Best root booster for plants

Massive Roots! Root Booster Winner test!

I have run and tested a few root boosters over the years and most of them fell short of being worth the money to continue using them. Here are the ones that I have tested. Ill talk about the winner last. The Winner blows the doors off any root booster I have used to date.
Heavy 16 Roots: This product is expensive and its not really a root booster at all. What it does do well, is that it keeps salts from building up in your medium. Its similar to H&G Drip Clean.
General Hydro Rapid Start: Decent product, it works and I noticed thicker roots but there is not a huge difference in the root system. For the results, I dont feel like it was worth the money. Some people report better results at 2X strength but I never tested a double dose, all my tests are the recommended dose.
Advance Nutrients Voodoo Juice:
Similar results to that of Rapid Start. This was one of the first root boosters I ever ran and my memory is cloudy. What I do remember is that the old Roots Excel was much better than Voodoo Juice.
Roots Excel: The old formula was the second best root booster that I have ever used. Too bad the new formula is crap and a complete waste of money. I dont know what they did but my guess is the new formula is just seaweed and microbes. Barely works.
Super Thrive: It works really well and its cheap! A $10 bottle lasts me two years. I use 2 drops per gallon. It works as well as any of the root boosters mentioned except for the winner. The down side is that it’s not recommened in flower. It can also be used in conjunction with any root booster.
(Black Label Pure Essential)
Root Enhance:
This stuff is expensive but I have not seen anything like it. This stuff blows away anything that I have used. At 1ml a gallon this stuff pumps out thick massive roots, that grow rapidly. It also says it repairs dead roots, in a sense, it does. I had a clone that dried out and all the roots were dead, after a week(5 days) of feeding it the Root Enhance, new white roots were shooting from the stem and past all the dead decaying roots. So it completely revives dead root system. On healthy plants, the roots burst out like crazy, its nuts. It says there are no PGRs but it works so well I find it hard to believe. Another thing I noticed, is that there is a noticable increase in the growth of my moms.

DAY 4 in Aero Cloner
DAY 5 in Aero Cloner

How to Make Natural, Homemade Root Stimulant

It’s early spring – the ground is beginning to thaw here near the 49th Parallel, the land is turning green, and blossoms are beginning to appear.

Thus, it’s the perfect time to think about preparing for this year’s garden. Wahoo!

Of course, heirloom seed catalogs abound and you can start planning what kind of garden you want to grow this year and maybe even prep your homemade potting soil so you’re ready to go when your seeds arrive.

But what about:

  • Propagating plants you already have and you want more of (like that rosemary bush or the quince tree I’ve got in the picture above)?
  • Or for plants you can’t find seeds for?
  • Or you just want to get a head start on some tough-to-grow plants?

In those instances, rooting hormone or root stimulant becomes your best friend.

The problem is, most commercial varieties of root stimulant include pesticides, which theoretically can be helpful so that nothing comes and munches your newly rooted plants while they’re getting established, but overall are quite harmful, as they drive away worms and other essential, beneficial organisms AND can deplete your soil of needed nutrients. They also use synthetic plant hormones at times – not to mention that they can be expensive!

So, for all these reasons, I choose a natural, homemade version, that interestingly enough, has been the way plants have been rooted for centuries – AND provides its own self-defense mechanism for protecting the infant plant as it gets established.

This natural, homemade root stimulant uses willow shoots, which are the most potent in the spring when the new shoots begin to leaf out but can be made anytime of year, provided you use that year’s new growth. Older shoots are not potent enough to make the homemade root stimulant, unfortunately.

Willow is fascinating, actually, and as I’ve learned more about it over the last few years, I consider willow trees to be an essential part of any homestead, if the land will support them!

Hippocrates himself wrote back near 400 BC that chewing the bark of a willow tree reduced pain and fever. Phamacological records of Egyptian pharoahs indicate that willow was used to treat fever even back around 2000 BC. Yet the effective compound in willow, salicin, wasn’t isolated from willow bark until the late 19th century. Today, we know this ingredient as Aspirin (or ASA – acetylsalicylic acid – as it is known in many countries).

But while that is interesting in and of itself, it is the rooting properties that are especially fascinating.

Willow can help OTHER plants grow roots, know as the “willow rooting cofactor,” and it contains two substances in particular that make the rooting process work: indolebutyric acid (IBA) and the aforementioned salicylic acid (SA).

