Working on Air Layers

I have spent some time this week working on trees that were either air layered in the recent years or required to be air layered to improve he trunk line or the nebari.


I have had mixed success with this procedure in the past. Most of my failures were due to poor technique, a lack of experience or my own impatience. I have decided that this year I will attempt  a lot of air layers to improve my technique and increase my knowledge and experience on a wider range of species.

This little hawthorn, which didn’t have many roots when it was separated last year is looking very strong at the moment. Planting it deep in a clay training pot appears to have paid off with lots of new top growth. I will leave it in this pot for another year and take a look at the roots again next year. The post covering the separation can be viewed here .


The first to get my attention this year is this Japanese larch. When I was styling this tree over the winter, it struck me that the top could make a nice semi-cascade if the straight lower trunk could be removed. Larch are reputed to be difficult to air layer but not impossible. This is good material to experiment with. If I do nothing to this tree, it will probably never make a good bonsai but success with the air layer could improve its’ potential immensely.


In the next picture a ring of bark has been removed at the point where I would like the new roots to grow.


In the next picture, the wound is covered by a thick layer of sphagnum moss, which is held in place with bubble wrap and aluminium wire.


The next one to receive my attention was this little cotoneaster. It has similar problems to the larch. The lower trunk is very straight and has no taper. Air layering this tree could provide me with 2 better pieces of material to work on in the future.


And finally, for today, I thought I would give you an update on an air layer started last year and separated from the old rootstock today. It’s an Acer Shirasawanum Aurem. This is how it looked in the late summer of last year. It went into autumn colour very early and it was suggested that this might be related to the fact that it had air layering work done on it earlier in the year.45

It had produced roots by last autumn but I decided to wait until this spring before separating it.

This is how the new roots are looking at the moment.


It was sawn off just below the new rootball and tied into a deep pot without further disturbance of the roots. The rootball was covered in a loose mix of clay particles, ezo grit and akadama.


I gave it a good watering and it will be kept in a shaded corner of the greenhouse until it’s in full leaf.





8 thoughts on “Working on Air Layers

  1. Thank you Robert. Best of luck with the airlayers. When I do mine, I also put some rooting hormone on a damp tissue and then wrap it around the trunk…..belt and braces!! LoL! Bryan

    • Thanks Bryan, I’ve used rooting hormone in the past on air layers, didn’t notice much difference to my success rate with it. So trying without it at the moment. I may try it again later in the season

  2. I did my first air layers this year. I didn’t remove nearly the amount of bark as you did (specifically looking at the photo of the Japanese Larch). Once I made my initial cuts, I tried to let the tree tell me where the cambium layer was, not cutting too deep if I felt what I thought was too much resistance…. wondering if I’m going to be unsuccessful and need to go deeper next time. Thanks for the info on your process.

    • Hi Ben
      One of the problems that can occur if you don’t cut deep enough is that remnants of the cambium layer left in the gap can form a bridge and you may not get roots forming at that point

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