Advanced Propagation Methods - Moss, Perlite and Air Layering Explained

Now that we’ve gone over the basics of propagation in our earlier blog post, let’s have some fun by diving into more advanced mediums. Lets venture into the world of moss, perlite/LECA and air layering. For all these methods you’ll need some sort of propagation vessel. I’ve always found clear containers to be best since you can easily track root development.

SPAGHNUM MOSS

Spaghnum Moss is a fiborous material that comes from the peat bogs. It can easily be found online or in local nurseries and usually comes as a dried, packaged block.

satin pothos cutting propagated in spaghnum moss

First you’ll need to wet the spaghnum moss, I’ve always found it easier to soak it in a bowl of water. Once it’s soaked, wring it out as much as possible—it should be damp not wet or dripping. Next, take the moss and place it inside the container and place the cutting in the moss. You don’t need to pack the moss in, leave it on the looser side so oxygen will be able to flow through. You could also add perlite to the moss to add a bit more aeration.  And make sure to closely monitor the moss while you learn this method. While it is great with water retention it also has a habit of drying out fast which could hinder any root growth. 

PERLITE/LECA

Perlite is volcanic glass—it’s essentially light weight, white rocks. It’s great for aerating soil but also great for propagation. LECA stands for Lightweight Expanded Clay Aggregate. A big complicated word but it’s just round, clay rocks. Commonly used for hydroponics but also great for propagation. Both of these are porous rocks. And while these two mediums are vastly different, the propagation method is the same. 

Hoya kerrii cutting in perlite

First, you’ll need a closed container—meaning a cup or pot with no drainage. Next, fill your container entirely with your choice of perlite or LECA and place your cutting inside so that the node is submerged in the medium. Now, fill about 1/4 of your container with water. It’s important to keep the water line below the cutting, never let them touch or your chances of rot will go up drastically. And through capillary action (the process of liquid flowing in a narrow space) your plant will be able to uptake water and you’ll see signs of root growth in no time. 

AIR LAYERING

Air Layering is one of the best way of propagation because it requires the least amount of work. Air layering is the process of propagating a new plant while the stem is still attached. It sounds more complicated than it is. 

First you’ll need moist spaghnum moss, plastic wrap and some plant velcro. Next, take the spaghnum moss and wrap it around a node and cover the entire thing with plastic wrap and secure both ends with the plant velcro. 

Philodendron node wrapped with spaghnum moss for air layering

If you keep the moss moist, in a few weeks you should have a fully developed root system. Then you’ll be able to cut the plant and immediately plant it into soil. No need to worry about a failed cutting.

For each of these methods, humidity is always important. Placing your cutting in a terrarium or even placing it in a large gallon ziploc bag can do wonders. So now is the time to experiment and see which method works best for you.

infographic about house plant propagation methods - LECA, spaghnum moss, perlite and air layering