Air laying 70+ year old, possible unhealthy apple trees

Hey Mirai,

Question and then a story if you are interested.

I have done some air laying on 1-2 inch maple branches last year with a 90% success rate. I did the strip a ring of bark with rooting hormone and sphagnum moss with a plastic bag technic. Should I use that same method with very old apple trees? I could get some serious nice material but the trees haven’t really been producing fruit the last 2-3 years. Anything I should change going into air laying these old apples?

I was walking my dog on one of our normal routes. I always like walking past this one property that has a bunch of old fruiting trees on it. Today was the first time in 2 years I have timed it so I saw the owner in the front of his large yard that was within yelling/talking distance. He was pruning bushes and trees of all things, and I approached him, a 70+ year old man. I am not joking on how our conversation started “Hey sir, are you the owner this is property?” He replies “Sure am, have been for 30+ years” I reply “random question, I practice bonsai and wanted to know if I could maybe cut off a couple apple tree branches and make some small trees out of them” He replied " You can do what ever the hell you want to do with those damn apple trees. I am done with those damn things." He then invited me to walk through his yard with him.
He told me about how he has been gardening for 30 years and what not. Wanted to know exactly what I would be doing, and was kind of thrilled to hear about air laying. In all the years he had been gardening, he had never heard of such a thing he said. He said to do as many air layers as I want. Just if any live, he wants to keep one of them.
These trees are wicked. They have been pruned for 30 plus years and you can tell with the crazy taper everywhere. He said they where there when he moved in and pruned them every year besides the last 2-3 years because the fruiting changed. He said that the trees always produced tasty apples, but the last 2-3 years, they have got some type for fungus and have been fruiting less and less. Anything I should be worried about?
Thanks All and Cheers,


That’s amazing! It never hurts to ask.


Sounds looks you will potentially obtain singe amazing material! I would treat the besides with topical fungicide during the wet acne reading season to percent 3 infestation by fungi pushup to adore occurring in late spring. I would then check the branches by late summer/early Autumn for for development. If they need to remain in three patent tree, I would use a fungoil or dormant spray of some kind through the winter. If by spring there are a enough roots that can sustain a heavy push of spring growth, then separate them. If not then wait till the spring flush hardens off and check again to see if they can be separated. I’ve had branches take up to 2 and sometimes 3 growing seasons to be strong enough to be separated.


@Porsche What did you wind up doing? Did the air layering work?

Hey @KurtP, Thanks for asking.
I ended up doing 8 or so air layers on 5-6 different apple trees and 2 on a pear and plum tree. I stripped the bark how ever wide the trunk was. Always on the safe side of to large over to small. I used a sharp pocket knife for all the work. I poked at the bark with my knife above the stripped bark to break through the rough bark and used a lot liquid rooting hormone. Then wrapped in moss and then clean and black plastic. Clear plastic to keep the moisture in, then a light wrap in black plastic to protect it from the sun and tie up and loose plastic and or wire.

I did that all back on May 1st I believe. I checked on them the first week of September. I had to water all of them, the moss was totally dry from all the extreme heat we have been having in the Pacific North West. I cut a small hole with my knife at the top and pumped water in. I have two of the air layer on the apple trees that have produced a ton of roots. I will be harvesting them soon, in 2-4 week when I have a couple days off. Two(the pear and an apple) have been turned into bird nesting material and were ripped to shreds… Never thought that would happen… Rest, we will see. I would say its was a 25% success rate at the moment. We will see how they hold up after I separate them also. Ill take pictures when I separate as well. Also may have more that pushed roots in a couple weeks. Wish me luck.

The process if found works best to keep things clean is. Not saying its the best, but best to stay clean and not juggle while you’re up high in a tree haha.

1)Find branch you want to air layer. Tie the wire and the bottom of the clear of the bag on first.
2)Then fold the bag back the other way and then strip the bark just above your wire and plastic.
3) Fold the bag back, and fill it full of very wet moss only 50-70% of the way up.
4) Apply your rooting hormone everywhere you can and then fill the rest of the bag up with moss.
5) Finish wrapping up the plastic and tie it closed with thick cheap non bonsai wire. Then fold in my loose wire and tie close with the a piece of black plastic.

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Very nice description @Porsche. I do it very similar except that I keep the top of the bag open so I can water (there is always leakage around the bottom) and I use aluminum foil rather than black plastic. Similar success rate, but getting better.

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