How to Root a Tree Branch without Cutting?

How to Root a Tree Branch without Cutting

Being a tree enthusiast, you might become obsessed with a specific tree that you want to grow more of it. But planting their seeds and transplanting the tree cuttings mightn’t give your desired outcome! In that case, root the branch in the tree itself to duplicate the plant. But how to root a tree branch without cutting?

In order to develop roots on the branch, applying some hormones in the exposed branch and covering it with some moss are the main steps. For those who want to make it a success, let’s explore the process with the necessary tips!

Can You Root A Tree Branch Without Cutting? 

How to Root a Tree Branch without Cutting

It is feasible to develop roots in a tree branch while it is on its tree. Such rooting that happens without cutting the branch is air layering. And there are several types of air layering to choose from. 

The most common type is Marcotting or Girdling layering. It requires root hormones to form roots around the uncut branch. However, it is a slow process as it takes almost a season to grow the roots. 

How to Root a Tree Branch without Cutting: Step-by-Step Process

Air layering trees is one of the easiest tree propagation methods. Easy in the sense it does not need extensive monitoring and maintenance! And here is the detailed process as described:

Step 1: Pick the Season and Tree

Choose a fruit-bearing plant, as air-layering fruit trees is most effective However, you can pick a flowering tree as well. Make sure the tree has no rot or disease spread throughout its units.

Carry out the task while the bloom starts appearing on the tree, especially during mid-spring. And do it on a windy day so that the excessive heat does not stress the branch.

Step 2: Choose a Branch 

Sturdy and old branches grow better roots than tender twigs. So, find a thick and stable branch that has no peeled-off bark. I’d recommend the thickness of the branch to be similar to a pencil or pen. 

How to Root a Tree Branch without Cutting

You can definitely choose a thicker one, but it will be a bit difficult to handle. For multiple layering, pick as many as you want.

Step 3: Remove Some Leaves

Identify the point or nodes that the leaves grow from. This node connects the leaves together. There can be multiple of these on the branch. Pick the lowest node located at the end of the branch.

Then, remove the leaves that are 3 inches above the node.  And cut the twigs around the stem with garden shears. Avoid pulling all the leaves from the branch. Or else it can weaken the branch. 

Step 4: Make Slits around the Branch 

Below a leaf node, push a knife and make a cut in a circumference. Do not cut too deep. If the blade contacts the solid wood under the bark, it is enough. 

How to Root a Tree Branch without Cutting

From the first cut, move the knife half inches below. Then, create another cut around. 

Step 5: Create Girdles

Start peeling off the bark between the two cuts. If you cannot pull it off with your fingers, slide the knife through the bark gently. It will help the bark layer to loosen. Then, you can remove all the bark between the two ring cuts to create a girdle.

How to Root a Tree Branch without Cutting

With the knife, scrape off the wood from the exposed branch or girdle. Otherwise, the bark will grow back on the branch. Watch the tutorial for more clarity on girdles:

Step 6: Apply Rooting Hormone

Get a bottle of liquid rooting hormone and dip a soft brush in the solution. Apply the solution throughout the exposed branch. Ensure that the hormone does not drip off to other parts of the tree or the ground. 

Step 7: Prepare the Moss 

Buy some sphagnum moss or cow manure from a local gardening store, and soak them in a bowl full of water. Let them sit there for 2 minutes. Then, strain the water and squeeze the moss to get rid of any water in them. 

How to Root a Tree Branch without Cutting

Step 8: Spread the Moss/Manure

As the title suggests, you need to spread the moss around the girdle on the branch. Apply some pressure while covering the girdle so that the moss can stay intact with the branch. If the moss falls off the exposed branch, you may soak them in the water again for a minute. 

Step 9: Cover the Moss

In order to retain the moisture in the moss, wrap a plastic sheet or aluminum foil around the applied moss or manure. If the wrap seems loose, tie a thin strand of cotton around the sheet.

How to Root a Tree Branch without Cutting

Step 10: Monitor the Branch 

Once a week, peel off the wrap to see whether any root is growing or not. If you see no improvement, try to apply some more hormones under the moss. Then, cover the moss.

How to Root a Tree Branch without Cutting

Due to excessive heat, the moss can lose its moisture. So, while inspecting for roots, if the moss seems dry, rewet it and apply it to the girdle.

After a few weeks, the roots will start to appear. Do not unwrap the branch until the roots grow outside the girdle. Once the roots grow, cut the branch below the roots, and transplant it to a pot or soil.


Not everyone is good at maintaining the soil structure for growing tree roots from a cutting. And the main question they often post is how to root a tree branch without cutting. Air-layering can either form healthy roots or damage the tree. It all depends on how you execute the method. 

So, I’d highly suggest being gentle with the girdling. Avoid making deep slits, and you are good to go. 

Frequently Asked Questions (F.A.Q’s):

Are all trees compatible with the air-layering process? 

Most hardwood trees, especially fruit-producing trees, are suitable for air-layering. However, if you have a sturdy indoor plant, you can root its branch through air-layering as well.

Is air-layering safe for the trees?

Air-layering requires making slits into the branch. And chances are some fungi can enter through these slits in the oak trees to cause disease. So, it is better to avoid trees that are susceptible to fungal infection. 

Is rooting a tree without cutting the tree effective? 

Rooting trees without cutting the branch is effective if you choose the right season to do it. During autumn and spring, the roots grow well through air–layering. 

Md Biajid

Meet Mia Biajid, a passionate nature lover. Particularly, he has a deep-rooted connection to the plant. Mia loves to spend time exploring forests and uncovering the secrets held within trees. He always inspires others to appreciate and protect our precious part of the ecosystem.

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