Easy Ways for Air Layering Japanese Maple Trees

There’s a Japanese word that describes the process of air layering as a plant propagation method: Toriki. Basically, you prevent nutrients from reaching a branch while still attached to the bonsai tree, forcing it to develop new roots. It’s also a stunning way to grow surface roots if you want to showcase that style. 

In this article, we’ll show you the best ways for air layering Japanese Maple trees. You’ll see the best air layering times, followed by the necessary steps. We’ll also answer some questions people always ask about this process.

Table of Contents

air layering japanese maple trees

Best Time to Air Layer Japanese Maple Trees

Once a Japanese Maple comes out of winter dormancy, it will begin to develop new roots, branches, and leaves. During this time of new growth in early spring is the best Japanese Maple air layering time. The section you lay bare on the branch will be searching for nutrients and water, which is when it’s forced to develop new roots for that purpose.

How to Air Layer a Japanese Maple?

Let’s jump right into the most effective ways for air layering Japanese Maple trees. There are two main methods: tourniquet and ring, both of which we’ll show you below. It’s essential that you watch some videos on these methods to make sure you do them right. Otherwise, you may end up accidentally killing the branch instead.

Check our ultimate Japanese Maple guide for proper care once you manage to air-layer a branch!

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Touriquet Method

With the tourniquet method of air layering Japanese Maple trees, you’ll wrap the exposed section of the branch with copper wire in a way that blocks any nutrients from streaming through. As the branch becomes thicker, the nutrients will decrease, forcing it to develop new roots instead. It’s ideal for the Japanese Maple as a slow-growing tree. 

Here are the steps for using the tourniquet method when air layering Japanese Maple trees:

air layering japanese maple trees

  1. Select a spot on the Japanese Maple tree where you would like the new roots to grow. The best way to judge is by deciding how big you want your new bonsai tree to be when you remove it from the main plant.
  2. Wrap coated copper wire around that spot you selected. The thicker the branch, the thicker you want your wire to be. Ensure that the wire cuts into the bark.
  3. You can now add rooting hormone to the section where the wire has caused a wound to form. This will encourage the Japanese Maple to form new roots.
  4. It’s best to add Spaghnum Moss around your new wound, which will supply the water and nutrients for the new roots to feed on. Make sure it’s moist to supply the branch with water.
  5. Wait for the new roots to grow. You can open the cover every few weeks just to see if there’s any development. Once you have sufficient roots for your new bonsai tree, you can cut just under the roots and remove it from the main plant.

Ring Method

The ring method of air layering Japanese Maple trees is more popular. Basically, you strip a ring of bark away and remove a portion of the cambium layer. In this way, you cut off the supply of nutrients to the rest of the branch, so it will develop new roots on that spot as an alternative.

Here are the steps for using the ring method when air layering Japanese Maple trees:

air layering japanese maple trees

  1. With a sharp knife at hand, make circular slits in two locations on the bark where you want the roots to grow. The distance between the two slits should be about 1.5 times the branch diameter.
  2. You can now remove the bark between these two slits. You’ll see a green Cambium layer under the bark, which you should also remove. You’ll want to get to the hardwood layer under it.
  3. As with the tourniquet method for air layering Japanese Maple trees, you’ll want to add some rooting hormone to the exposed section. Since it now doesn’t have a way to get nutrients from the tree’s roots, it’s forced to create new roots to feed on the rooting hormone.
  4. Once again, use moist Spaghmum moss to cover the open wound. You should cover the moss in plastic to keep it all in place and create darkness for the roots to form.
  5. It’s time to wait for the roots to form. It can take several weeks to a few months for this to happen, so be patient. Once there are enough roots, you can transplant the new bonsai tree to a pot with soil.

Sphagnum Moss Perfect for Plant Propagation

Extremely Strong Water Absorption Ability, Help with Maintain Humidity(3.5OZ)

Brand: Generic

BEADNOVA Bonsai Wire

33 Feet Copper Bonsai Training Wire Aluminium Plant Training Wire for Bonsai Plant (Copper, 3 Sizes, 30m)


Air Layering as a Bonsai Cultivation Technique

The art of air layering a tree as a means of propagation is more than 2,000 years old! It’s ideal when you have a mature tree that you would like to develop a bonsai from, speeding up the process as an alternative to growing one from seed or cutting. You also have a healthy clone of the parent tree, carrying over the characteristics and traits.

There are other reasons for air layering Japanese Maple trees. One of these is simply creating surface roots for creative effect. Also, you may want to get rid of an unsightly tree but keep some of the branches for new growth. In this way, you can end up with five trees from one mature plant.

Final Thoughts Air Layering Japanese Maple Trees

As you can see, air layering Japanese Maple Trees is relatively easy. It’s slower than most propagation methods, but you’ll be well-rewarded in the end. It has a better success rate than seeding or cuttings, but only if you do it the right way.

The most important part is starting in spring when you see new branches, leaves, or roots developing. No matter which method you choose, you’ll want to keep that moss moist to make sure the new roots don’t dry out in the summer. Hopefully, you’ll see signs of new roots by the next spring.

I wish you luck with air layering your Japanese Maple tree and growing your new bonsai!

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Shaun has two passions in life that combine into an extravagant show on Bonsai Alchemist. The one is for writing and the second bonsais. He’s been writing fantasy and horror novels since 2000, while also creating online content since 2015. He’s involved with writing for films and games. Finally, he’s also the owner of a book publishing company.

He received his first bonsai as a gift in 2009 and has been growing several species in his quiet home in South Africa. He prefers propagating new life instead of buying bonsais at the store. His son and daughter share his love for nature, while his wife stares on at her introverted hermit husband.


Shaun M Jooste


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