Creating Bonsai Trees

Bonsai Techniques – Air Layering – The Fastest Way to Develop Mature Bonsai Material

Bonsai Techniques – Air Layering


Air Layering a branch from a desirable tree or bonsai requires the removal of the bark from about an inch.  This prevents carbohydrates from flowing down past the removal site, but still allows water and mineral nutrients to flow upward to the leaves through the xylem. Thus, the tree will still get the nutrients it needs.  The tree will create a new root system where the bark was removed.  Root hormone can be used but is not necessary since hormones are stored at the removal site where roots will grow out.  However root hormone can speed up the process.

Air layering allows us to create multiple bonsai from one mother plant.  Air laying saves allot of time creating new bonsai which already have a complete root system and a strong trunk.  Using this technique one can avoid waiting 2 years for the bonsai to develop a prominent trunk.

Some bonsai artists use root hormone to increase the success of the air layer.  In my experience patience is the most deciding factor on if the air layer is successful.

After removing the bark and reaching the cambium of the tree apply hormone if desired.  Next secure the bottom with a plastic bag to hold in the growing medium.   I typically use sphagnum moss.  Let the new root system develop and you can remove by cutting it at the base of the new root system.

It usually takes the new tree six to nine weeks to develop a complete root system.  

If you have specific questions regarding the technique of air layering you can start a thread on our forum Bonsai Artists of South Florida.

Air layering is one of the most useful techniques practiced in the art of bonsai.  I would say it’s the fastest method to Start an Exhibition Level Bonsai Tree.By removing the bark and the cambium from a one inch area of trunk or branch then wrapping  it with plastic or Saran wrap we can pack it full of substrate.  Air Layering bonsai trees allows for the development of a new root system.  In the example below The tree that we where striving to create is the top trunk.  A mature thick trunk on a Podocarpus with a very low height.  This technique can be

air layer Bonsai
How to create bonsai by growing a new root system somewhere on the trunk or a large branch

used on full sized garden material to create amazing bonsai which would take decades to grow regularly.  Typically only takes 90 days to develop  a root system to sustain it self.  Once roots are established we cut below the new roots and plant this new bonsai.  You will be able to watch the whole process right here.  From it’s first roots to a stunning living piece of artwork.

air laying podocarpus Bonsai making bonsai

Substrate Air Layer
Air Layer Substrate must be extremely water absorbent. My mix is 75% Sphagnum Moss, soil and perlite make up the remaining 25%