Indolebutyric acid (IBA) is a plant hormone that stimulates root growth and is present in very high concentrations in the growing tips of willow branches. When coppiced (cut down to ground level), willow can grow more than a metre in a single season, so its concentration of growth hormone is certainly evidenced!

In fact, according to The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation, THE definitive text on this type of plant propagation (don’t have a copy? grab one NOW!), willows have a rooting percentage of 90-100% and adding any other rooting hormones doesn’t increase the success rate whatsoever – meaning, their hormones are strong and sufficient enough that no additional hormones are needed to propagate them.

Salicylic acid (SA) not only is beneficial for treating pain and fever, as mentioned earlier, but it’s a plant hormone responsible for signalling a plant’s defenses, sometimes referred to as “systemic acquired resistance,” where an attack on one part of the plant triggers the plant’s internal defenses in other parts of the plant, namely a resistance to invaders.

(It’s a plant’s version of a medieval castle raising its drawbridge and filling the moat when there’s a sign of an attacking horde approaching. This response is strong enough that it can effectively protect other nearby plants, at times, as well.)

So, this is what makes homemade root stimulant made with willow so effective: not only does a cutting need to be given incentive to grow strong roots, but it needs to protect itself from infection by both bacteria and fungi, two very common threats to newly propogated cuttings. By infusing water with these two potent natural substances from willow, plants can better fight off infection and grow hardy roots that will sufficiently feed and nourish the plant once it’s transplanted.

And even better, a little bit of willow can go a very long way. Once you have one willow shoot, you can easily make more to have a ready supply. Merely root the willow shoot in water, plant it, and at the end of the season coppice it. Now you have a cut shoot with which to make more willow water, but the coppiced stump will also grow a whole collection of new shoots the next spring. You can even do this mid-season.

Check out this willow fence my permaculture design-loving husband built from willow that he started with just a handful of shoots rooted in a 5-gallon bucket only a year before:

And, due to both indolebutyric acid and salicylic acid, willow fences around a garden help provide a sturdy barrier to repel pests of multiple kinds!

Oh, and one last note before we move on – do you see the photo at the top of this article, the one with willow branches in a jar with a quince cutting and a spider plant? Do you notice how clear the water is?

That picture was taken when the willow had been in the water for 29 days and the quince had been there for 12!!! It was part experimentation and part forgetfulness, but it was living proof that willow cleans the water, as is known when it’s next to ponds or standing water (similar to cattails).

Here’s a close-up:

As you can tell, I’m thoroughly impressed and fascinated with how willow is designed to be SO beneficial – and so practical – within the plant kingdom.

But, enough. We need to get on to our recipes!

For quick use:

Take one young willow shoot, removing any leaves, and cut it into 1-2″ pieces. Half-fill a quart-sized mason jar with the pieces and pour freshly boiled water over them, as if you were making tea.

(You may use any willow variety – if it has Salix in its Latin name, it is sufficient for this purpose. Also, the bark should be yellow or green. If the bark is brown or gray, it is too old.)

Steep for 8-12 hours, then strain and compost the willow pieces. The willow water root stimulant is now ready for use.

Store in the refrigerator for up to two months.

For semi-quick use:

Take one young willow shoot, removing any leaves, and cut it into 1-2″ pieces. Half-fill a quart-sized mason jar with the pieces and fill the jar with cool or tepid water.

Let sit for 5-7 days, then strain and compost the willow pieces. The willow water root stimulant is now ready for use.

Store in the refrigerator for up to two months.

If you’re not in a hurry:

Place several young willow cuttings in a jar along with freshly-cut cuttings you’d like to propogate and fill the jar with water, making sure no leaves sit below the water’s surface.

Let sit until the cutting forms roots at least 1″ long, 5-30 days. New cuttings may be added to the jar if the water is still clear.

How to Use Homemade Root Stimulant:

To use, pour a few inches of homemade root stimulant into a jar and place healthy cuttings into the water as you would flowers in a vase. Let sit until roots form, 1-7 days.

Please note that while willow water has been shown to be consistent more than 90% of the time, it may not perform 100% of the time, in which case a new batch will be needed.

You may also place cuttings directly in your potting soil or planting medium and then water them using the homemade root stimulant, but I’ve only seen mixed success on this method (although it’s certainly much much better than just watering with water when you’re trying to stimulate growth!).

