Layering Might Be the Easiest Way to Propagate Plants

Layering an arrowwood viburnum

I really enjoy making new plants – you guessed that by now didn’t you? Most of the time I prefer to make stem cuttings of various types of plants whether shrub, tree, perennial, or annual but that isn’t always the easiest way. In many ways layering a plant is the simplest way to ensure a successful rooted plant with very little risk. Today while I was outside I noticed two plants that had successfully rooted through layering which started me thinking about this method of propagation.

First of all what is layering? Layering is where you cover a section of a stem or branch underneath the soil and wait for the plant to make its own roots. Sometimes nicking the plant beneath a node and adding rooting hormone to the wound will speed up the process but I’ve never needed to do that on any layering projects.

What kind of plants will layer? A whole bunch! Including forsythias, blackberries, viburnums, beautyberry, hydrangea, and many others. If I were to write a list of all the potential plants that could be propagated by layering I would be typing for a very long time. If a plant has a suitable branch close to the ground that can be pinned underneath a little bit of soil or compost there is a good chance it will root.

Why is layering the easiest way to propagate many plants? The branch or stem is still attached to the main plant which means the branch is still receiving moisture and nourishment from an established root system. Once you induce rooting by covering the node with soil or compost the branch doesn’t have the additional stress of supplying water to the plant while working on building roots. In short: there is little risk of a plant or a branch dying.

Layering a Hydrangea

Is layering the best way to propagate plants? Notice the difference here: best vs. easiest. It all depends on what you are looking for in you plant material. If you want a bunch of plants fast then cuttings are a better way to go. You can take many more cuttings from the branches than you can make plants with layering even with serpentine layering of a suitable branch. If you are more concern with getting a difficult to root plant rooted then definitely go with layering.

I like to do a combination of both layering and cuttings. Sometimes plants will have low hanging branches that just scream for layering while they still have lots of suitable material for taking stem cuttings. My viburnum in the top picture is a great example – it roots easily but also loves to layer.

Which method do you prefer: layering or cuttings?

3 thoughts on “Layering Might Be the Easiest Way to Propagate Plants”

  1. Great post Dave. I like to layer mine. It's easier. I had a lot of azaleas to do that. I potted them up & they made a trip to Ga. & even bloomed this yr. At least this way you can get all one color if you wish. I also had some forsythia to do the same.
    I just would like to get my hands on some old time Bride's Wreath like my Mom had when I was a kid.

  2. I have a bridal wreath on the corner of my newer home. Every year it surprises me with its beauty. I will attempt this layering technique so I can have more copies of this beautiful shrub! Thanks, Dave!

Comments are closed.