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Air Layering Chinese Elms by Ray Mackaway

Air Layering Chinese Elms

I have been growing some Chinese Elms for many years and have decided to work on them to make them suitable for bonsai. A number of them are suitable material to start shaping, but a number of them need reducing in height. Because of the age of these trees I didn’t want to lose the material, so I decided to air layer them. This is also a good way to get some more trees. (Hmmmm!! Do I really need more trees?) I layered the trees on 15 August 2010. I mention this to show how quickly they have grown. I will show some photos at the end of the article.
This tree has fabulous bark, but after the two bottom trunks the main trunk is a straight pole. I want to shorten the main trunk and the two smaller trunks.

The picture shows the tools I use for air layering. For the Elms I used the black handle knife. The knife must be very sharp.

You will notice the cut is fairly deep. You have to cut through to the hard wood.
I made two cuts around the branch making sure the edge of the cut is nice and clean. No jagged edges. The distance between the cuts should be about 1.5 times the diameter. I then made a slit from cut to cut and peeled off the bark.
Make sure your top cut is where you want the roots for the new tree. Don’t worry about the parent tree as you can cut it back to wherever you like after removing the new trees.

The next step is to paint the hormone around the top cut. This is where you want the new roots to grow. Don’t put hormone on the bottom cut.
NOTE: The hormone I use is made up of two hormones. Clonex Purple and Richgro Root Strike Hard Wood. I mix the Clonex and Richgro to form a paste. If you can get Clonex Red you can use it on its own. Soak some Sphagnum Moss in Seasol. Get a handful of Sphagnum and squeeze out some of the Seasol but don’t squeeze it all out. You need
the Sphagnum to be fairly wet.

Now wrap some plastic around the Sphagnum and tie off top and bottom. Make sure you have the plastic covering the Sphagnum and that the moisture will be prevented from draining out.

NOTE: The plastic I use is Glad Snap Lock bags. These bags are made of Polyethylene. This is the best plastic to use for Air Layering.

After you have layered cut the foliage back by a third to half. I now place the trees in a shaded area for two weeks. This will give some recovery time before placing them out in full sun.

This is what the tree looks like after 31 days. It has also had another hair cut in this time.

This photo shows how the roots have grown in 31 days.

Article used with permission from the author.

Editor’s Note: This propagation technique is suitable for many species of trees, not just Chinese Elm as shown.