Air-Layering Technique with Plain Water - Part 2

(This is the continuation from Part 1)

With the bottle now covered and secured, water and fertilize the plant as usual. Occasionally check the inside for water. Fill it up if the water level falls below 1 inch. Water loss may occur due to evaporation or spill-out when the plant branch is disturbed.

Wait until the roots will form.

Procedure Once the Roots Emerge

  1. After 30 days, remove the foil cover of the bottle to peer on the inside of the plastic bottle. If the water in the bottle isn't to cloudy, you could actually notice some of the roots.

  2. You should be seeing some roots that have grown in the strip of branch in the water. In some cases, there would be white nubs that will also eventually become roots. The longer you wait (more than 30 days), the more and longer roots that will develop.

  3. You may also find green algae that may have formed inside the plastic bottle, typically at the bottom. This is normal and you may ignore this as it is harmless to the root formation.

  4. Untie the thin wire or twist tie that secures the bottle to the branch. Carefully lower the bottle without disturbing the new roots as much as possible.

  5. Thereafter, you'll see the new roots that have grown on the strip of branch. Discard the plastic bottle and its contents. Or you may use the water in the bottle to water the seedling afterwards.

  6. Now, it's time to separate the rooted branch from the main branch of the plant. From the top of the rooted branch, locate the part of the main branch that splits from the rooted branch. That is where you'd like to cut.

    Be sure to cut anywhere on the branch that is on the cut or below it. Avoid disturbing the new roots.

  7. After detaching the rooted branch, prune excess foliage with a pair of pruning shears. There should be a balance between the roots and the foliage that it can support.

    The new roots need to adjust in supporting the entire branch (now the seedling). By removing the top leaves and small branches, there is less transpiration or loss of water. This increases the chance of the seedling to survive.

  8. Prepare a seedling bag or pot with soil. Dig a hole with your thumb and gently place the roots of the plant into the hole.

  9. Keeping the seedling upright, carefully replace the soil and gently tamp on the soil with your finger.

    Water the plant well, or soak the seedling bag with the seedling in a tray of water. Thereafter, move the seedling in the shade for two weeks.

    After that, move the seedling in filtered light and keep it there for two weeks more. Filtered light is an area where there's dappled sunlight.

    Then, if the seedling is healthy enough, move it to full sunlight. This process of gradually moving the seedling to progressive sunlight is called hardening.

  10. After the total of 60 days (shade, filtered light and sunlight), you should have a healthy thriving plant as shown below.

    There should be some new growth with the seedling. New leaves and even branches indicate that the plant is now stable and well-established.

  11. After 60 days, or two months, the plant will be robust and healthy.

Difference between the Traditional and Air-Layering with Water

Air-Layering with water seems to take a little longer than the usual air-layering with soil or other medium. However, the chances of the plant surviving and becoming stable in the long run are much higher.

I was actually amazed that the rooted branch only showed a few roots, although one was about 2-inches long. Still, with that little amount of roots, I was skeptical that it would even survive.

I wasn't even hopeful since this was my first time to do this technique. I treated this project more like an experiment and just see how it will go.

Other Bougainvillea types that I have air-layered successfully with water are the Goldy and the Tri-color as shown below. Here, you will note that the roots are longer and more numerous.

Another plant that I was able to air-layer with just plain water is a Hibiscus (Gumamela) shown below:

Again, my observation is consistent. The rooting takes a little longer, but the resulting seedling has a higher survival rate.

Video Tutorial

Lastly, here's the video tutorial for this article. Enjoy!

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