You can make clones of many favorite plants for free with layering. Layering is a form of vegetative propagation.
Unlike other vegetative propagation methods, such as cuttings and division, layering allows the parent plant to continue providing water and nutrients to their offspring as they develop their own root system. This is because they are still attached!
Strawberry runners are an example of natural propagation by layering. The parent plant sends out runners. Where the nodes touch soil, adventitious roots emerge and a new root system begins to develop. As it does, the parent plant continues to support this newly developing clone. Once the offspring are self-sufficient, the runner stem eventually dries up and falls away. Layering uses the same basic idea by pulling a stem downward until it touches the soil at what would have been a leaf node. Coming into contact with moist soil, the plant reprograms that node to become root tissue.
Many window sill gardens are populated with herbs, such as rosemary, sage, and lavender, that are easily propagated with layering. In some cases, plants are wounded on one side, to stimulate rooting. In other cases, the stem is bent sharply at the point where it touches the ground. The most critical point in layering is that the soil must be kept moist as the new roots grow. If the growing medium dries out, the process fails. In some cases, this process is complete within the first year. In other cases, it can can 3 or 4 years, so be patient. Some people use rooting hormones (auxins) to speed things up.
There are six different types of layering:
Air layering Air layering is used predominantly on thick-stemmed houseplants that have become leggy. It is also used to generate new trees and shrubs, including apple, blueberry, citrus, cashew, cherry, fig, kiwi, pear, pecan, and walnut. Stems are slit just below a node and the slit is pried open. The wound is then wrapped with wet, unmilled sphagnum moss and wrapped with plastic, which is tied in place. When new roots fill the moss, a cut is made below the root ball, separating it from the parent plant and replanted elsewhere.
Compound (serpentine) layering Compound layering is best suited to plants with flexible stems, such as pothos. Stems are bent into rooting medium in a serpentine arrangement that allows several nodes to begin developing their own root system. Again, some people wound the area that ends up below ground to stimulate rooting.
Mound (stool) layering Mound layering, also called stool layering, is used primarily on woody plants to stimulate rooting of new shoots. During the dormant season, the plant is cut back to one inch above ground level. Soil is then mounded over the new shoots as they emerge in spring. This method is best suited for apple and plum rootstocks, and gooseberries.
Simple layering Simple layering consists of bending a stem down to the ground and covering it with soil, leaving the last 6 to 12 inches exposed. This tip is bent into a vertical position and staked in place. Wounding the area that ends up underground can stimulate rooting. This method is best suited for hazelnuts, forsythia, and honeysuckle.
Tip layering Tip layering is a method commonly used on cane fruit, such as blackberries and raspberries. Tip layering consists of digging a small hole, a few inches deep, and putting the tip of a cane into the hole and covering it with soil. At first, the tip will grow downward. Then, it will complete a U-turn in the soil and emerge aboveground. That bend will develop roots, allowing the new plant to be separated from the parent plant in spring and replanted elsewhere.
Trench (etiolation) layering Trench layering, or etiolation layering, is generally used to create fruit tree rootstock and grape vines. In this method, parent plants are planted at a 30 to 40° angle. As new shoots emerge, they are pulled down into shallow trenches, pegged in place, and covered with soil until new roots emerge.
Layering is an easy way to make new plants out of existing favorites, without spending any money!
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