On a similar subject and with a similar method, see Mommypotamus’ excellent How to Grow Elderberries from Cuttings.

How to Find Willow Shoots if You Don’t Already Have Any

Part of the reason for doing this is to save money, so don’t buy willow if you don’t have to (and if you do, buy as little as possible).

  • Because willow grows so prolifically, it’s usually fairly easy to find some by asking around on Craigslist or on gardening forums in your area.
  • If a neighbor or friend has a willow tree, ask if you might cut a cutting or two.
  • Or, with permission, snip a few cuttings from trees in a wilderness area, such as a county park, bird sanctuary, or even a ditch on a rural road.

Or what are your ideas? If you have an idea on how to get willow shoots ethically for free, PLEASE share in the comments below!

What is your favorite plant to propagate? Or – what plant would you love to propagate if you could?

Increase the Success of Your Cuttings by Using Natural Rooting Hormone

My favorite fragrant rosemary plant needs a good trim. I have several kinds of rosemary, but this particular plant grows upright and gets about 3 feet tall. It smells wonderful and I use it for cooking.

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Since I think you can never have too much rosemary, I’m going to dehydrate some of it and use the rest to increase my bounty – I’m making rosemary cuttings.

I’m concerned about the chemicals found in powdered rooting hormone and how it might affect my family’s health, so I’ve done some research and found 6 ways to make your own natural rooting hormone.

Why I Use Rooting Hormone

I have never been able to achieve a 100% cutting survival rate. Some of them always die – it’s just a fact of life I guess. I do know that when I take the time to use rooting hormone, I have a better success rate with the new starts. Usually in the 75% range. I’ll take that!

Rooting hormone acts as a catalyst for the new roots and protects the cuttings from fungus and disease that may have been introduced during the cutting process.

A Word About Rooting Medium

Rooting medium is the mixture that you will use to grow your new plants. It is NOT garden soil, but much lighter. In fact, it is most likely not soil at all. You can purchase pre-made rooting medium at any garden center (they’ll call it seed starting mix) or you can use a combination of pre-moistened potting soil, perlite, vermiculite, sand, coconut coir, or sphagnum moss.

The key is to choose something that will retain water and not be too dense for the newly sprouting roots.

Six Ideas for Rooting Hormone

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No matter which method you choose, there is one important thing to remember. It’s not sanitary to stick cuttings directly into the original container of rooting hormone. The moisture on the cutting will degrade the remaining hormone in the container. Pour a small amount of the medium into a jar or paper cup and use that for dipping. It will keep your original rooting hormone fresh and ready to use for next time.

#1 Spit on them! Use your own saliva, which is said to be a natural root enhancer. I’m not sure how it works exactly because mouths are notoriously dirty, but go ahead and give it a try. There isn’t any advance preparation needed. Some die-hards suggested that you just give the cuttings a lick, however that’s not practical if you have hundreds of cuttings to make or if that plant is poisonous. I say – get your son to spit in a cup and use that. He’ll love a reason to do it and you will get your cuttings rooted.

#2 Use Apple Cider Vinegar – ACV has over 30 trace elements that are beneficial to plant growth. Go lightly though, because vinegar is also a go
od weed killer. All you need to do is mix 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into 1 gallon of water and dip your cutting in it then transfer them to the rooting medium.

#3 Open the kitchen cabinet and grab your jar of cinnamon – Cinnamon kills fungus and bacteria and will help to keep those cuttings free of disease while rooting. You can double the fun and dip your cutting in saliva or willow tea and then cinnamon, they go hand in hand. Cinnamon will minimize off damping off in your seed flats as well.

#4 Honey is also naturally anti-bacterial and will benefit your new cuttings. To make a honey rooting hormone, take a few simple steps:
a.) boil 2 cups of water
b.) add 1 Tablespoon of honey
c.) let the mixture cool and place it in a covered container (like a canning jar). Store your honey rooting hormone away from the light. It will last about 2 weeks. To use: dip cuttings in the solution then pot up as usual.

To use: dip the cuttings in the solution then pot them up as usual.

#5 Aspirin crushed into powder and dissolved in water is also said to be an effective rooting hormone. While this might not be technically “natural” is is something you probably have around the house that could be used in a pinch.

#6 Make willow tea – directions can be found in this previous post – DIY Willow Water, a Natural Rooting Hormone. Willows are their most potent in the spring when the trees begin to leaf out, but you can make this mixture any time. Use only the stems from new growth.

My rosemary cuttings are on the shelf and looking good! Use these 6 simple do it yourself natural rooting hormone tricks to boost the success of your cutting this year.

What is your favorite way to root cuttings? Do you use any of these techniques?

8 Natural Rooting Stimulants for Cloning Plants in Gardening

In today’s post, we will look into 10 different natural rooting hormones or root stimulating substances that can be easily used for plant cloning – that’s multiplying plants from cuttings with great success rate! We will also show you how you can make the most powerful formula by mixing one or more of these substances.

In horticulture, Cloning means making duplicate plants out of branch or stem cuttings from a mother plant. It is a great way to multiply a plant, specially if it’s a rare variety or very precious to you or if you wanna gift some plants to your friends and neighbours.

The simplest way of cloning a plant is just pinching a small branch or stem cutting and inserting it into the soil. But, the success rate of this cutting is generally low. If you want to increase the success rate, then you need to follow certain simple rules to accelerate the root formation and increase the success rate of cloning.

Most plant cuttings will naturally produce their own rooting hormones after a short period of time. Actually, many plants can be easily cloned by simply placing the cutting in some clean water and following some simple rules. You can check a detailed article on the 10 Golden rules of cloning.

Rooting hormones can be natural or synthetic chemicals and contain Indole butyric acid (IBA) and naphthalene acetic acid (IBA). IBA is the natural plant auxin or hormone responsible for the stimulation or the formation of roots. If you are purchasing these commercial rooting hormone powders, make sure you check composition on the label to contain atleast one of these compounds.

Now lets list out the best 8 natural rooting hormones or agents that can be used to accelerate rooting in cuttings and increase the success rate of cloning.

8. Your Own Saliva: Not joking! Nothing advanced about this. Human or animal saliva is definitely an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal for plants. The main idea is to prevent the cutting from rot and stimulate the root formation. This very first step to prevent rot can be achieved by just dipping your cutting insertion end into saliva and then insert into the potting soil. This is definitely like Something is better than Nothing!

7. Apple Cider Vinegar: This is another proven natural rooting hormone stimulant. Add 5 drops in half a cup of water and mix well. Do not use more than this quantity, because it can have an opposite effect and may prevent rooting and also vinegar is a natural weed killer in strong concentrations.
Just dip the cutting insertion end into this cup and then insert into soil.

6. Cinnamon Powder: Cinnamon is an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal agent that will definitely double your cloning success rate. Make sure the cinnamon bark is finely powdered and just dip the cutting into this powder for about an inch and then insert into soil.

5. Willow Bark: The bark of willow tree contains two important compounds – salicin and Indole butyric acid. Salicin is chemically similar to aspirin (which is acetylsalicylic acid). And Indolebutyric acid (IBA) is a plant hormone that stimulates root growth as already discussed.

If you are lucky and have a willow tree around you, you can make a willow tea.
IBA hormone is present in high concentrations in the growing tips of willow branches. So if you can take these cuttings and soak them in warm water, you can get enough quantities of IBA hormone into this water what we call Willow Tea.

4. Honey: Honey is another natural antiseptic and anti-fungal agent which helps these little cuttings to remain healthy and strong. Remember pure honey is said to have a more beneficial effect than the processed bottle honey. Do not directly dip your cuttings into honey because this can attract many insects and ants. So, the commonly used recipe for using honey as rooting agent is:

Add 1 teaspoon honey to 2 cups of boiling water or half teaspoon honey to 1 cup of boiling water. Do not boil after adding honey, just stir it well and allow it to cool down before dipping the cuttings.

3. Aloe Vera Gel: Fresh aloe vera gel contains salicylic acid along with other useful enzymes, amino acids and minerals. I have demonstrated this in one of my older posts. You can check that aloe vera experiment here.
Just take out the gel from a fresh aloe vera leaf and dip the cuttings into it and plant them in soil.

2. Aspirin: Though not natural, but an inexpensive way is to use aspirin 350 mg tablet, either as crushed powder or dropping a tablet in a glass of water and then dipping the cuttings into it.

Now! If you want to make a more powerful and potent rooting agent, you can mix one or more of these things and try experiment each formula on few cuttings and see which one works best for you.

For example: Willow tea + Honey or Cinnamon + Honey or Aloe vera Gel + Honey and so on..

Happy Gardening!

