Air Layer Blues

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So I have three air layers going this year. One is going but slow, the other two... well...

This first one is a Chinese Elm. It was labeled as cork-bark but @Bonsai Nut says it isn't and he's probably right. I air layered it on March 30th. I checked for roots multiple time and just had three spindly ones at the end of June as noted in this thread. I raised the pot and switched to a finer DE. I checked it today and it is promising:

2019-08-29 17.57.46.jpg 2019-08-29 17.53.54.jpg 2019-08-29 17.53.42.jpg

Should I attempt a separation? I'm perfectly willing to wait until Spring, and that's what I'm leaning towards, but I've seen people say that the actual separation can stimulate root growth. I'm about 7-1/2 weeks from the average first frost date but I'm not worried about that because whether I separate or not this will be wintered in my root cellar.

Now, the other two are what really have me sad.

I air layered a Shawnee bald cypress on June 12. Not a single root. What should I do?

2019-08-29 18.56.29.jpg 2019-08-29 18.56.20.jpg

Then this tri-color beech I air-layered in May of 2018. Two seasons and no roots!

2019-08-29 19.00.18.jpg 2019-08-29 19.00.09.jpg

I'm no quitter but damn! Is it worth trying for year 3? Any advice if I do? If I don't, will that eventually heal over? The top of the tree has been perfectly happy these past two summers.

Add to this that last year I killed a jap maple where I air layered the trunk and I'm just not doing well at all with air layering. :-(
 

BrianBay9

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As to your elm, if it has any roots it's likely to do OK with separation. Many of mine have done fine as cuttings. All the airlayers behaved well.

The others have calluses and don't look like they've healed over at any spots that are visible. If they still have green foliage above the cut the only thing you can do with them is re-wrap them and wait. Don't prune the foliage above them.
 

0soyoung

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This first one is a Chinese Elm. It was labeled as cork-bark but @Bonsai Nut says it isn't and he's probably right. I air layered it on March 30th. I checked for roots multiple time and just had three spindly ones at the end of June as noted in this thread. I raised the pot and switched to a finer DE. I checked it today and it is promising:

Should I attempt a separation? I'm perfectly willing to wait until Spring, and that's what I'm leaning towards, but I've seen people say that the actual separation can stimulate root growth. I'm about 7-1/2 weeks from the average first frost date but I'm not worried about that because whether I separate or not this will be wintered in my root cellar.
Leave it. Just about the best way to guarantee failure is to pot it up without enough roots to survive.
I air layered a Shawnee bald cypress on June 12. Not a single root. What should I do?
Then this tri-color beech I air-layered in May of 2018. Two seasons and no roots!

I'm no quitter but damn! Is it worth trying for year 3? Any advice if I do? If I don't, will that eventually heal over? The top of the tree has been perfectly happy these past two summers.
With some species, the ability to make adventitious roots goes away when the tree begins flowering. Some have no excuse and just don't make roots.

From Dirr's Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation, Fagus Sylvatica is considered to be difficult to impossible to root. All taxodium are reported to be difficult.

I had a bald cypress that I attempted to air layer. It failed to sprout below the girdle and the whole works died in the second season with no sign of roots (the mother tree's roots ran out of stored carbohydrates --> poof!). I mention this only as my confirmation that when Dirr says it is difficult, it is damn difficult IMHO.

The only thing you can blame on yourself is having made some challenging choices of species to layer. You likely would have been inducted into the Woody Plant Propagation Hall of Fame had you succeeded.
 

Pitoon

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If you are unsure if a plant will air layer or not it's best to try to get some cuttings to strike. If you can get cuttings to root you can be pretty sure they will also air layer.

For your elm I would seperate, this winter do not let the roots freeze, keep in a basement or root cellar or garage.

For your BC and beech there's a good callus there on both of them. I would continue with the airlayer. Sometimes it just takes time. Some trees push out roots faster than others.
 

Cable

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Leave it. Just about the best way to guarantee failure is to pot it up without enough roots to survive.

With some species, the ability to make adventitious roots goes away when the tree begins flowering. Some have no excuse and just don't make roots.

From Dirr's Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation, Fagus Sylvatica is considered to be difficult to impossible to root. All taxodium are reported to be difficult.

I had a bald cypress that I attempted to air layer. It failed to sprout below the girdle and the whole works died in the second season with no sign of roots (the mother tree's roots ran out of stored carbohydrates --> poof!). I mention this only as my confirmation that when Dirr says it is difficult, it is damn difficult IMHO.

The only thing you can blame on yourself is having made some challenging choices of species to layer. You likely would have been inducted into the Woody Plant Propagation Hall of Fame had you succeeded.
Well shit. lol. That BC is worthless as it currently is so looks like it is getting chopped below the graft in the spring. I'll just open up the beech and let it do whatever it wants.

Unless it will actually hurt the elm I want to wait until spring to separate. I'd much rather see that pot full of roots rather than a handful. I really like that tree so want the best chance of success.
 

Shibui

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There are plenty of species that are difficult from cuttings but can be layered. That may just be because it takes such a long time for them to form roots and a layer can stay alive longer. Beech is one of those. Callus is often the precursor for roots so I think it is likely you are on the way to having a successful layer. Just needs more time so wrap it up again and wait. Not sure how layers go in your winters but over here where winter is relatively warm I've had layers successfully root in the second summer.

I can attest to layers with few roots surviving on a number of occasions. I can keep a cutting with no roots alive and get a successful plant so any piece that has already started to produce roots is way ahead and has every chance of surviving.

I can also get BC to strike as cuttings (sure not a really high strike rate but enough to keep a steady supply) so why shouldn't it work as an air layer? I would put that one back on as well, despite what Dirr says.
 
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@Cajunrider successfully air layered a BC. This season I have done a few and I believe the result is highly dependent on the tree and not specie.
 

Cajunrider

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So I have three air layers going this year. One is going but slow, the other two... well...

This first one is a Chinese Elm. It was labeled as cork-bark but @Bonsai Nut says it isn't and he's probably right. I air layered it on March 30th. I checked for roots multiple time and just had three spindly ones at the end of June as noted in this thread. I raised the pot and switched to a finer DE. I checked it today and it is promising:

View attachment 260018 View attachment 260019 View attachment 260020

Should I attempt a separation? I'm perfectly willing to wait until Spring, and that's what I'm leaning towards, but I've seen people say that the actual separation can stimulate root growth. I'm about 7-1/2 weeks from the average first frost date but I'm not worried about that because whether I separate or not this will be wintered in my root cellar.

Now, the other two are what really have me sad.

I air layered a Shawnee bald cypress on June 12. Not a single root. What should I do?

View attachment 260021 View attachment 260022

Then this tri-color beech I air-layered in May of 2018. Two seasons and no roots!

View attachment 260023 View attachment 260024

I'm no quitter but damn! Is it worth trying for year 3? Any advice if I do? If I don't, will that eventually heal over? The top of the tree has been perfectly happy these past two summers.

Add to this that last year I killed a jap maple where I air layered the trunk and I'm just not doing well at all with air layering. :-(
The bald cypress simply looks like you open it up too soon. Zip it back up. It's ready to put out roots soon.
For the beech if I were you I would clean everything up. Scrape it clean, let dry in the sun for two days, and then redo it with new clean medium. I had the same issue with a Japanese Tulip magnolia. For a year it just sat there, forming callus but nary a root. I cleaned, dried, and redid the air layer and the roots came out in 3 months. As a matter of fact I just harvested that and put in a pot. It is doing well.

BTW, after so much success with growing cypress from seeds. I've given up trying to propagate through cuttings. I bought 60 BCs that were generated from cuttings and planted them in my yard. 90% of them are struggling. The 40 BCs I grew from seeds have caught up and surpass them in growth already.

I also have done about half a dozen successful BC air layers. Nowadays if I won't even do that. Judging by observed growth rate I believe that my 1.5" BC air layers will be surpassed by my BCs from seed in 2 years. I now am in the camp of getting the BC and get it to grow instead of trying to do air layers or cuttings. BCs grow so fast in their first 10 years. I will do air layers with slow growing or expensive species only.
 
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The bald cypress simply looks like you open it up too soon. Zip it back up. It's ready to put out roots soon.
I already did. I figure I'll leave it that way over the winter since there really isn't anything to lose. In the spring, if it still hasn't pushed roots I'll chop off the graft and grow the straight BC out.

For the beech if I were you I would clean everything up. Scrape it clean, let dry in the sun for two days, and then redo it with new clean medium. I had the same issue with a Japanese Tulip magnolia. For a year it just sat there, forming callus but nary a root. I cleaned, dried, and redid the air layer and the roots came out in 3 months. As a matter of fact I just harvested that and put in a pot. It is doing well.
That's what I did this year. It had a HUGE callous last year and I cleaned it all out, re-scraped the cambium, changed out the sphagnum moss, and let it go another year. I closed the beech back up to and will let it go over the winter just to be sure but next year I'm going to open it up because I'm curious what will happen long term with the rest of the tree. Will it eventually heal? I'm thinking no but I really don't know.
 

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I already did. I figure I'll leave it that way over the winter since there really isn't anything to lose. In the spring, if it still hasn't pushed roots I'll chop off the graft and grow the straight BC out.



That's what I did this year. It had a HUGE callous last year and I cleaned it all out, re-scraped the cambium, changed out the sphagnum moss, and let it go another year. I closed the beech back up to and will let it go over the winter just to be sure but next year I'm going to open it up because I'm curious what will happen long term with the rest of the tree. Will it eventually heal? I'm thinking no but I really don't know.
It won't heal unless you do some grafting to facilitate the heal. A few years back a friend of mine ran his front end loader into a pear tree and peeled of the bark of half of the tree. We grafted 4 small pear trees and healed it that way.
 

Leo in N E Illinois

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I have had JBP take 3 years to finally root. I had JWP air layer fail after 4 years. Just pack em back up.

