Al - ficus Benjamina air layer

rina_August 29, 2012


I am probably getting too exited...

I questioned you about air layering on May 7, 2012.

I decided to try air-layer on repotted/root pruned Benjamina.

Actually, I did 2 (two branches, close to main trunk). I wanted to prune these 2 branches away in spring. I wasn't sure if I did layer correctly, so in case it didn't work - nothing lost...

It was done on July 22, 2012:

I expected to wait until spring of 2013 to, hopefully, get some roots.

Last few days I noticed that some animals decided to chew thru the plastic I used, so today I wanted to replace it with new plastic (water was leaking thru the holes).

To my surprise, this is what I found:

I didn't think these are roots, but couldn't imagine where they came from since I used old spaghnum; even ask my son to come over after work to make sure; but yes, they are 'attached' to the trunk!

I have to check other layer, since the plastic needs to be replaced too. Hopefully will be able to do it later tonight, or early am tomorrow. Can't wait to see what is hiding in there.

Now it needs to be potted - have to make some soil mix...

Comments please? - and Thank you.


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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Main comment is "Look at you go!"

Great job! There probably aren't enough roots to separate the layer yet - especially if the nearest foliage is quite distant from the layer site - but you're getting close. Maybe rewrap & wait another couple of weeks, then saw the layer off below the roots. Carefully flatten the root system when you plant & make sure you have plans for stabilizing the tree so it can't topple.

I think it's sooo cool that your first effort was a success - what a confidence builder! Now you're ready to take on just about anything. ;-)

Strong work!


    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 7:24PM
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Thank you, and Thank you again for always being available to answer questions, and also for being encouraging - I don't think I would have tried any of this without either.
I am really happy with this 'experimental ficus' - looks like it is going to be a nice tree after all. Just have to figure out how to give it lots of light during this winter.

Will have to check & re-wrap other layer tomorrow, hope it is also doing well.


    Bookmark   August 29, 2012 at 10:08PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hi Rina,

I just wanted to say that you did a great job!!

Very impressive.. You must be very happy with this experiment.

Thanks for the pics!!


Take care,


    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 12:45PM
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Thank you; it's all 'mother nature' - I just gave her a reason!

But yes, I am really happy with the results. It should help to show other newbies that it works as it has been explained. One just has to try - and follow instructions/advice given here so freely.
Especially when it comes to soil mixes for our plants, and also repotting-root pruning, and feeding them. I am sure my tree would have been considerably slower in putting out new roots unless above-mentioned was done beforehand.

If it didn't work, I would have done it again - I don't believe in "I tried once & it didn't work'...but success is very encouraging.

One day I would love to grow at least one plumeria - yours are so beautiful...


    Bookmark   August 30, 2012 at 1:46PM
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silentsurfer(6A OH)

Nice! very encouraging,,, "other newbies " = Me! hehe

Hi Rina,
im very interested in trying this myself here soon,,
a cpl questions Pls if/when youve a moment,,
your plant is growing outdoors? could you estimate the branches diameter pl?
what did you wrap in medium-wise? ..looks to be kinda 'gritty-mix' like?
could you describe (in your own words) the 'moisure content' of the medium, (as initially wrapped), and if you added any additional (water) at all, over the course of a Mnth you say,,? thats seems pretty quick! It appears (as pictured) fairly 'wet' almost,,,?
oh, and how previously you'd (mentioned?) re-potted/root-pruned the parent pls??

Thanks so much for posting, and including the pictures, i hope you can find the time to document the sever, and the transitional (potting-up) process as well if possible. :)
its pretty exciting! propagation is (for me) its really neat when you can get a 'freebie' from what you'd likely prune-off anyway. :)

    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 12:14PM
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Yes, I hope it gives someone else courage to try something new.
I joined GW in Feb. 2012, stumbling upon it while looking for ideas how to trim ficus Benjamina.

I was very lucky to find info posted by Al (tapla), about soils, potting up vs. total re-potting, root pruning, fertilizing.
I found so much great info together with photos posted by Al and some other members - it was overwhelming at first, but very interesting and educational (for me).
I read Al's posts & all Q&A several times over before even considered trying it.

