I fell in love with fiddle leaf fig trees a few years ago. I bought three plants that first year, and since then, I have propagated SO many. Most went to new homes with my friends, and a few were added to my collection. A few of my trees have gotten SO big, that I wanted to try propagating by air layering. I’m excited to share this technique with you, and I’ll also put links at the bottom of this post to all my other posts on pruning, propagating, caring for fiddle leaf fig trees!
When I have previously propagated new plants off my fig trees, it was by cutting off 2-3 leaves at a time and putting them in water until new roots formed (all the details in this other post). This works quite well, but you can only make plants from small cuttings, because they need to survive until the new roots form. Air layering is great for propagating larger branches, and while it takes a little patience up front, you end up getting a mature new plant much faster!
The principle behind air layering is that you set up conditions for your plant to form new roots, while it is still attached to the original plant.
Here’s what you’ll need:
- sharp knife or vegetable peeler
- rooting hormone
- thick plastic wrap – I cut open a one-gallon ziploc bag
- sphagnum moss
- string or rubber bands cut open to use as ties
- patience (this process takes about two-and-a-half months)
Here’s how to do it:
Choose the section of the plant that you want to eventually cut off for a new plant. I tried this with approximately 2-foot section of my biggest plant – it was hitting the ceiling! It went really smoothly, and I’m now trying with a 3-foot section.
At the base of what will be your new tree, remove a leaf or two to create an open section of stem. Use a knife or vegetable peeler to remove the top layer of the stem – you want to remove the bark and the darkest green layer, but leave a little green and the white section of the stem. This will allow nutrients to continue to flow up into your plant, while it forms roots from the outside of the stem. See the picture on the left below:
Next, spread some rooting hormone on the bare stem.
Wrap your plastic around the bottom of the bare stem and secure with string or elastic.
Pack wet sphagnum moss into the pouch you have formed and secure the top with string or elastic (see right picture above)
Right around two months, I saw the first roots inside my ball of moss. Within three more weeks, the moss ball was full of roots!
Once I started seeing roots, I did check the moisture level of the moss and add water every week or so.
When the roots are filling up the bag of moss, as shown in the last picture above, it’s time to cut off the new plant and plant it in soil. It helps to stake the new plant, as it is top heavy. Here’s how my new plant looked, when I first planted it – much bigger and healthier than the new plants you can get by cutting and rooting in water!
A couple of months later, I passed this plant on to a friend as a housewarming present. As I was repotting, it I found that the roots had quickly grown to fill a large pot (see picture below)!
I’m so excited to keep trying this technique for creating healthy new plants while keeping my jungle in check. Here’s how my “mother” plant looked, hitting the ceiling, before I made a new plant from the top section.
And here’s how it looks now, starting to come back into shape. You can see that a new bud formed where I cut off the new plant, and the branch is starting to grow back. I’m already working on air layering that back branch, so that will get trimmed off soon, too. My favorite stage of this plant was when the two big side branches arched together into a heart shape, so I am hoping to get back to that in a few weeks.
Looking for more information on fiddle leaf figs? Check out these other posts:
- General fiddle leaf fig care
- Shaping and pruning your fiddle leaf fig
- Repotting your fiddle leaf fig
- Propagating your fiddle leaf fig from cuttings
If you have a big plant, I definitely recommend trying the air laying. I’m sure I am not the only one who feels that time is moving slowly being at home during the pandemic, and watching these new plants grow has been a silver lining.
Happy plant vibes!
Julie aka “Jewels”