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Airlayer separation – Ficus Benjamina

Airlayer separation – Ficus Benjamina

In August 2017 I started a new project airlayering a ficus benjamina in the post entitled Ficus benjamina airlayering based on a technique that I read about somewhere on the internet. I let the tree develop for about 10 months and then in May 2018 I decided that it is time to do the separation. Looking at the root system that was developing inside the bag in the airlayer, I considered that there were enough feeders to be able to supply the tree after separation, taking into account that I was planning to do a preliminary structural pruning as well, so a large quantity of the foliage was to be removed from the canopy.

As it can be seen in the picture above, there was a large number of leaves that I intentionally left on the canopy because the principle is simple: many leaves are photosynthesizing carrying sugars down to the roots right in the layer under the bark. As the bark is interrupted, the sugars cannot reach the roots in the soil of the tree, but these will promote creation of new roots at the point where the bark is interrupted. So, the more leaves that move sugars on the tree, the faster the roots in the layered region will grow. I wrapped the bag of sphagnum moss in aluminium foil just to prevent the light from penetrating it and disturbing the roots development because as we know, roots are photo-phobic plant parts.

After removing the plastic bag and started moving around the moss, I found many roots that where keeping the moss together compact.

Overall, the tree and its new root systems looked like this. To be honest, I was glad to find many roots there that I knew will be more than enough to sustain the separated tree, but disappointing was when I realized that the moss cannot be removed to comb out nicely the roots. When I insisted on removing the moss, I observed that the roots were so tangled in it that the risk of damaging them was inevitable.

So I cleaned out as much moss as I could without damaging the new fragile root system, and perform under-cut of the thick useless remaining trunk. The problem is that I knew at that moment that I will have to pot the tree with the moss package and with the roots chaotically tangled inside it. Another disadvantage of the moss is that it is a sterile moss and the instructions on the bag with which I bought it claims that it is treated to not rot. So I know that it will stay there close to the tree for a long time. Unfortunately, I had already done another airlayering on a Bougainvillea tree using sphagnum moss. However, I will never use it again for this purpose, and instead I will use a plastic container filled with flower potting soil that I know I am able to remove and place the new roots in proper positions.

The final product of the potting and pruning for preliminary stilling is depicted in the picture above. I did not do any wiring nor serious pruning to shape the tree in its final position. I pruned it just to give a preliminary architecture and leave enough leaves to help the new roots to establish in the new soil. Because in the middle of the pot, right under the tree there is the moss and around it towards the edge of the container is my classical bonsai soil mix, is another drawback because practically in the pot there are regions with different water uptake and different drying coefficients. This will make the watering process a little difficult but, it is as it is.

This entire process of separation took place in May 2018, as already said before. In July 2018, the tree was already getting into shape pushing new growth and letting me know for sure that the root system is working and developing new roots as well.

This is the way the tree looked in July 2018. I am planning on pruning it and wiring it in the end of August, starting of September and then let it grow over the winter till March 2019 when I will start pruning it back harder to work on the ramification more.

Hope this helps you and thanks for your visit!
M.