The Secret to Growing a Thriving Indoor Jungle

Transforming your home into a lush, plant-filled sanctuary comes with numerous benefits: indoor plants can help purify the air, caring for plants can be incredibly therapeutic, and of course all that greenery really elevates the aesthetic of any indoor space.

Wherever you're at in the process of cultivating your own indoor jungle at home, there's one technique you need to know about. It's called "air layering", and it's basically a way of cloning your indoor plants. You're probably saying, "What am I? A scientist? A magician?", and we hear you, but you might be surprised to learn that you don't even need to be a seasoned indoor plant parent to learn how to successfully propagate your indoor plants using the air layering technique. Newcomers and novices rejoice: you are about to be one step closer to living in the plant-filled sanctuary of your dreams.

To support you in this journey, we reached out to actual plant expert Benny Alcaraz to break down the who, what, when, where and how of air layering. If you're unfamiliar with Benny's work, just check out his dreamy, plant-filled bedroom. Keep reading to find out exactly how to air layer a plant and grow a thriving indoor jungle.

Hi Benny, thanks for being our indoor-garden guide today. First, can you explain what air layering is exactly?

Absolutely. Air layering is one of the many types of plant propagation (aka the process of creating new plants) in which you encourage roots to form at a plant's nodes. Nodes are the point of attachment on the stem, and they are vital in propagation as they are the main means of allowing a plant cutting to turn into a new plant.

Why do you recommend air layering as a way to propagate new plants?

Air layering is a good way to propagate as there is very low risk of losing your cutting. When you initially cut a plant to propagate using traditional methods, like watering propagation, there is a risk of losing that plant cutting. Air layering utilises the nutrients and energy from the mother plant to promote root growth, and you end up getting strong and healthy roots quicker.

On your Instagram account you've air layered a philodendron majestic, can you air layer any type of plant? 

Air layering doesn't work for all types of plants. It's easiest to do it with philodendrons and monstera, as those plants generally throw out aerial roots (roots that grow on the above-ground parts of a plant). Begonias, for example, have other methods of propagation.

So, how exactly do you air layer a plant?

There are many ways to air layer, and how you do it generally depends on the structure of the plant.

If it's a climbing plant you'll have to wrap sphagnum moss (which is what's often used as surface mulching in pots as it helps to retain water and nutrients) around the node to encourage the node to grow roots. You can use a small plastic nursery pot that's been cut and strategically placed onto the node to do this, or glad wrap the moss around the node. Climbing plants like philodendrons and some monstera can attach and grow aerial roots when placed on a moss pole.

If the plant generally grows along the ground, like monstera deliciosa, you can just place a pot directly underneath the node to encourage that node to shoot roots into the pot. You can use water, sphagnum moss or even soil to do this. Once there are sufficient roots you can cut it and you've got yourself a new plant.

Magic! Is there anything we should look out for when we're attempting to air layer a plant?

If you are using moss, ensure it is kept moist but not soggy. Check it often as the moss can dry up quite quickly. You can mist water into it to wet it again.

Another important step is when you finally cut the plant, let it dry and callus over the cut. This basically means letting the cut harden so that it does not rot when you plant it. Just let the plant air-dry for a few hours and then it should be all good.

Image by Benny Alcaraz. For more tips, tricks and aesthetic pics, follow @plantsbybenny on Instagram.

Enjoyed this? Here's How to Grow an Indoor Jungle, According to Someone Who's Done It.

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