Air-layering bonsai




This is a Trident maple that I found in the bargin bin at a local nursery. The top of the plant had died and snaped off. There is no real taper to the trunk and not enough branches to work with. Air-layering will allow me to reduce the size of the tree and create a new leader to produce the taper required. It will also stimulate dormant buds low down on the tree giving me more branches to work with. With any luck I will also get a second tree off the top.


The air-layer will be made at this point, just below the dorment buds and leaving the upright branch below to develop as the new leader.


The first ring cut is made just below the dorment buds.


The lower cut is made and the bark peeled away.


The cut is coated with rooting hormone and the spagnum moss is placed in water to soak.


The plastic is attached, I have use electrical ties but anything that will fasten securely and last is fine.


The wet spagnum is packed around the wound, make sure it is packed tightly with no air pockets.


The plastic is brought up around the moss and secured at the top. The top can be attached with wire so it can be loosened to allow for watering, or a small hole can be made in the plastic for this purpose. I water with a large syringe. Apart from watering this can now be left to develop roots. Don't tempted to try to remove your air-layer too soon. Wait for the roots to change from the white new roots to the darker colour more mature roots before cutting the top section away.

I will finish this photo section showing the removal and potting of your air-layer as the roots develop.

Ten Months On


Our air-layer has been working away for the last ten months and has developed a good amount of strong roots. We are comming into early spring a good time to move on to the next stage.


As you can see our tree still has no leaves on it but on close examination you can see the buds beginning to swell.


The roots have developed nicely. It is better to leave your layer for a bit longer if you are unsure, wait until the roots have hardened and there are some mature brown roots present.


The roots should have developed from the section where you removed the bark. You may need the lift the roots to cut the top section as close to the start of those roots as possible.


Use a sharp saw to remove the top section of your tree.


Carefully remove the top section of your tree. Try to keep as much of the root ball intact as possible. Don't try to remove the spagnum moss.


You can see here the developmet of the roots. A small flare has already begun at the base of the new tree


I am going to reduce the size of this new tree further to develop a new leader.


A small section is left at the top of the tree to tie the new leader back to. This can be removed at a later date.




This new branch is going to be bent quite a way so the bark is protected with some rafia. I don't have rafia so we use a dry flax leaf.


The branch is pulled up to create a new leader


A pot is selected with plenty of room for the plant to grow and recover.


The branches are cut back. I think I will develop the tree as a twin trunk so the small branch at the base is left.


We are left with the lower half of the tree. This is the piece we were after in the first place our top section is a bonus.


The top is trimmed to the new leader


You can see once the top layer of soil has been removed that there is quite a nice even root development on the tree also.


Our second tree potted and trimmed.
I will keep you updated as the trees develop.