Taking cuttings from the plants that you already grow is a wonderful way to propagate those plants and to gain new plants for your garden. Rooting hormone makes successfully rooting cuttings a whole lot easier. The good news is that homemade rooting powder is easy to make, rather than buying it. Read on to find out why this is a better alternative, and which options you might choose that are more natural and eco-friendly choices for your propagation efforts.
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What Is Rooting Hormone?
Rooting hormone, which is also sometimes referred to as rooting powder, is something that you can apply to plant cuttings to encourage root growth and increase the propagation success rate. It contains chemicals that promote root growth and help cuttings to establish successfully.
What Is Rooting Hormone Made Of?
There are two main types – synthetic and organic. Synthetic rooting compounds are typically plant-derived chemicals which have been modified in a lab.
Synthetic rooting compounds include indolebutyric acid (IBA), naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA), IAA, zeatin, thidiazuron (TDZ), and chlormequat chloride.
Synthetic rooting compounds may also include synthetic fertilizer to promote stronger plant growth. But if you are an organic gardener then you should wish to avoid such synthetic products.
Fortunately, you can make your own organic rooting hormone alternative and there are several different options to choose from.
What Is Rooting Hormone Used For?
Rooting hormone is used to improve the chances of cuttings from plants rooting successfully. The ends of a cutting are dipped into the substance before those cuttings are planted into the ground or into pots.
What Are The Benefits of Rooting Hormone?
Of course the main benefit of using a rooting powder is that it increases the chances that the cutting will root successfully – helping us to avoid wasting our time and effort on taking cuttings and tending to them without ending up with successful new plants at the end of the process.
Many plants will root just fine without a rooting hormone of any kind. Some plants, however, are more of a challenge and so will not be as easy to propagate without using one at all. So using a rooting hormone broadens the range of cuttings that most of us can get to root successfully.
How To Use Rooting Hormone
Using rooting hormone for cuttings is a simple process.
Rooting powders that you can buy are generally either powders, gels or liquids. Liquids require more caution to make sure that you do not use too much, so powders or gels are often better choices.
After you have prepared your cuttings, whether they are softwood, semi-ripe or hardwood cuttings, dip the end of the cuttings into the rooting hormone.
Then you can plant your cutting into a trench in the ground, or into a container filled with a suitable growing medium.
Is Rooting Hormone Safe?
Store bought rooting powder is not always entirely safe. It is important to understand that these chemical products, especially synthetic ones, can be toxic. They can also cause irritation to the skin, eyes and cause respiratory problems if inhaled.
Care is certainly always required when using these products. If you want to have a safer, organic home and garden, you should consider choosing a home-made, natural alternative.
Homemade Rooting Hormone Alternatives To Use Guilt-Free In Your Garden
Natural rooting hormone solutions are better for your health and are a way to avoid contributing to harmful systems. Of course, making a DIY rooting hormone alternative also saves you from having to shell out on external inputs for your garden. You might even be able to source the ingredients you need on your own property.
Another alternative rooting hormone you might use is willow water. If you have willow trees in your garden already then of course you already have access to this ingredient.
Willow is good for rooting cuttings because it contains high concentrations of Indolebutyric acid (IBA), and also salicylic acid, from which aspirin is derived and which protects against fungi and other pathogens.
To make willow water, simply gather around 2 cups of fresh willow growth chopped up into short lengths. Pour around 6 cups of boiling water over them. Give the mix a stir, leave it to cool, then after a day or two, it is ready to strain and use.
Once you have made it you can store it in the fridge for 3 months or so, or freeze it in an ice cube tray to defrost as needed further down the line.
This is the option that I usually turn to when rooting cuttings in my own garden.
Apple Cider Vinegar Rooting Hormone
One easy option for home growers are apple trees. These can be grown in almost any UK garden. Once you have some apples, you can make your own apple cider vinegar. This is a great thing to do in any case because this has so many uses around your home and garden.
All you need to make a rooting powder with apple cider vinegar is the vinegar itself and water. You only need to add one teaspoon to each 1.2 to 1.4 litres of water.
This should give the plants a slight boost to help them root successfully. Take care not to use too much vinegar, however, as this could have the opposite result.
Honey & Cinnamon Rooting Hormone
Honey and cinnamon will not exactly encourage rooting, but they will both help to keep your cuttings safe from pathogens and significantly reduce the chances of a ‘damping off’ problem taking hold.
Dip the end of a cutting into honey water made with 2 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of honey. Then dip the same cutting into cinnamon powder. I have a gardener friend who swears by this treatment for challenging cuttings that often succumb to fungal problems.
Aloe Vera Gel
Do you grow aloe vera as a houseplant? If so, you could make your own aloe vera gel.
Aloe vera is ideal as a rooting powder alternative because it contains glucomannans, amino acids, sterols, and vitamins. Studies show that these help many types of species develop more and stronger roots when growing cuttings or propagating via air layering.
To use, dip the cutting end in the gel for two seconds before planting as you would normally.
Of course this is one natural ingredient you are very unlikely to be able to source from your own garden. But this is another option if you purchase a coconut to eat.
To help them survive, coconuts contain auxins inside and a tough outer shell to protect them. They also have their own source of nutrients (the meat).
You can harness this ingenious system by dipping a cutting in fresh coconut milk. One study even found that coconut water works just as well as synthetic rooting hormones.
Another study showed a slight improvement in difficult-to-root Dracaena cuttings.
Don’t try to use canned or bottled coconut milk. It likely won’t have the same effect.
Gardeners’ World. (n.d.). How to use hormone rooting powder. [Accessed 02/06/23] Retrieved from https://www.gardenersworld.com/how-to/grow-plants/how-to-use-hormone-rooting-powder/
Elizabeth Waddington is a writer and green living consultant living in Scotland. Permaculture and sustainability are at the heart of everything she does, from designing gardens and farms around the world, to inspiring and facilitating positive change for small companies and individuals.
She also works on her own property, where she grows fruit and vegetables, keeps chickens and is working on the eco-renovation of an old stone barn.
To get in touch, visit https://ewspconsultancy.com.