I bare-rooted this monster, following Al's info to a T.
One needs patience..! And lots of it. Also, seing the roots first time, it was scary since I always thought that roots get damaged by any serious cutting.
I believe this tree gained so much strenght that it was able to make so many roots in such a short time.

But, at least some of the answers - regarding layering:

1. I am in similar zone to yours - I keep Benjamina outside in sun (except around 12:30-2:30pm-the sun seems to burn leaves). I take it out in spring when temps stay over 55* overnight, and bring it in in fall when they drop (temps) down to 50*

2. I assume you want to know diameter of air-layered branches - one is 1 1/8", second just under 1" (that's diameter, not circumferance).

3. I used spaghnum to wrap; the long fiber sphagnum that you see sometimes as top-dressing on orchids

4. I soaked the moss before using. I squeezed excess water out, then wrapped aroud the branch. (The moss was damp, like wrung-out sponge). Nothing else.

5. I wrapped whole 'ball' in plastic. That way you can see if moss is damp enough. (BTW, I bought some plastic hinged pot-like thingies in LeeValley to use for air layer - IMHO waste of $; they are for much thinner branches & they don't do anything plastic won't...). I kept watering as necessary (to keep it consistently moist).

I really think that it rooted extremely fast. I would have waited at least 3 more months to check it, but squirrels were chewing on the plastic & it had too many holes so I decided to re-wrap - and found roots. At first I thought that it was just water-soaked moss, so gently tried to get it away from the branch, but it would not move, LOL.
It is much wetter in the photos - I kept spraying so it would not dry out since the plastic was off.

I will post photos of my root-prunning 'adventure' in separate thread, just have to put it together. I believe now is too late to root prune/repot, but I think winter is great time to get ready for it.

Plastic wrap all chewed-up - even duct tape (man's best friend!) couldn't keep them away:

Couple more close-ups:


    Bookmark   August 31, 2012 at 6:37PM
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silentsurfer(6A OH)

Rina! ! ! ! ! ! ! ! !
srry lol, have you potted up yet? waiting for spring??
whats up with your benjamina layer lady?? :)
have you brought the plant indoors by now? got into the 40's a cpl nights down here,,,

btw Thank you so much for the detailed reply!
i thought sure i had posted back (saying that...?) but i keep loosing threads around here, its so annoying,,

just wanted to check-in-on-ya,, i took the plunge too, and i have to sever soon,,
peek in on the ficus thread when youve a sec., i'd luv to hear from ya. :)

    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 10:32PM
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Thanks for asking...I have been following your progress too. The roots you are getting are amazing.

Yes, I did sever both branches (I did 2 layers on 1 tree)
and potted up.

Brought them inside about 10 days ago, we are having some cool nights too, although last 3 nights are back to abt. 58 again. Long term forecast is down to 37-40, so summer is over for all tropicals.
Hope that ficus will stay as nice as it is now, but unfortunately, indoor light is not the same as outdoors...and on top of it, I am about to move. Started moving some plants, almost all succulents and some of the tropicals are moved, but need moving van to fit the taller plants. And all potted perennials I have - thankfully I have about month to do it...


    Bookmark   October 3, 2012 at 11:32PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Nice job! Ive only tried this on a Rubber Tree that had gone leggy. Oh and a plum tree in the garden!

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 6:10AM
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* Posted by rina_ 6a Ont (My Page) on
Thu, Aug 30, 12 at 13:46
One day I would love to grow at least one plumeria .......

Definitely give it a try, they're much easier than Ficus but do it during warmer weather. For cuttings you can let the cut dry and heal over in the air before planting. And less water than you'd give other plants. They can take quite a bit of drying but too much water will quickly cause rot.

    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 4:27PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

R - I'm pretty sure I'm preaching to the choir, but I don't think that plumeria actually USE less water than most other plants with approximately the same foliage mass ..... they probably are less tolerant of wet feet than most plants though, taken as a group. They also are extra susceptible to the fungal infections that cause root/stem rot, so using a soil that makes 'too much water' a virtual nonissue is a sound strategy - one you already have covered. I think that whole 'too much water' thing is probably the initial reason Laura began converting all her trees to a coarser soil, but I wonder now if the main reason she might cite would be related to changes in her plants' vitality? I hope she's following and can expand .....

