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Air Layering - Root clones without cutting!

Discussion in 'Advanced Growing Techniques' started by zpyro, Apr 17, 2009.

  1. #1 zpyro, Apr 17, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2009
    Cloning cannabis is a method of asexual propagation. One plant can yield many separate plants, every one of them an exact genetic clone of the mother. This preserves the traits of the mother plant, allowing one to have a seemingly endless supply of quality genetics without having to worry about the crap shoot of growing from seed. Cloning can be as basic and simple as cutting off a branch and sticking it in some dirt, but there are other techniques one can use for those plants that prove more difficult to propagate. One such technique is called air layering.

    Known for centuries in China, air layering allows the branch being cloned to be supported by the existing root system of the mother plant. The leaves and stems continue to grow, receiving water and nutrients from the roots, and new roots are formed at the same time.

    To air-layer a clone:
    The branch to be cloned should be at least 1/8" thick. If the branch is too thin, it may not be able to hold itself up after doing this procedure.

    Pick an area directly below or around a node, same as if you were to clone normally. Remove the outer layer of tissue, the phloem, by either scraping it off or cutting it as follows:

    Make two cuts around the stem, just deep enough to cut through the outer layer. Cut too deeply and you will damage the inner xylem, disrupting water/nutrient flow to the leaves and possibly killing the branch. A sterilized scalpel or razor blade is used to make clean cuts. Connect the two cuts with a single vertical cut at the same depth. If done correctly, the phloem (bark) should simply peel off.

    The phloem can also simply be scraped off, but this method is more apt to cause damage to the xylem unless you know exactly how deeply to scrape.

    The inner xylem brings water and nutrients from the roots to the leaves. The outer phloem normally carries carbohydrates from the leaves to the roots. Between these layers is another thin layer called the cambium. It is from this layer that the new roots will grow. The wound site is covered in rooting hormone, and is wrapped in your choice of growing medium.

    In this case, rockwool cubes are used. Soil can also be used; simply wrap some plastic wrap around the wound site, making a round "pocket." Soil is packed into this pocket and taped closed. Small holes or slits are cut to allow the soil to be watered, and to allow airflow. If using rockwool, soak in 5.5 pH water prior to use. Cut the cube in half and just put the two halves together around the wound site. Secure with twist ties, string, etc.


    The biggest challenge to using this technique is keeping the medium moist. If it dries out, the sensitive tissues will die and you'll just end up with a dying/dead branch on your plant. After a couple of weeks, some roots should be growing from the wound site and the branch can be cut below the medium and transplanted.
  2. #2 zpyro, Apr 17, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2009
    This was my first attempt at air layering. I used the bag of soil method; I used twist ties, and tightened the top one too much, causing the pinch in the stem you see below.


    This clone has been transplanted into its own container of soil; I'll let you know if it lives. You'll notice the stem has thickened substantially above the wound site. This is caused by the accumulation of carbohydrates, which normally travel down the outer phloem after being manufactured by the leaves via photosynthesis.
  3. I'm also experimenting with a slightly different method of air layering, this time not up in the air. I chose the lowest branch on my GrandDaddy Purp clone and removed the phloem as described at the lowest node, just above the main stem. I then built up some soil and buried the wound and main stem. The branch should root just as the other branch did. The only drawback to doing this is that it may be difficult to remove the branch without damaging the new roots.

  4. Finally, I chose another branch higher up on the GDP, and pulled it down as close to the soil as I could. I then buried the branch, making sure a node was buried. I didn't cut anything on this branch, I simply applied rooting hormone and buried it. Another experiment, I'll report back in a few weeks whether these methods worked or not.

  5. Oh and here's a nice macro shot of the root hairs :D

  6. hi there i like the idea of what your doing. but is it not just easyer to cut them as usual. i dont see what you are acheveing by doing this ​

  7. As I said in the first post, this technique allows the clone to continue growing foliage while simultaneously growing roots, being supported by the root system of the mother plant. If you have a plant that is proving difficult to clone, air layering will help the clones root.

    When cloning the typical way, the clone has no root system at all. Roots work by maximizing surface area to absorb water and nutrients. When you cut a branch off to clone, you reduce the surface area from the massive amount of roots of the mother, to a very tine cross section of the cloned branch. This means the clone can only absorb a tiny amount of water compared to having roots. The foliage, meanwhile, still needs all of that water. Most people put the clones in humidity domes and cut off half of each leaf. This stunts the clone, slowing or stopping foliage growth until the clone has developed a root system to support itself.

    Plus, its just really fuckin cool to cut a clone off of a mother when it's already got roots :D if done properly the clone will be ready to transplant and continue growing like nothing happened :D
  8. its way easier to just cut it. this way is not a good technique from my stand point.
  9. #9 zpyro, Apr 17, 2009
    Last edited by a moderator: Apr 17, 2009
    well duh, of course it's easier to clone normally. ive already said this more than once. this is for HARD TO CLONE PLANTS. just cutting and sticking it in dirt works fine for some, but air layering has its own advantages. this technique is excellent for doing its intended purpose. this is why its posted in advanced growing and not in absolute beginners. any beginner can clone an easy to clone strain, but if your plant won't root by just sticking it in dirt/rockwool, this will give you roots AND clones that are fully developed (and much, much larger than you would achieve through standard cloning techniques)
  10. Shit, Good Info and Good pics.
  11. i might have a try at it. i think it will free me some space up. thanks
  12. Ive done this before but with a bananna plant. It was much easier to do on a large plant. Also to know we only worked on the bottom half of a branch and left the other half untouched.

    I would imagine that preforming this on a some what small mother would would be very time consuming and difficult. I dont think a noob should even think about trying this.

    We had great results doing this but the cuts were made by a very experienced horticulturist. And even with the teacher making the cuts like 10% - 15% did not root well.

    I must say though that after we cut the clone off the mother they did take off fast.But like I said it was a bannana plant.
    But if your looking for a time sink GL:smoke:
  13. ...which is why it isn't in the beginners section...
    Willyummyweed likes this.
  14. Fuck,thats cool man,clones are usually a bitch for me to root,plus the stunted growth and the drooping in the begining always sucks.I just might give this a try soon.
  15. Did you experiment with air-layering out of necessity or curiosity? I completely agree that this is a viable approach to cloning cannabis. I've read tutorials and have seen several growers apply this technique over the years, but it always seems to be more of a novelty than necessity. What I mean is I've never seen a grower say... I couldn't clone X plant until I tried Air-Layering.

    Thanks for the tutorial though, I may try it out just for the experience, in case I ever come across a hard to clone plant.

  16. weren't you going to attempt to do a double-ended clone, smoove?

    roots on two ends?

    or did I make that up, on the spot?
  17. Just curiosity. I saw examples online in excerpts from old botanical books and such, and thought I'd try it and take some nice, clear pics in case anyone else wants to try. I just think it's pretty damn cool to grow roots in midair :p

    I've noticed at least one root a centimeter or 2 long growing off of the lowest branch on my GDP, and I checked out one of the rockwool cubes and some root tips are forming as well. The rockwool is harder to keep wet, especially when I put the plants out in the sun during the day.
  18. thats cool but looks hard
  19. Yes. In fact I took the clone a couple nights ago. I've been taking pictures of the process but wasn't going to post it up unless it worked out, we shall see...

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