GARDENERS FACTSHEET NO. 13
PROPAGATION OF FRUIT AND ORNAMENTAL
PLANTS BY LAYERING
Extension Agent -Horticulture
Layering is a method of vegetative propagation by
which a good stem is induced to produce roots while it is
still attached to the parent plant. In this manner a new
plant usually can be developed in a relatively short time
and with less trouble than other methods of propagation. It
can be used successfully on many fruit trees and woody
ornamental shrubs grown in the Virgin Islands.
Best results are obtained when young, vigorously
growing healthy branches are selected for layering. The
leaves on selected branches should be exposed to light
since these produce more food and will root faster.
Branches from 1/4 to 3/4 inch in diameter are best for air
layering. Materials needed are a sharp knife, two handful
of damp sphagnum moss, a 6 x 8 inch sheet of
polyethylene film, rubber bands or pieces of twine, and a 6
x 8 inch sheet of either craft paper, cloth or aluminum foil.
The first step is to remove leaves and twigs on the
selected branch 3-4 inches above and below the point
where the cut is to be made. Next, injure the branch with
a knife and wrap it in a warm moist medium. This
stimulates the formation of new roots from the injured
Two methods of injuring the branch can be
employed and both produce satisfactory results. One
method consists of removing a /2-1 inch ring of bark from
Step 1. Remove V2-1 inch bark or make a slanting
the branch by making two circular cuts. After removing
the bark, expose the wood to be sure that the cambium
layer, (a light green area immediately beneath the bark) is
completely removed. This will prevent the bark formation
and allow roots to be initiated. For the second method, a
long slanting upward cut is made about '/4-'/ inch through
the stem and the incision is kept open by inserting a small
chip of wood. The upward cut method is used on plants
where the bark does not peel off easily. Dusting the
wound with a rooting hormone may hasten rooting on
some hard-to-root materials but does not produce more or
healthier roots than an untreated cut.
After removing the bark or making the cut, enclose
the injured area in a ball of moist sphagnum moss as soon
as possible, making sure to squeeze out excess moisture
before applying it to the cut surface. The ball should be
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layer is exposed to direct sunlight wrap it again with craft
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Step 2. Enclose wound with moist sphagnum moss..
paper, cloth or aluminum foil to prevent drying.
weeks to several months depending on the plant type and
vigor) the layer can be cut from the parent plant just below
the ball of moss.
The plastic covering should be removed before
planting, but the ball of moss should not be disturbed. It is
important that the roots be kept moist during the planting
operation. It is best for the new plant to develop a larger
root system before planting out in open areas. Potting is
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Step 4. The ends of the plastic tied firmly by rubber
suggested immediately after cutting the new plant from the
parent plant. The young potted plant should then be
hardened off for several weeks before setting out in full
sunshine. Hardening consists of a gradual reduction in
over a period of time.
over a period of time.
Step 3. Enclose ball of moss with 6 x 8" clear plastic.
and on the lateral branches are removed. The laterals are
pruned back to two or three buds. The limb is then placed
in a small trench and when the buds begin to grow, all but
the tip of the main limb and laterals are covered with about
4-6 inches of soil. Roots will form at each node and a new
plant will develop. Rooting can be hastened by making a
shallow cut below each bud. The length of time required
for rooting varies with the type of plant and moisture
conditions. As soon as the roots develop and the buds
begin to elongate, the layers can be separated from the
parent plant and potted. Passion fruit. barbadine
granadillaa), and jasmine can be layered by this method.
Step 6. Remove plastic film and plant in good potting
Plants commonly propagated by air layering include
the Rubber plant, Hibiscus, Calliandra, Oleander, Screw
Pine (Pandanus), Gardenia, Croton and Bougainvillea.
Many plants with drooping or viny growth habits can
be propagated by tip layering. A low branch or one that
can be bent easily to the ground is selected. It is injured
(or scored) either by ringing, or slicing a cut 6 to 18 inches
from the tip of the branch. The injured area is anchored in
the soil deep enough to remain moist but the leafy tip is left
above ground. To help keep the area moist, peat moss
may be added to the soil and used as a mulch. Climbing
roses, primrose, jasmine, oleander and bougainvillea can
be propagated by tip layering.
This method is an adaptation of tip layering and
produces several plants instead of one. A branch of
current seasons growth which can be easily bent to the
ground is chosen and all the leaves except those at the tip
This method is used to propagate many of the thick-
stemmed or closely-branched plants especially when it is
desirable to root all the branches. In cases where shrubs
Step 1. Cut back plant and mound loose
soil as shown.
have been severely cut back to the ground, mound layering
can also be used to propagate new plants. In general it is
best to cut the plant back severely during the previous
season to force new shoots close to the ground and in the
center of the plant. The shoots should first be injured, as in
The soil is then mounded up around the base of the
plant again and some peat sphagnum moss mixed in with
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Step 2. New shoots which appear are injured
as in tip layering
After rooting, branches can be separated as with
individual plants in tip layering, cut below root line and
either potted or transplanted. Plants commonly propagated
by this method include Aralia, Croton, Calliandra and
SERPENTINE (COMPOUND) LAYERING
This method is best adapted to ornamental vines and
plants with pliable stems. It is a variation of trench layering
in which alternate buds or nodes are buried and left above
ground. Any long stem close to the ground can be used.
Rooting is also aided by making shallow cuts below each
node that is buried. The covered portions can be held in
place bent wire or stones. Individual plants will then be
removed by cutting below the rooted area. Serpentine
layering is used in the propagation of plants such as
Grapes, Virginia Creeper and many other vines.
Step 3. Soil is mounded up at the base of the plant to
encourage development of roots.
Plants that can be propagated by Layering: