Plant Propagation by Ground Layering

Apr. 18, 2010

Ground layering is an easy method of plant propagation. It happens all the time in nature when a branch touches the ground and grabs on, starting its own root system. Strawberries ground layer themselves. So does most ground cover. Bonsai growers often use this technique.

Take our Red Twig Dogwood, for instance. Years of neglect has supported a ton of new, untamed growth.
red-twig-dogwood

Below,  a branch has reached the ground and layered itself into a large new shrub.
red-twig-dogwood-layered-branch

We’ll get a lot this year. 3 on the side and 5 small ones in the front.
red-twig-dogwood-new-layers

When I dug one up, it had a strong healthy root system which filled a large container (9×12, approx. 3 gallon)
red-twig-dogwood-layer-roots

Ground Layering is performed as a propagation technique in many commercial nurseries, and you can do it yourself in your own back yard.

ground-layering-illustrationThe idea is to root the branch before cutting it off from the momma.

Bend a healthy, low growing branch to the ground so new roots can form where its touching the soil.

Shear off some of the bark on the underside to help the plant root more quickly. Rooting hormone may also help.

Cover it with about 3″ of compost, sphagnum moss or well draining soil. You can either pin it down, or use a brick as this image suggests, so the branch stays put. Keep it watered until new roots form.

When you have a good healthy root system in place, cut it from the connected branch, dig it up and replant it.

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15 Responses to “Plant Propagation by Ground Layering”

  1. Dwayne says:

    Very good post about layering. I especially like how you have the pictures showing how the plant self layered.

    Some plants will root better if you actually make a small cut in the branch you are trying to layer. The cut can be held open with something like a toothpick. This sometimes helps with the rooting.

    • Trisha says:

      Thanks Dwayne! Funny you should mention, because I actually did that this morning on a few low growing weeping willow branches. I’ll have to remember the toothpick for next time, great tip!

      I really like your website btw… Been over there a bunch of times in the last 2 months. Love that misting setup on the home page. Bought a bunch of stock plants and will try my hand at cuttings this season. I’m a little nervous to tell you the truth. Everyone online agrees, intermittent mist is the way to go. Looks like you have some really good products over there too. Hopefully I’ll have the cash before its time!

      Thanks for reading and THANKS for the comment!

      • Trisha says:

        As a follow up, I did end up buying a mist kit from Dwaynes website and I have nothing but good things to say about his product and his service… If you need a mist system set at minute intervals you wont find them anywhere else. I looked into the cheap timers and theres no denying it, Dwaynes really are the only way to go. After i purchased and received my timer, already programmed (the hardest part), it was really clear that I made the right choice.

        • Dwayne says:

          Thanks for the plug Trisha! I am very happy you like the system.

          How did you do with rooting cuttings with it this season?

          • Trisha says:

            the mist worked wonderfully as usually. Its a great system… This year we switched over to well water. The cuttings didnt like that at all. It killed all of them until I hooked the city water back up. We had the well water tested and they couldnt find anything wrong with it… luckily, the misters control water so well, it only uses a little, so its not a huge expense.

            • Dwayne says:

              Weird. Did you test the pH? Do you have a water softener that uses salt?

              • Trisha says:

                its an old well we only use outside. it was broken for 2 years, until we realized it was only the switch. The water is so rusty everything is stained (gross). No water softener, but the salt content was on the high side of safe. specific indication said “May affect growth of very salt sensitive crops”. pH was 7.7. pHc 6.7

                • Dwayne says:

                  That salt will build up in the rooting media and is bad for the cuttings.

                  The pH is also a bit high in my opinion.

                  Too bad, the well sounds like a good water source.

                  • Trisha says:

                    Yeah, i was sad. We finally had free water! Id rather have a clean propagation house and beautiful cuttings. I hate that rust. We were trying to think of ways to fix it. I wanted to shock the well, but my boyfriend was afraid to take the cap off because inside theres a tap. If it breaks thats a very expensive fix. Any other ideas on how to fix the salt and ph levels?

  2. Great info. Nice site as well.

  3. It site has got a great many quite useful stuff on it! Cheers for supporting me!

  4. […] than the experts suggest. Forsythia has this habit of attaching itself when it touches the ground (layering) Great if you would like more forsythia! Not so great if you want a single tidy shrub. It can get […]

  5. what are the materials needed for this propagation?

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