Layering is a useful method of plant propagation for those without fancy equipment or the space to set up a propagation system.
You use your garden and garden plants (perennials, vines, some shrubs, annuals) to produce more plants for you. All you need is the mother plant, a little patience and the following gardening tips.
- A sharp knife,
- a pair of hands and
- an old metal clothes hanger.
Layering — Step One
Identify a plant with a lower branch that is flexible enough to reach the ground without breaking. What you want to be able to do is gently bend the branch so that it touches the ground at least a few inches away from the main trunk. It shouldn’t be closer, it can be further away.
This is the branch that will become your new plant.
Layering — Step Two
Take a short length of coat hanger wire — about 6–8 inches should be long enough for most plants and bend it into a u-shape. Like a big rounded staple.
Remove the leaves or smaller branches from the main branch you’ve chosen where the branch will touch the ground. This distance should really be a minimum of six inches in length for a shrub and two-three inches for a perennial.
Pin the branch to the ground using the wire so that the section where you’ve removed the leaves is in contact with the ground.
Cover the bare section of the branch with soil. This soil should be mounded over the branch so that it is approximately one-inch deep on top of the branch.
Water and keep this area slightly damp. The wounds from the leaf or small branch removal will heal over and roots will begin to form from around the wounded area.
Layering — Step Seven
The tricky part is having the patience to allow the plant to root up in this manner. It isn’t a fast process and a wound in the spring or early summer will usually be rooted enough by late summer to divide off.
You do have to “gently” excavate around the branch to see if roots have formed. If no roots, then leave the plant as it is. If a good root development has taken place, you can remove the branch from the mother plant with a sharp pair of pruning shears.
Before I do this step, I usually spray antidesiccant all over the new plants leaves as there will be a major shock when it is cut away from a full food and water source to exist on its own small root system.
If you’re doing a shrub in this way, I would generally not do the division until after the leaves have well coloured up or started dropping — the plant has gone dormant — in the fall. The roots should be well-established by then and the plant will separate with a minimum of shock.
If you’re doing this with perennials, I’d do the separation in early September to give the young plant a chance to establish itself before frost and winter sets in.
Which plants does this work on?
Almost any plant that produces a branch or above ground offshoot can be propagated in this way.
The best way to find out is to try it.
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