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Air Layering Fruit Trees | Clone a fruit tree by Air Layering method

What is Air Layering?

Air Layering is a method used to produce genetically identical copies of a plant, by rooting a young branch of a mother plant. This method of cloning plants is an alternative to rooting cuttings and it’s essentially foolproof.

Since the development of roots happens while the air layer remains attached to the parent plant. Main Steps in Air Layering a Plant

Main Steps in Air Layering a Plant

Removing the bark

Air Layering

Start by selecting a well-placed young branch, one or 2 years old, and make a circular cut just below a leaf node. The idea is to remove a full circle of bark below the leaf node as these areas usually have undifferentiated cells that can turn into root cells with the right incentive.

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In most areas the best season for air layering is the spring or when the plants are actively growing since the bark will be easier to remove when the sap is flowing.

Without the phloem layer, which is removed with the bark, the sugar energy produced in the leaves of the air-layered branch can’t travel to the lower storage areas of the plant. Instead, that energy will be used for root development, near the leaf node.

Scrapping the cambium layer

Air Layering Fruit Trees

The cambium layer After removing the bark make sure to scrape the cambium layer – which is located just beneath the peeled bark. If you don’t remove the cambium, the plant will try to regrow the removed vascular tissue – the phloem layer.

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If the plant is successful in restoring the phloem, the sugars produced in the upper leaves of the air-layered branch will go straight down to be stored and will not be used for root development.

Placing the rooting medium

Air Layering

The third step is placing a moist rooting medium around the leaf node, so the roots can develop. You can also use a plastic bag or aluminum foil to hold the rooting medium.

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I usually use a light potting mix slightly damp. If you use a transparent container, it’s easier to check for root growth, but you will have to cover it with something opaque so light won’t disturb the growing roots.

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Preserving the rooting medium moisture

Preserving the rooting medium moisture

Air Layering Fruit Trees

Be sure to wrap the container with kitchen film to preserve moisture. This will make sure the medium doesn’t dry out before the roots have a chance to develop.

Preserving the rooting medium moisture

Removing and planting the air layers

CLONE a FRUIT TREE the EASY WAY Air Layering Fruit Trees 5 47 screenshot

When the roots are fully developed the air layer layer can be cut and separated from the mother plant. If the air layers are cut and planted in late winter, this will provide time for the new plant to adjust as the new leaves start to grow.

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CLONE a FRUIT TREE the EASY WAY Air Layering Fruit Trees 6 51 screenshot

Even then it’s always a good idea to prune most of the branches as the new roots have to grow and adjust on their own, without the help of the mother plant.

When removing the air layer in the spring or summer, be sure to cut most of the branches and leaves or the small rooting system might not be able to sustain them, and the new plant might dry out and die.

CLONE a FRUIT TREE the EASY WAY Air Layering Fruit Trees 8 1 screenshot

Pre-rooting Applying a piece of aluminium foil to the stem will block the light and will concentrate humidity in that area. After a few weeks or a few months, depending on plant type and time of year, the stem will start to develop root bumps on the covered area.

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These root bumps might even develop into roots if the level of humidity is high enough. This simple method can be used to check if a plant type is a good candidate for air layering and to avoid the use of rooting hormones.

Pre-rooting cuttings are another good use of this method since the cuttings will already have a few roots or root bumps before they are cut. You can use the same method of air layer

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