Air Layering the Easy Way

Marcotting Citrus Trees

Air Layering the Easy Way

What is air layering?

Air layering is the method of propagating a mature plant in order to create a new plant. The new plant forms roots above ground until it is stable enough to be cut from the mother plant. It is then grown independently. Reasons for air layering may include size reduction or increase in crop. It is also a fun project for garden hobbyists.

Not Enough Hands

Over the years I have been developing my method of air layering, also known as marcotting. I found the conventional methods of propagation quite tricky and it often seemed like I needed an extra pair of hands. Trying to hold the soil and plastic whilst tying the string around the branch was often quite stressful and time-consuming. After many attempts, I found the soil falling out or the plastic bag slipping open which resulted in the soil medium drying out. I tried many different ideas and even thought about buying some of those fancy pop on propagators that you see on the internet. One day I was working on some clippings from my lime tree and I realized that the same method could be used to air layer with the addition of a few simple cable ties and a slight modification to the bag. This meant that I could simply fill a food bag with coconut coir or peat moss, cable tie the top, then make a slice down the bag and cable tie it to the desired branch.

air layer roots
First attempt using my new method.


Things you will need.

Firstly, choose a branch that is appropriate to make a cutting. A branch that is too old will look brown whilst a branch that is too young will be too bendy. Choose the branch that is green with lines down it.


air layering
Strip the leaves from the area that you want to marcot. Cut around the branch making sure you don’t cut the wood and only the bark. Cut a band away around 1 inch long.


air layering
Scrape the branch in a downwards motion using the edge of the knife. Make sure you go all the way around the branch.


air layering
Leave the excess on the tree and don’t touch the branch with your fingers.


air layering
Fill the food bag with the coconut coir then add water. Close the top of the bag with a small cable tie.


air layering
Make a slice down the middle of the bag and use your thumbs to make an indent.


air layering
Wrap the bag around the desired area and secure tightly with two cable ties. The cable ties should be tight enough that the bag does not slide. Some water will seep out at this point but don’t worry there will be enough locked inside.


air layering
Make sure that the cable ties are tight enough that the bag can’t be twisted too easily. Now wait between 26 and 36 days.


air layering
A good sign that it is working is the new growth under the propagated area.


air layering
The first sign of roots forming. At this point it is a good idea to check the moisture of the coconut coir. If it is starting to dry out just make a small hole and inject water into it with a spray bottle. Check the bag every few days adding water when needed.


air layering
Once the propagated area has a sufficient amount of roots and they have turned slightly yellow, the new plant can be cut from the tree. Try to make a clean cut and resort from using a saw as it may leave damage to the mother plant and the new cutting. Remove the food bag and soak in water for five minutes.


air layering
Now the cutting is ready to pot.


air layering
Strip away any excess leaves from the bottom of the stems to help the cutting with the shock of being taken from the mother plant.

Additional Tips

  • Make sure to sterilize your grafting knife to prevent the plant from diseases when you make the cut.
  • Try not to touch the branch with your fingers when you scrape away the bark.
  • Make sure that the bag is attached tight enough that it is difficult to spin round.
  • Only make the cut into the outer bark and no the actual branch.
  • When scraping do it all in the same direction.
  • Rooting hormones are optional but this method can be achieved without them.
  • Observe the bag occasionally to check it hasn’t dried out.

Which plants can be air layered?

For the most part, I have used this method for citrus trees and it has been very effective. There are a number of other woody trees that can be air layered. For example;

  • Roses
  • Apple
  • Magnolia
  • Holly
  • Boxwood
  • Honeysuckle

and many many more…


  • Johan Hendrik says:

    I am in the process of trying this method as it seems a lot easier than my conventional cutting method and hopefully will increase my success rate.

  • Probably better known as air layering. Can be used with most woody plants and many house plants. Works very well with ficus elastica and monstera deliciosa.


    Will a new plant start from this bag or do you cut the entire stem off once the roots have formed?

    • Once the roots have formed the stem is cut from the mother tree and planted on its own.

  • Teremoana says:

    Thank you-awesome method will use it, simple!