And you're not fooling me! You bought a bag of bean sprouts and packed them into the medium around the layer so everyone would think you had an amazingly sick air layer going on .....all those succulent roots! You and Joe are in cahoots, cuz his looks the same way (on his thread)!

Just kidding - you guys both did a really great job. I'm impressed by how quickly your trees responded to your efforts & how well everything is going; but I think I already said that, and because I already said that, I think I'm being redundant because I already said that.


    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 5:25PM
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Yep, we are in cahoots and it was a bag of sprouts, lol...Joe's were actually much 'plumpier'.

I think my ficus 'took off' and grew like crazy because I finally made him happier by using great mix, fertilizing, prunning the roots and also putting him in more sun than years before.

Here is the second branch/new roots:


    Bookmark   October 4, 2012 at 11:14PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

    Bookmark   October 5, 2012 at 4:37PM
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silentsurfer(6A OH)

ut-oh!? Al's got his dancin slippers on again! hehe
omg! lmao 'bean sprouts'!?? LOL

sometimes i wonder if your not 'totally st*ned' hehe
but now i gotta know, where you kidding? or is that chipmunk~ character climbing around in a Poppy plant or something?? yu crack-me-up mr!

oh, Thanks so much! i was so hoping you'd include a cpl pics, really appreciate that :)
ack! i dint know (or forgot?) you were Moving, Ungh! ..hate moving, i hope it goes smoothly for ya, i'd offer to help if we werent worlds apart :/

I chopped mine yesterday (amidst some other tasks),
I think (mine) just appeared 'plumpier' cuz theres so fewer of them (roots) maybe?
I'll try n post to the ficus thread soon as ive a chance, Thanks so much for the correspondence, along the way,, was very helpful. :)

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 12:16PM
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Loveplants2 8b Virginia Beach, Virginia

Hello everyone!!

Just wanted to follow up on the Plumeria thoughts..

Plumeria do very well in fast draining mix and that is what i was looking for when i started changing my mix to the gritty Mix.. They like water just as much as any other tropical, but don't like wet feet, so with the draining of the mix and the great aeration of the roots provided with the mix comes happy roots. I don't worry about watering to much with this mix. i can water in the summer when i need to and not worry about root rot. They simply don't have any issues with perched water in this mix. They do like the wet/dry cycle, but can tolerate more water than if planted in the "standard" mix. This would be the problem. Wet..soil.. They do not like this at all..

My trees have turned around in the last few years and have been growing and blooming more than in the earlier years and i credit this growth and healthy trees to my change in Mix, fertilizer and overall knowledge in why everything starts with happy roots. (Better mix = happier trees)

Many of my trees along with my huge collection of Plumeria C & S and other little trees are just loving the change..

Rina.. if i could send you a Plumeria in the spring, i would...not sure of the limitations on sending to Canada..but we shall see!! : )

Just wanted to chime in since Al mentioned my trees..

Thank you AL, you have helped me and my trees more than you will know.


SS... Nice have done a great job!! Welcome again!! Love the little sticks from AL.. LOL.. SOoo cute!!

Plumeria for those that like them..

Kimi Moragne

Take care..

Thanks Rina for letting me say a few things on your thread..

Hope you don't mind!! : )


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 6:15PM
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I like your posts a lot, you always have such beautiful photos to post, and good advise too (which I already clipped, even if I don't have the plant yet). I definitely want to grow plumeria now, thanks to your photos.

How is your grandson doing? Hope you get to see him often enough. They grow so fast, my GS just turned 10 (!) and his sister 4. Time goes by much faster all of sudden...


I could use some help, lol. Last time I moved was 16yrs ago, lived in condo apartment for about 12 before. Now (crazy at my age) I got 5ac gardens, just lots of empty space. Few huge evergreens around the house.
So I am moving lots of perennials in pots. They will winter in the pots, since there isn't enough time to plan & prepare beds.

One more photo of that second air-layered branch showing roots (I think I gave it more room & little more time before severing it than you). As long as the roots are helthy, that's most important.
Your plant looks great potted, nice straight trunk. Hopefully you can fatten it up - follow Al's tips.


    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 7:16PM
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rina_ is the photo...Rina

    Bookmark   October 7, 2012 at 7:18PM
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greenlarry(UK 8/9)

Fabulous Plumeria there, Id love to try one!

    Bookmark   October 8, 2012 at 9:05AM
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