Layering or marcotting, a propagation technique

Layering means putting a portion of a stem in the ground for it to root. In this case, lavender

Layering is a way to multiply plants quite easily, where a plant branch is buried to produce a new specimen.

This lets the plant produce new roots without yet cutting stems off, which increases the survival rate of your new plant.

Also very affordable, the true gardener truly swells with pride when finally cutting the stem, a bit like a mid-wife clamping the umbilical cord between mother and child.

Marcotting – another word for layering – is a technique that is often applied to plants that are more difficult to prepare cuttings from.

A few rules on layering

  • The stem must still be quite flexible, prefer new growth.
  • It must be buried in good-quality substrate, rich and moist.
  • It is preferable to marcot in summer, during the month of August.

How to layer

  1. Choose a stem (new growth) towards the base of the tree, plant or shrub. It must be flexible enough to reach down to the ground without breaking.
  2. Clean the ground and remove roots, debris and weeds.
  3. Remove leaves and twigs from the portion of the stem that will be buried.
  4. Score (scrape, wound, mark, notch…) the bark lengthwise lightly without breaking the branch.
  5. Bury this part about 2 inches (5 cm) deep.
  6. While still fine if not done, it is best to dip the stem in cutting rooting agent powder.
  7. Stake the portion of the branch that is not buried with a pole so that it stands as vertical as is possible.
  8. Water regularly. In the following spring, you’ll be able to cut the stem that has since produced new roots, and plant it in its new home!

Different types of layering

  • Long stem layering: Almost the entire length of the stem is buried, and shoots sprout at regular intervals. Used for sugar cane, for instance.
  • Layering in pots: A pot is used to bury the stem. No more forceful bending, and the new shoot can just stay in its pot. Great for layering plants like strawberries in pots.
  • Air-layering (marcotting often refers to this): The stem is slit, and is then wrapped in a bundle filled with moist soil mix so that it can develop roots. Often used for citrus.
  • Loch Ness Layering: A long branch is bent down and buried, but portions of it are raised along the way, looking quite like a certain monster… Ideal for blackberry.

A few ideas of plants to layer

All plants that have long stems like climbing plants, vines, clematis, wisteria, and also the slightly more difficult air-layering for ficus trees. Plants like the hybrid Bana grass (Pennisetum purpureum) and the entire dracaena family can also be spread by laying a stem down and burying it in spots.

On the main photo of this article, above, the author works on layering lavender.


Credits for images shared to Nature & Garden (all edits by Gaspard Lorthiois):
Layering a plant by Rosalyn & Gaspard Lorthiois, own work
Screenshot by Jardiner Malin, own work