Air layering

Will an air-layered cutting be truer to the mother than one that is cut and rooted separately from the plant?

GWS,
Omaha, Nebraska

Most of the time the method used to make clones is to cut a branch tip and then root it. Another vegetative method is called air layering. The advantage to air layering is that the clone grows roots while it is still on the plant, so it doesn’t undergo as much trauma as an unrooted cutting.

During the chaos of the cut, unrooted cuttings occasionally produce a mutation. An air layered clone is more likely to stay true to the mother. However, the overwhelming majority of clones from unrooted cuttings also stay true.

An air-rooted clone is only removed from the plant after it has grown roots, so it adjusts more easily and experiences less stress when planted on its own.

To make an air-root cutting, a branch is chosen for cloning. While the branch is still on the plant, select an inch-wide space where roots will grow. It should contain a node. Paint it with a rooting gel then cover it with a quarter-inch layer of moistened sphagnum moss. Seal the sphagnum moss using plastic wrap and close the ends using tape so the area stays moist. Roots should appear in 10 to 20 days. Then clip the rooted cutting from the plant and pot it.

Readers with grow questions (or answers) should send them to Ed at: Ask Ed, PMB 147, 530 Divisadero St., San Francisco, California 94117, USA

You can also email Ed at [email protected], and send queries via his websites at www.ask-ed.net.

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