Air Layering Propagation Materials & Tips

This article is a continuation of a previous article on my Air Layering Kit. This gardening article discusses materials and other tools outside of the kit that you may need for inexpensive yet effective air layering on garden plants.

Air Layering, or what others call Marcotting, doesn't need expensive materials to be successful. This article discusses some readily available materials that are either cheap or free, depending on where you're located. It will also include a few tips on how these materials will be used in the air layering process.

  1. Coconut Dust or Coco Dust

    Essentially, coco dust is very fine shredded coconut husk. Others call it coco coir, but I suppose the difference is the fineness or granularity of the shredding. Coco dust is my choice for the basic component of the potting medium that is packed around the wound of the air layer. Sometimes I'd mix in some compost, but coco dust makes up the bulk.

    Other net sources heavily suggest sphagnum moss as the medium. I've not tried this sphagnum moss material simply because it isn't widely available hereabouts, as far as I know. If it was at all available, I'm guessing it's not cheap.

    Coco dust, on the other hand is quite cheap. I get a huge sack of coco dust for Php 45 (that's just around USD 1) and it goes a long way for many of my gardening needs. Coco dust is efficient for water retention. It is loose, which prevents compaction of the developing air layered roots.

  2. Coconut Husk

    This I get for free. I live near a market where coconut shells with meat and water still inside are sold. Grated coconut is also sold in these stalls. The coconut husk is a refuse in this business. I see plenty of it everywhere and just ask from the vendor. Here's a bag of pieces of coconut husk I got for free.

    With a pruning shear, I cut the thin pieces of the coconut husk about 2 inches square and pre-soak them in water. After a few minutes, the coconut husk becomes softer and swells a bit. It then becomes easier to pull the fibers apart and expand the coconut husk as shown below.

    Notice the moist coconut husk above becomes a webbing-like material when pulled apart. This material is able to hold the potting medium (coco dust) together while you pack the coco dust around the air layering wound.

    Hold the coconut husk spread out with the left hand and the ball of coco dust with the right hand.

    Insert the ball of coco dust inside the coconut husk "bun". (like making a sandwich)

    The webbing-like coconut husk holds the ball of coco dust in place so you can pack it around the air-layer wound without much spillage. There are other advantages for using coconut husk for air-layering. The plastic sheet will hold the coconut husk holding the coco dust in place.

  3. Pruning Shears
    A pair of garden pruning shears will be useful for the following purposes in air layering:
    • Cut away leaves and twigs to clear the air-layering area.
    • Cut small pieces of coconut husk into useable sizes for air layering.
    • Harvest the air-layered branches that have rooted.

  4. Basin with Water

    A small basin or tray of water will allow you to:
    • Pre-soak the pieces of coconut husk so they become soft, swell and easy to expand.

    • Moisten the coco dust, held together by the husk, by dipping it.

  5. High Stool

    If the air-layering acivity becomes too involved, then a high stool to set a potted plant is helpful. This is especially if you're doing multiple air-layers per garden plant. Shown below is the top view of a potted garden plant I'm air layering. The potted garden plant is set on top of a blue plastic high stool.

    The nice thing about this high stool is I can work sitting down (on another lower stool or chair) or standing up. I have the option of working by moving around the plant or turning the potted garden plant so I can work on other parts of the foliage.

  6. Seedling Bags

    I was lucky to find bundles of seedling bags in the house we rented (probably left by a previous tenant). These are the 3" by 5" black seedling bags which are perfect for planting air-layered cuttings.  Notice the still folded black seedling bags on the ground.

    Alternately, I've used discarded coffee, cream, juice foil packs and even small plastic bottles. They work perfectly fine for seedling bags as shown below .

Other articles in this series:

Go ahead, post your comment below!

butts said...

sphagnum is a very widely distributed moss. there is no reason to pay for it; unless you live in a desert, you can just go pick some up off the ground.