Air layering citrus (lemon)

Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

My first attempt at air layering

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

second attempt

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

The two small ones in the foreground are the new lemon trees, the larger one behind them is a new lime tree.

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Bodrum, Turkey(Zone 10a)

Roose, that is pretty cool, was it easy? how did you do it???

Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

Greetings pebble,
Yes it is relatively easy but you have to be very patient. I'll post pics on the different steps so you visualize it better.
From what I understand you can air layer just about any plant that is usually difficult to root as a cutting.
Mind you, this was my first attempt so I haven't tried variations.
I started mine by first choosing a healthy looking subject.
First, you'll need plastic wrap, wet peat moss and twist ties (or other suitable material that will keep the plastic wrap snug). You may also choose to use rooting hormone. I didn't with the first ones but I did with the current ones I'm working on which is a lime tree.
Choose a spot somewhere on that stem and make two lateral cuts about an inch apart, being careful to only cut through the bark.
Next you cut lengthwise to connect the other cuts.

Remove the bark off the stem by using either your thumbnail or a knife. Be careful as the stem may be very tender and snap.
Wrap the plastic wrap around the stem below the lower cut.Use a twist tie to keep it in place.
Shape the wrap so that it can hold the wet peat moss that you're going to mold around the stem. Use a nice handful because you want to cover the wound completely and keep it in the dark. If you choose to use root hormone, put it on the wound before you apply the peat moss.
Finish up by wrapping the plastic wrap around the peat. Make sure to overlap the plastic so that it's nice and snug.
Wet the peat whenever it looks and feels to be drying.
It'll be ready to cut when you see roots through the plastic.
And if you're like me you'll probably look every now and then to see if there's anything happening. Be patient. It's a slow process.
Good luck ! ;)

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

STEP 2= make a lateral cut , connecting the other two cuts. (Notice on the right side of the picture, you see a completed procedure)

This message was edited Sep 13, 2005 10:15 PM

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

STEP 3= Remove bark.

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

STEP 3= continued.

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

STEP 4= Applying rooting hormone.

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

STEP 5= applying peat moss.

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

STEP 6= Tying up loose ends.

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Loveland, CO(Zone 5b)

Whoa... thanks for the awesome pictures! I've been wanting to do this to mine, as my grandma wants me to make her one... when should I do it? I know they go dormant in Febrary-ish for a month or so... it's so active right now I wanted to wait so as not to disturb the fruit and new growth it's putting on right now. What d'ya think? I'm worried it's not big enough, it's only about 2 feet tall... I already scouted out a branch that I think would be suitable. How many leaves does it need? Ok, finally... It also needs to be repotted... when should I do this, which should I do first? I, clearly, have lots of questions, please fill in, Fearless Leader! :)


Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

Hi Sarah,
I'm pleased you like the pictures, but I'm hardly a plant GURU. I'll help you as much as I can but there may be some things I'm not too certain about like dormancy and such.
I believe all or most citrus trees are evergreens which leads me to believe they don't go dormant. Please correct me if I'm wrong someone.
I'll use my tree and axperience with it as an example.
I inherited it from my Dad when he passed away 4 years ago and I've been trying to get it on some normal cycle (at least what I thing is normal) of growth.
When my Dad had it, it would bloom in January/February(deep winter here, of course the tree would be indoors), develop fruit through Spring, Summer and Fall. And finally ripen that next winter (around Christmas).
Since I've had it, it blooms whenever it wants. Mostly in the Summer.
That's not good, because it doesn't get the full benefit of the growing season. Making the fruit small and of poor quality.

I'm going to experiment with it this year, by removing all of its fruit and flowers in hopes that it might re-bloom again in Winter. Wish me luck!

To get back to your great questions, if it really needs to be repotted, I would probably do that first.Wait it out for awhile (maybe a month) to make sure it doesn't go into shock then do the air layering.

Like I said I'm by no means an expert but I think the "best" time to do it would be in the growing season.

I had started mine around March and I didn't get to cut it off until the end of June, early July. But I also didn't get to put it outdoors until mid-May, so that might of had something to do with the slow growth.

I think the size of your tree should be big enough, and as you can see in the picture, mine had flowers that produced fruit.

As for how many leaves it should have, I think the more the better. Just as long as you pick a spot on the branch that has a nice relatively green bark.

Look at the picture of the grouping. The tall one happens to be an air layered lime tree that started at the same time as the lemon. See how big it is?

There is also another method of propegation that might fall in to the air layering category. I'm experimenting with that one too and will post pics and results when I'm done.

I hope I've been of some help Sarah. And remember, you've got to have patience.

Good luck, Sal ;)

This message was edited Sep 13, 2005 11:42 PM

This message was edited Sep 13, 2005 11:44 PM

Loveland, CO(Zone 5b)

Thank you so much! Patience won't be a problem... I usually forget that I did stuff like this and then *find* it like a treasure! :) I did this with an avocado pit I started, and now I hope it makes it to a few leaves :) I just potted it up a few days ago, so we'll see... But it did NOTHING for about 2 months, then one day, poof! roots! So, I'm happy to wait for things :). I bought an "air layering kit" which I realized afterwards was a dumb way to spend six dollars, but having the instructions makes me feel more confident in my effort. I'll let you know if it works! :)


Key West, FL(Zone 11)

Thank you so much
That makes it so much easier with the photos. I'm going to get my stuff together and try some this weekend.
Thanks again

Bodrum, Turkey(Zone 10a)

Roose, you have a wonderful way with explaining the process. the photos are wonderful. I really think you need to put this in the plant files so everyone can benefit from it.
Without the photos, i had something different visualized, it is really helfull that you posted the photos.
you make it look and sound easy, wonder how easy it really is.

