Easy Tree & Shrub Propagation

Do you have a tree or shrub that is near and dear to your heart? Here are a few easy ways to propagate it.

Do you have a tree or shrub that is near and dear to your heart? Does it have sentimental value? Is it something you can't find anywhere else? Maybe you're not even sure of it's name so you can't search for it? Or perhaps its such a beautiful specimen that you don't want to hack away at it willy nilly without any hope of it rooting?

Here are a few easy ways to propagate trees and shrubs.

Air Layering

Air layering is the method used on the Ruby Rubber Tree in the photos.  This technique involves making a small cut on a branch, wrapping it with moist sphagnum moss, and covering that with plastic wrap (or a specialized container like this) to keep it together and hold in some moisture while roots start to develop over the course of a few weeks or months.  (we are partial to clear containers as its easier to check the progress).

The goal of air layering is to establish strong roots while the cutting is still attached to the plant.  This ensures a higher likelihood of success for your new plant as you'll start it off with strong healthy roots - this is the recommended form of propagation for trees and shrubs that are hard to propagate by cutting alone.  An added bonus is that your new plant will be larger than if you propagated via cutting.

We decided to use this method on our Ruby Rubber Tree because it is notoriously hard to root, we couldn't easily find plugs and needed to prop from this plant if we wanted to sell them, and we didn't want to do too much damage to our stunning parent plant.  We've had good luck with is and recommend it!

Here are two great resources on air layering:



Simple Layering

Layering is a simple, no-hassle way to make your shrubs look fuller or replicate your favorite plant.  The premise of layering is that if the nodes on a branch (that is still attached to the parent plant) come into contact with a growing medium for a period of time it will start to send out roots.  Layering can be as simple as using a rock or brick to hold a low-growing branch on the ground, can involve covering the branch in soil, and can even be repeated multiple times on the same branch (compound layering) .  As with air layering, because the branch is still attached to the parent plant it does not run as much risk of losing too many nutrients or drying out before roots form.

Heres are two informative resources on various kinds of layering:




Depending out your tree or shrub, taking a cutting off the parent plant can be the best propagation method.  Smaller, young, and tender stems often do best via cutting.

If you're using the cutting method there are a few things we recommend to set yourself up for success:

  • Use rooting hormone (be aware there are different strengths and research which is best for your plant.  For example, we'd recommend hormodin 1 for butterfly bushes and either hormodin 1 or hormodin 2 for azaleas).

  • Ensure 2-3 nodes per cutting

  • Remove the leaves from the base of the cutting and snip back a portion of the rest

  • Have trays or a small container ready with fresh, moist soil and pre-poke the holes with a dibbler (wood stick)

  • Don't allow the planted cutting to dry out, but don't let it stay soggy either.  Sprinkle 1-2 times a day with water, weather depending.

  • Have patience!

Here is a a more detailed explanation of how to propagate from different kinds of cuttings: