer. Wouldnt white pvc be a better option?

                          • #15
                            As a loose skirt it will get hot but the air underneath will not be trapped so the cup will stay cool. I use electrical tape to hold things together as it's stretchy, relatively water proof, and comes off cleanly. But dont stick it directly on bark. It can peel the bark off if you try to remove it.


                            • #16
                              Had a little "Airlayering ADHD" The trees I put in the ground the other day from local box stores were all compact at the top, 8 upright branches going into a 1 sqft space and then a couple others had branches pretty much at ground level so I airlayered the heck out of em today. Some were Rooting cubes, some where bags with my favorite mix, some were girdled, some were scraped, some were nothing. These are pretty common varieties so its really just for testing so we will see how it goes. I didnt use any hormone however so we will see how things go. Thanks again everyone for all the great advice and information.
                              2021: The year of figs and a new love of Citrus thanks to http://www.madisoncitrusnursery.com


                              • #17
                                For a airlayer we remove the bark around the stem.
                                how is possible the tree stay alive when u remove the bark?
                                Growing: Brown Turkey, Ronde de Bordeaux, Hardy Chicago, Dottato, Michurinska-10.
                                Wish list: Yellow long Neck, Smith, Sao Miguel Roxo and cornel littman black cross
                                Netherlands zone 7B/8A?


                                • DrDraconian
                                  DrDraconian commented
                                  Editing a comment
                                  When you girdle a branch, long term the branch will not survive if the air layer doesn't take. That's one of the reasons why some people prefer not to remove the bark. If the air layer does take, it means new roots have grown above the girdle, so the wood below is either cut off or will die on its own, and the new roots end up supporting the new tree when it is transplanted. In the short term, the air layered branch is supported by the sugars created in the leaves above the air layer and the moisture that is transmitted up from the roots of the mother tree by the sapwood.

                              • #18
                                We all have a preference.
                                Personally, I do girdle the branch and I try to make sure the top of the bag is just above the girdle line forcing the roots to grow downward. I also try to bury it airlayer as deep as possible when it time to cut and pot. One other thing, I try to keep a round shape.
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