i think i need to repot mine, then attempt the air layering as you have suggested. and catch it in the growing season. i think mine flower in jan/feb and set fruit and its not till october that it is ready. idint get any fruit this year cause when they were full of flower the maid put it outside to get some fresh air, and left it out there, and i didnt notice that it was gone till iw ent out and half of it was dead....but it has bounced back, and grown uite a bit, i think not setting fruit gave the plant a chance to do some good growing....

i have a big pot that i would like to put it in, it is probably 4-5 times bigger than the pot it is in, do you think that would be a bad thing to get it into a muh bigger pot?

thanks for all your advice, sure has helped me.
and seriously, you should put it in plant database

Loveland, CO(Zone 5b)

Just FYI on Meyer's lemon, as there seems to be a bit of confusion:

Not all citrus can have fruit, bloom, and set simultaneously. Some have to go in a linear fashion: bloom, set, ripen, bloom, set, ripen. Meyer are not limited in this fashion. They will begin to bloom and set early in they year (jan, feb, march), and they will continue to bloom for 11 months even as they are ripening fruit from that first bloom. Then they will have a "dormant" period where they will not produce for about one month. While they do not lose their leaves, they are still resting.

This agrees with what everyone has said, but I wanted to clarify that they can have fruit and also bloom and set more fruit while ripening others. From the time the bloom dies to when the fruit ripens is about nine months, so you'll have a potentially 3 month harvest period right before the dormancy.

Also, Meyer lemons are one of the few citrus that will "self-control" (because I lack the botanary vocabulary to use the right term :) ). While lots of citrus plants will set tons and tons of fruit, rendering several sub-par pieces, Meyer lemon trees will only hold the amount of fruit that they can successfully ripen to a decent quality. They will naturally drop the excess. When I learned this, it greatly lowered my tension about blooms that set and then drop. I will say, that when my lemon got aphids, it dropped more than it's usual amount of fruit. So, clearly stress plays a part.

One last thing, your Meyer needs natural or manual pollination. If it's outside, generally bees and such will do the job for you. But during the winter when your tree is inside (if you aren't lucky enough to be able to leave it out), you HAVE to pollinate with a paintbrush or q-tip to set fruit. Just dust one bloom with the paintbrush, then go dust another without cleaning the brush off... You want to carry that yellow dust from bloom to bloom. I didn't altogether understand the mechanics when I first started. A google search will yield results that will link you to "kids" pages where you can learn exactly what you're doing. I found these very helpful.

I hope I'm not coming off snooty! :) Surely, I didn't even know when to air-layer or anything! But are the things I know for sure about Meyer's. I learned them from the nursery, and master gardeners when I was first investigating getting one. I'm pretty poor, so spending $25 on a plant was something I did a lot of research on before I took the plunge. :) This is what I have to add :)


Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

glad to be of help and yes I'm going to try and enter all the info and pics in the PLANT FILES.

thank you so much on the info on the Meyer lemon. as it turns out, i just picked up a Meyer at LOWES and was wondering what sort of lemon does it produce? are they normal (like supermarket fruit?) with seeds or are they smaller?

let me know. the tree i bought has fruit on it (about the size of acorns) and has set a couple of blooms.

i picked a lime from my tree recently (about the size of a small orange) and it was fantastic.very juicy and tasty. i just don't know what type it is. probably just a run-of-the-mill lime.:)

my other citrus is a pondarosa lemon. that's the one i wrote about. it now looks somewhat like an oversized bonsai tree. very nice to look at. plus for me it holds alot of pleasent memmories.

if snooty means being informative, please be more snooty ;)


Loveland, CO(Zone 5b)

My tree hasn't given me a fruit yet, I just got it in April... the largest fruit it had at that time was about the size of a plum. It's now decent lemon size and *just* starting to get yellow a tiny bit on the side that gets the most sun. It seems to be progressing veeeery slow :) I'm patient though! By veeeery slowly, I mean, there's not much to report in the last four weeks. I sometimes find people are ambiguous in time measurements, so that sorta quantifies. :) From what I understand, the ripe Meyer is comparable in size to the supermarked (Eureka) lemon you'd expect. The ripe color is a yellow-orange. Some believe the Meyer to be a lemon-orange hybrid, as it is not quite as tart as a eureka... sweeter, like an orange. :)

Glad the information has been useful... You're probably a ways off of your first fruit, so when I taste my predicted Christmas lemonade, I'll include a full report! :)


Bodrum, Turkey(Zone 10a)

Sarah, great information, I will definately pollinate my meyer lemon in the manner you described if i have i indoors this year.

i had 5-6 lemons from it the years before last.

Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

Sounds like everyone's off to a fruitful start. That's great!

I still haven't culled the lemons off of the Ponderosa and I really hate to (two of them are now the size of a medium orange) But, "what has to be, has to be,"as they say.

good luck to all :)


Frederick, MD(Zone 6b)

This looks like a fun thing to try! My key lime tree has put on some new growth this summer, and I was noticing that it had a few new "crossed" branches that will need to be pruned out. Maybe I will try air layering those branches rather than pruning them!

Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

Hi critterologist,

I can't think of a better way to make your tree look better and increase the plant population at hte same time.
Just yesterday I cut two branches that are now lime trees.

Here are some pics that I took.

This one shows a nice size root, although I wish it had more.

This message was edited Sep 17, 2005 8:57 PM

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

Here's a shot of what it looks like through the plastic.

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

I'm pleasantly surprised that they rooted so qulckly. I only started them in mid August. That's four weeks for a new tree! Not bad!

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Monroe, NY(Zone 6b)

Here's the finished product.
Hope I didn't bore anyone!

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