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Simple layering

Simple layering can be used for shrubs that do not root readily from cuttings, such as Acer, Camellia, flowering Cornus, Cotinus, Daphne, Hamamelis, Magnolia, Rhododendron, Syringa and Viburnum, as well as most woody climbers. Simple layering is suited to plants that have flexible stems that can be bent down to ground level.

The rooting conditions are important. When rooting directly into soil, the soil should be improved with plenty of organic matter to hold moisture and sharp sand or grit if it is heavy clay soil and poorly drained. But the best rooting is usually achieved by rooting into sunken pots filled with good potting compost.

Step by step

Simple layering | Copyright GreenPlantSwap Ltd
  • Choose a flexible young shoot on the exterior of the plant.
  • About 20-30cm from the shoot tip, make a 2.5-5cm long slanting cut on the underside of the stem (where it will touch the compost/soil), through a leaf node. 
  • Remove the leaf/leaves first if the plant is in leaf. Make sure you cut no deeper than the centre of the stem. This creates a flap of stem.
  •   Wedge open the flap with a small piece of wood or similar; applying hormone rooting powder to the cut may help rooting.
Simple layering | Copyright GreenPlantSwap Ltd
  • Sink a 10-15cm pot of good compost, such as John Innes Seed Compost, in the soil where the cut in the stem will touch the ground. 
  • Or, if you prefer, make a 10-15cm deep trench in the soil and firm the soil over the stem.
Simple layering | Copyright GreenPlantSwap Ltd
  • Peg down the wounded section of stem into the compost or soil. 
  • It usually helps to weigh down the stem at compost/soil level with a stone or large pebble; this holds the stem in place and helps creates a humid atmosphere and a dark rooting environment.
  • Secure the stem above ground by tying it upright to a vertical cane.
  • Water the soil or compost well and keep moist during dry periods.
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