Tip: for what ever reason, my best success was using long fiber sphagnum moss. When I hung a pot of media, rooting was slower, and or did not happen. Over the years I've done more than 30 air layers, averaged about 40 % successful, but that is across all species. I tried a number of things that had bad reputations as being difficult to root.

I would ditch the DE and pack a big wad of sphagnum around your trunks.
 

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I have had JBP take 3 years to finally root. I had JWP air layer fail after 4 years. Just pack em back up.

Tip: for what ever reason, my best success was using long fiber sphagnum moss. When I hung a pot of media, rooting was slower, and or did not happen. Over the years I've done more than 30 air layers, averaged about 40 % successful, but that is across all species. I tried a number of things that had bad reputations as being difficult to root.

I would ditch the DE and pack a big wad of sphagnum around your trunks.
Only the elm was DE. I experimented with that because all of the long fiber sphagnum ones had failed so I wanted to try a new way to fail. lol. Well, it wasn't a failure just not a raging success. I think it was a combination of a cold spring and using too coarse of DE early on. I think had I used the finer DE from the get-go I'd be further ahead.
 

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I have no science to back this up but I used to struggle with air layers too until I started using clear cellophane and sphagnum moss with clonex. The pot method was the worst. I just don’t think air is good for them. Also I wire the moss around the area so it is tight. As for the cellophane I mean completely clear like Saran Wrap too. Not like the semi-clear thick stuff. I suspect the light or heat helps. I seriously can’t tell you if it is one or all of things I mention but I probably went from 30% to 100% this past year. I do believe wiring the moss is a big driver as it keeps it from sliding or creating an air pocket. Could be luck too.

I have layered all three you mention so it can be done. I did three beech this year and all rooted. I also recall Mach5 posting a jap beech airlayer he did. I had a Seigen maple root in 2 weeks. I also wrap wire underneath the cut to prevent bridging but I always did that. I have only tried one BC but they root very easily from cuttings and I rooted one that was probably 4in thick. For cuttings I use 75% perlite and 25% Home Depot starter mix with clonex.
 

MACH5

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I have no science to back this up but I used to struggle with air layers too until I started using clear cellophane and sphagnum moss with clonex. The pot method was the worst. I just don’t think air is good for them. Also I wire the moss around the area so it is tight. As for the cellophane I mean completely clear like Saran Wrap too. Not like the semi-clear thick stuff. I suspect the light or heat helps. I seriously can’t tell you if it is one or all of things I mention but I probably went from 30% to 100% this past year. I do believe wiring the moss is a big driver as it keeps it from sliding or creating an air pocket. Could be luck too.

I have layered all three you mention so it can be done. I did three beech this year and all rooted. I also recall Mach5 posting a jap beech airlayer he did. I had a Seigen maple root in 2 weeks. I also wrap wire underneath the cut to prevent bridging but I always did that. I have only tried one BC but they root very easily from cuttings and I rooted one that was probably 4in thick. For cuttings I use 75% perlite and 25% Home Depot starter mix with clonex.

Happy to hear about your increased rate of success. Good for you on your beech as well. I also tend to wrap wire around my air layers to keep everything tight and dense and have always used clear plastic.

BTW I did an air layer with a 2" trunk on a second beech this year and it rooted as well.
 

namnhi

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Just check on my Arakawa and it showed roots. Am more than happy right now. This one is slow to root for me. I recut the callus three weeks ago after more than two months without root.
IMG_20190622_075645.jpgIMG_20190802_203652.jpgIMG_20190830_193917.jpg
 

Cable

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Leave it. Just about the best way to guarantee failure is to pot it up without enough roots to survive.
So it would appear that this bad boy finally took.

It’s too late to safely separate so I’m going to wait until spring. In fact, I was going to see if my local bonsai club wanted to make air layering a topic at our Feb or March meeting and do the separation and repot at a meeting. Might be fun.

657ADE46-CA2B-4268-BBAE-61AF34E93659.jpeg
 

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Ok, so back at this.

I agreed late last year to do the separation at the February bonsai club meeting. Still a little over a month away but starting to plan. Mostly thinking out loud.

To recap, this elm air layer is in pretty much straight 8820 (with some mix at the bottom due to a failed experiment). I'm trying to decide what to do after I separate.

My first plan was to put it into straight akadama. But, from where? I bought an akadama "blend" last year on Amazon but I question whether that was really akadama. It is difficult to find a source I trust and I'd want small grain since this is going to be a shohin. But, then I got to thinking I should just use my regular mix which is a blend of DE/lava/pumice mixed in with some leftover "organic mix" from Bonsai Jack. That would probably work but I worry the grain size is too big. Maybe I should just stick with straight DE, but while I'm fine with it for training pots I don't really fancy the color for a tree I'd like to show.

I think I still want to do the straight akadama route but from what source? Hmmmm.
 

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To be honest if it were me I would probably end up getting something like this. Tho I'm sure someone might have a better source.
 

Cable

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I think that I'm going to do, based on this thread, is buy some Clay King and sift out some smaller particles for my elm and then I can use the rest in my other plants.
 

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