Using cuttings to ‘make’ aerial ficus roots?

I have been trying to get the only ficus in my collection to produce aerial roots for some time, but I think my climate is just too dry (I’ve read Jerry Meislik’s book, but I also don’t have the indoor space to mist quite so often). This summer, while my handful of tropical trees were outside, I got lots of new growth on my ficus. Rather than just discarding all of the cuttings I started to wonder if these might make aerial roots. They are from the same plant, so the bark will look the same, and I imagine that they will take easily too. My thinking is that once the cuttings root, I can replant them with the original tree, but approach graft the top to a branch. Good idea? Bad idea? I know aerial roots are not everyone’s cup of tea, but I’d like to add some to this tree to improve interest.

Before doing that, try applying moist sphagnum moss to the branch where you want the aerial root(s) to form. That always works for me. Once the roots sprout, you can carefully direct them to the soil through extra-wide straws (Boba) filled with shredded sphagnum. I am in Florida, but I think that would work anywhere.


I have done as you describe, bonding a cutting to a branch. For me the union never looks like the natural. They tended to form a knot that never goes away. I think if the branch is large enough a through graft might be better.
I have had success doing what ChuckP describes except I don’t fill the straws… I am in CO so outdoors keeping the sphagnum moist requires frequent watering during the day.
Indoors I have had success only when placing the tree into a humid environment. Based on the size of the tree I have; placed it in a 5 gallon bucket with transparent film over the top so light can get in, enclosed it in a transparent dry cleaning bag, placed it in an ‘indoor’ greenhouse. In all cases the key was the high humidity environment. Once the aerial roots are started the trick is helping them reach the soil and transitioning the whole thing back to a less humid environment.

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Thanks to you both for the ideas here!

All my ficus and scheffleras are packed together on the shelf in my greenhouse over winter. Cuttings in small pots are placed between larger pots. This is for nursery pots as well as bonsai pots. All winter I water from above. In the Spring, many trees have developed aerial roots. Some of the trees have dropped aerial roots into a neighbor’s pot. When unpacking the greenhouse, I have to pay attention to conjoined pots.

Many of the aerial roots are growing in the wrong place. These are removed before they become a problem.

Sometimes aerial roots will drop outside of a pot and settle on the bench. That brings up a design decision: Do I get a larger pot or remove the aerial root?

I’m in New Orleans; USDA Zone 9b. We don’t have hard winters, but they’re cold enough for me to use a greenhouse. I almost never remove tropicals from the greenhouse during the winter.

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