The Science Behind Natural and Synthetic Root Growth Promoters

There are hundreds of products on the market claiming to stimulate, boost, enhance, or promote root growth, but with all the hype, how can you figure out what really works and what is a waste of your precious dollars?

There are products on the market that are designed to stimulate root growth, but you need to know what you are looking for before getting suckered by pretty packaging and unverifiable claims.

Why Use Root Promoters?

Most growers, from hobbyists to professionals, use rooting promoters as a matter of course when propagating plants. It may make one ponder the need, though, since plants have evolved to develop root systems on their own (otherwise they would have gone extinct or never developed to begin with).

While that is certainly true in nature, the propagation of plants introduces a wide range of variable and artificial conditions that a plant cutting’s natural counterpart may not ever encounter. The natural counterpart also has the benefit of numerous symbiotic relationships with beneficial flora and fauna; they are also not operating on anyone’s time table but their own.

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In general, rooting promoters—be they hormones, stimulators, or other growth aids—are designed or gleaned from nature for their ability to aid in a plant’s need to develop a healthy root system quickly.

Other benefits from using root promoters, besides reducing the time it takes for a plant to initiate root development, are that cuttings treated with root growth stimulators typically have a higher survival rate than non-treated cuttings and that the number of roots produced per cutting is increased.

Another benefit, mostly for commercial propagators, is that the use of root promoters generally increases the uniformity of the cuttings’ root systems. This is important when keeping all container sizes uniform.

The Natural Root Promoters: Auxins

Plants naturally produce root promoters of different types called auxins. Auxins help to encourage or regulate plant growth through the processes of either cell enlargement or cell division. They can direct the growth of one area of a plant while restricting the growth to another, depending on where its resources are needed.

Any legitimate rooting hormone or root growth stimulator will have this in one form or another. For developing roots from propagated cuttings, look for a product containing the naturally occurring hormone indole butyric acid (IBA). This auxin helps the plants to develop new roots.

If you are transplanting a young plant that already has roots, but you want to stimulate more lateral roots, find a product containing the manufactured hormone naphthylacetic acid (NAA). Some rooting promoters on the market contain both IBA and NAA. Other real and synthetic plant auxins do exist, but they are not as efficient as they break down quickly and are of little long-term benefit to the plant.

Phosphorous is one of the nutrients needed by plants in large amounts, and one of its many functions is to aid in root development. Some root stimulators may contain phosphorous, but you can also use a separate phosphorous product on its own.

A word of caution about phosphorous: any amount not used by the plant ends up leaching out and often ends up in waterways. This causes unwanted and sometimes dangerous algae blooms. Make sure that you really need it and that your plants can use all the phosphorous that you give it. When in doubt, test the phosphorous levels of your media to see if your plants already have enough available to them.

The same can be said of nitrogen. Nitrogen fertilizers may be sufficient to help your plant develop new roots as the process of your plant adjusting to its new home can require additional nutrition. Be careful about over-fertilizing.

Regardless of which formulation you select for your rooting promoter, be careful not to contaminate or otherwise compromise the contents. Do not dip your cutting or plant into a bottle of root stimulator. This can introduce any number of unwanted pathogens that can then be spread to your other plants with each subsequent dip.

Prepare the desired amount separately, and keep the original container tightly closed when not in use. Do not save or reuse root stimulators that have already been in contact with your cuttings or transplants. Finally, read up on the differences between gel rooting hormones, powder rooting hormones, and liquid rooting hormones.


Though not a growth hormone, mycorrhizal fungi has been known for hundreds of years to benefit plants’ roots. The mutually beneficial relationship between this fungi and a plant’s root system is complex. In general, beneficial bacteria are stimulated, which in turn produce growth-enhancing chemicals within a plant.

The fungi feed on carbohydrates and proteins that are released by the roots of a plant, and the networks of beneficial fungi, which can go on for miles underground, can act as an extension for the roots’ ability to draw much-needed nutrients. Roots that have a complex mycorrhizal relationship are more resistant to root diseases, pests, and negative cultural conditions like drought or poor soil aeration.

Mycorrhizae has become widely available on the market. You can obtain it in liquid, granular, or powder form. It may also be embedded into soilless media. It should be observed, however, that the use of fungicides on your plant to prevent certain fungal diseases may negatively affect the beneficial fungi existing in your plant’s root network.

If you purchase a mycorrhizae product for root development and a fungicide, you may as well save your money and not buy the mycorrhizae until enough time has elapsed from your fungicide treatments.

Vitamin B1

You don’t have to look hard in the root promoting marketplace to find thiamine (vitamin B1), which is touted as either the ultimate root growth stimulator or as a cure-all for transplant shock. There are no verifiable studies to support these claims.

Plant research in the mid-20th century considered several auxins that were mixed with vitamin B1 and these compounds were indeed found to promote root growth. It has repeatedly been proven since that it was the auxins alone responsible for the root development, not the thiamine.

Vitamin B1 does have a place in plant development, however, but it is usually abundant enough in nature that additional doses are unnecessary. It is beneficial to add vitamin B1 to sterile media where there is no natural thiamine for the plant to use, but there are few other situations where it is actually needed.

Organic and Non-chemical Alternatives

If you are concerned about using artificial hormones or just aren’t sure which product to use, you can make your own organic root promoter by using willow tree branches and leaves. Fast-growing trees like willow produce large amounts of auxins. Willow tea, or willow water as it is called by some, is easily prepared with young, thin, willow branches.

To make a gallon of willow tea, cut four cups worth of thin branches with leaves into one to two-inch sections. Boil one gallon of water. Add the cut branches and leaves to the boiling water and let them sit until the water has cooled to room temperature. Sieve out the pieces and the auxin-rich water can be used immediately to water your cuttings.

Unused amounts can be frozen and thawed for later use. (If you cannot locate a willow tree to borrow a few branches from, you can make the same concoction with other rapid growers like poplars or silver maples.)

If you do not want to make your own organic root stimulator, you can find some on the market that have been approved for organic gardening by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI). Look for the OMRI stamp on labels of root stimulators to ensure that what you are buying is in fact organic.

Another long-standing and proven natural product for aiding in root development for cuttings is honey. Regular, straight-from-the-pantry honey is a natural antiseptic. While it does not act as a rooting hormone, it protects your cuttings so that they can develop their roots without the risk of succumbing to disease. There is some indication that the sugars in honey are also beneficial for root development. Read More: The Various Forms of Natural and Synthetic Rooting Hormones.


What do herbicides have to do with root stimulators? Surprisingly, a lot. Unknown to many gardeners, several types of herbicides are actually nothing more than plant auxins. Common weed killers containing the compound 2,4-D work by stimulating plant growth. In the case of plants treated with herbicides containing these compounds, they cause the affected plant to essentially grow themselves to death, much like a cancer.

For root stimulation, these compounds are used in far weaker concentrations. This does not mean that you can use any weed killer in a diluted strength to put on your cuttings. Even at a highly weakened rate, they might inhibit other growth functions of your cuttings.

The point of mentioning herbicides here is to let you know you should not be alarmed if you recognize something typically used as an herbicide among the active ingredients on a bottle of root promoter. Lethality is a matter of dosage; even water is toxic if you consume enough of it.

  1. Remove a fresh, healthy stem cutting from a parent plant using a clean knife or shears. Use only cuttings from vigorous and healthy plants, and make sure the growing tip is between 3 inches and 8 inches long. Cut the topmost few inches from the stem. The cut should be made near a node, which is a slightly swollen knob on the stem. Remove any leaves or flowers from the node area.
  2. Moisten the bottom few inches of the cutting so the rooting hormone will adhere to it.
  3. Pour a little rooting hormone out of the container and dip or roll the bottom few inches of the cutting in the rooting powder. Do not dip the cutting directly into the rooting hormone container. Don’t apply the powder any higher than the planting depth. Shake the excess powder off by lightly tapping the cutting against the edge of the container.
  4. Plant the cutting in a soilless potting medium. Make a hole in the potting medium with a pencil or similar tool. Make sure the planting hole is wide enough that the rooting hormone is not rubbed off as you sink the cutting into the soil.
  5. Tamp down the soil around the cutting to remove any air pockets. Water lightly and keep the cutting warm at 60 F or higher. Most plants root better if they are kept out of direct sunlight.

Garden Fundamentals – become a better gardener

A rooting hormone is used in plant propagation to grow new roots on cuttings. In a previous post, called Rooting Hormones – What Are They, I provided some background information. In this post I will help you understand how they should be used.

Cuttings of black mulberry ready for rooting hormone, by Robert Pavlis

What Is a Cutting?

In plant propagation a ‘cutting’ is any piece of a plant that does not have roots. It can be part of a stem, or even just a leaf. The cutting is taken off the mother plant, treated with hormone and then planted in a rooting medium (soil). Over time the cutting will form roots.

Many plants will form roots without rooting hormone. For example you can take a piece of stem or leaf off most sedums and they will root. Most perennials will root quite easily without hormone as well. Some trees root easily, some only with rooting hormone, and some will not root at all even with rooting hormone.

Avoiding Diseases

When using rooting hormone it is best to take a bit of the hormone out of the container you bought, and place it in another small container, or flat dish. You will need very little for each cutting.

After applying the rooting hormone to your all of your cuttings, discard any that is left. This will minimize the potential for spreading diseases to future cuttings.

Powdered Rooting Hormones

Rooting hormones that are sold as powders normally contain something like talc – a very fine powder – along with the hormone. Dip the base of the cutting into the rooting hormone and tap it slightly on a hard surface. This will knock off excess powder leaving a very thin film of powder on the cutting. You only want a small amount of rooting hormone on the cutting. Too much can inhibit root growth.

Make a hole in the rooting medium (ie soil) with something like a pencil, and push the cutting into the hole. Firm the soil around the cutting. By making a hole first you reduce the chance removing the hormone as you push the cutting into the soil.

The above is the recommended way to apply the powder. To be honest I don’t do it this way. Instead I dip the cutting in the rooting hormone and instead of shaking the excess off, I just stick it into the soil. As the cutting is pushed into the soil, excess powder will be removed. I think that this method makes a better seal between the cutting and the soil.

Powdered forms of rooting hormone are a bit less effective than liquid forms, but they are easier to work with and are are less toxic. Powdered forms are a good choice for beginners.

Some popular powder rooting hormones include: Rootone, Fastroot, Takeroot, and Stim-root.

Liquid Rooting Hormones

Liquid forms of rooting hormone are available as a ready mixed solution or as a concentrate. If it is a concentrate you will have to dilute it, according to directions, before you use it. Once diluted it is only good for a day – discard unused liquid.

The liquids transfer hormone to the cutting more easily than powders. It is therefore important to control the amount of time the cutting stays in the liquid. Follow instructions, but it is usually no longer than a few seconds. Longer immersion may result in too much hormone getting into the cutting, which may prevent rooting. This timing issue is one reason that powders are easier to use.

Once treated, stick the cutting in the rooting medium following the procedure described above for powders.

Some popular liquid rooting hormones include: Dip’n Grow, Dip & Root, Roots, and Dyna-Grow. There are also gel formulations like Clonex, on the market. Some people really like the gel, but powdered rooting hormones are more popular.

Selecting the Right Concentration

As discussed in Rooting Hormones – What Are They , rooting hormones are available in different strengths (concentrations) to more closely match the kind of plant you are propagating. Some products come in only one strength, and some come in multiple strengths. The liquids can be diluted to the strength required, which is one of the main reasons for using liquids formulations.

If you think about how the hormone is applied to the cutting, you might realize that the amount added is quite variable. Some people will dip more or longer, and then shake off less. Some use a pencil to make a hole, some don’t – affecting how much is rubbed off. For the home gardener it does not have to be that precise.

I tend to use the higher concentrations recommended for woody plants for two reasons. I grow more woody cuttings, so I have the right one most of the time. Secondly, if I want less for herbaceous plants, I either apply less, shake harder, or stick them in soil without making a hole first. All of these steps cut down on the amount of hormone my cuttings get.

Old Rooting Hormone

For the average gardener, a bottle of rooting hormone is enough to last a lifetime. That sounds like a good deal. Unfortunately, the hormone has a expiration date. Some manufacturers suggest it should be discarded after 1 year. Some say it is good for two years. Hormex says this about their product, “As long as Hormex Products are kept at room temperature and out of direct sunlight, the shelf life is 3-4 years”. Chemical companies report that IBA is very stable suggesting it will last many years. No one seems to provide any real proof of how quickly it degrades. A lot of drugs are good well past their expiration date.

Solid chemicals (ie powders) are generally more stable than diluted chemicals, so powders probably last longer. I suspect the powder forms have a shelf life of at least 5 years and probably more than 10.

Storage of Rooting Hormones

All chemicals degrade over time. The best way to store rooting hormone is in the dark and cold. The containers are usually light proof so they are always dark. A fridge would be a perfect place for storage.

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