Ground-Air Layering Revisited
Mark Konrad, M.D., Sewickley, PA
Occasionally, we must reach into the closet to get an old hat, either because it is comfortable or because it suits our mood. In this case, I would like to add a new wrinkle to a time-honored fashion.
Essentially, this method of layering involves placing a terminal shoot into a ground-level pot which has been prepared with a single vertical slit nearly to the bottom. Tin snips are ideal for this procedure with the use of plastic pots which are both firm yet soft. At the base of the slit, an additional triangular opening is made which allows the branch to fit through (See Figure 1).
A lengthy wound is made on both sides of the shoot with a porous soil mix being recommended. A rooting hormone may or may not be beneficial. The pots can be placed on other upside down pots if the branches are some distance above ground level (See Figure 2).
Layering can be started when the wood has reached early maturity. Watering during dry periods might be helpful to achieve early callousing.
The time of severance should be considered the most important factor. I believe the best time to be just before new growth occurs in late spring. The removal of flower buds and the reduction of leaf substance by one half may enhance the process.
At this point it would be advisable to transfer the potted layers to a cold frame or greenhouse where extra humidity can be maintained at least for a short time until early rooting is initiated.
Hopefully, rooting will take place in one year. The method has been proven successful over a two year period.
The advantages are economy and convenience. It may be particularly helpful to the breeder squeezed between the need for flower buds and the limited amount of cutting wood on young plants. Furthermore, a few extra plants could also help protect his creations.
Before you reach for the hat, let me tell you there are no tricks to the method — just style.