Root Stimulating Hormone: How To Use Rooting Hormones For Plant Cuttings

Root Stimulating Hormone: How To Use Rooting Hormones For Plant Cuttings

By: Susan Patterson, Master Gardener

One way to create a new plant identical to the parent plant is to take a piece of the plant, known as a cutting, and grow another plant. Popular ways to make new plants is from root cuttings, stem cutting and leaf cuttings—often using a root hormone. So what is rooting hormone? Keep reading to find out this answer as well as how to use rooting hormones.

What is Rooting Hormone?

When propagating plants using a stem cutting, it is often helpful to use a root-stimulating hormone. Rooting hormone will increase the chance of successful plant rooting in most cases. When rooting hormones are used, the root will generally develop quickly and be of higher quality than when plant-rooting hormones are not used.

While there are many plants that root freely on their own, using a root hormone makes the task of propagating difficult plants much easier. Some plants, such as ivy, will even form roots in water, but these roots are never as strong as those that are rooted in soil using a rooting hormone.

Where Can You Buy Root Hormone?

Plant rooting hormones come in a few different forms; the powdered is the easiest to work with. All types of rooting hormones are available from online garden sites or at most garden supply stores.

How to Use Rooting Hormones

Successful propagation always begins with a fresh and clean cut. Remove leaves from your cutting before starting the rooting process. Place a little bit of the rooting hormone in a clean container.

Never dip the cutting into the rooting hormone container; always put some into a separate container. This keeps the unused rooting hormone from becoming contaminated. Insert the cutting stem about an inch (2.5 cm.) into the root-stimulating hormone. The new roots will form from this area.

Prepare a pot with moist planting medium and plant the dipped stem cutting into the pot. Cover the pot with a clear plastic bag. The new planting should be placed in a sunny location where it will receive filtered light.

While waiting for new root growth, be sure to keep the stem cutting moist and watch for new leaves to form. When new leaves appear, it is a favorable sign that new roots have formed. The plastic bag can be removed at this time.

As your plant matures, you can begin caring for it as a new plant.

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Homemade Rooting Hormones | Rooting Hormones | Root stimulation

Learn Homemade Rooting Hormones, Why use Rooting Hormones?, What is Root Hormone? and more about Rooting Hormone. natural rooting hormone i.e. root stimulant, which the gardeners use for cloning the plant. Cloning means developing new plants from cuttings. In horticulture, cloning means developing the Mother Plant by branch or stem cutting. This is an easy way to grow many plants from a mother plant, by which you can save many rare or precious varieties, as well as give plant gifts to your friends and neighbors.

However, most of the plants start growing roots naturally after some time after planting. Cloning can be easily by cutting in clear water under certain general rules.

Top 7: Best Rooting Hormones

Garden Safe Rooting Hormone

HydroDynamics Clonex Rooting Gel

Midashydro Rooting Gel for Cuttings

Hormex Rooting Hormone Powder 8

Bonide 412 Root N' Grow Stimulator

RootBoost Rooting Hormone Powder

Bonide Bontone II Rooting Powder

How Do You Use Rooting Hormone?

Hormones are powerful chemicals, and if used incorrectly can kill clippings and plants. With many different concentrations of rooting hormone available, it's important to carefully read the product's packaging to ensure that the formula is appropriate for your plant. During propagation, rooting hormone should be applied immediately before you place your clipping in the soil.

For powdered hormones, dip the base of the cutting into the hormone, then shake gently to remove any excess. Place the cutting into moist soil, loosely covering the base. For liquid and gel hormones, first check the package to see if it's a ready-to-go mix or a concentrate. If concentrated, dilute the product with water according to the directions. Once your hormone is ready, dip the base of your clipping into the liquid or gel, leaving submerged for only a couple seconds-too long can damage the plant. Plant the cutting as you would using a powdered hormone.

Remember that rooting hormone should be used only during propagation. Feeding a mature plant hormones can damage the root system. Rooting hormone should be stored in a cool, dark place. Check the expiration date before using, as the chemicals can break down over time.

Feeling Inspired: Martha Shows Us How to Use a Rooting Hormone in the Video Below

How to use rooting hormones

Are hormone rooting powders necessary? Find out when and how to use them, in our guide.

Published: Friday, 22 February, 2019 at 11:52 am

All plants naturally possess hormones, including the growth hormone auxin, which is produced in immature parts of the plant, where growth is necessary. Synthetic auxins are used in hormone rooting powders and gels to replicate natural growth conditions in plants, and encourage roots to form. Hormone rooting powders often also contain cytokinins (another plant growth hormone), fungicides and other chemicals, which reduce the risk of the plants succumbing to fungal infections.

Rooting hormones increase the chance of your cuttings taking root. What’s more, the root will usually develop quickly and be stronger than when plant-rooting hormones aren’t used. While many plants root freely on their own (see below), using a root hormone makes the task of propagating ‘difficult’ plants much easier.

However, rooting hormones are rarely essential. While many gardeners swear by them, others don’t think it’s necessary.

Fins out when and how to use rooting hormones, below.

When to use rooting hormones

As a general rule, the time of year can help you decide whether or not to use rooting hormones. Typically, low concentrations of rooting hormones are used for herbaceous softwood cuttings, which are taken in summer and root quickly, and high concentrations are used for woody hardwood cuttings, which are taken in winter and take longer to develop roots.

However, some plants root more easily than others. The following plants rarely ‘strike’ (take root) without hormones:

Fuchsias, salvias and snapdragon also benefit from a little extra help.

When not to use rooting hormones

If you’re an organic gardener, you may not want to use synthetic rooting hormones as they’re artificially made and contain fungicides. Fungicides have been linked to bee declines and, if used incorrectly, can inhibit photosynthesis, so may not aid strong growth in the long term.

What’s more, some plants simply don’t need them. These include:

That said, there are organic rooting powders available – these contain naturally occurring auxins, so do seek out these products if avoiding synthetic chemicals is important for you.

How to use rooting hormones

Rooting hormones come in three forms — powder, gel and liquid. It’s best to use powders and gels as it’s possible to damage the cuttings if you accidentally use too much of the rooting liquid.

Ensure your cuttings are fresh and the wound is clean. Cut just below a node or leaf join, where there are already naturally occurring plant auxins, then remove any lower leaves, where the roots will grow from.

Pour the powder or gel into a sterile container and then simply dip the base of your cutting into it, and tap or shake the cutting to remove any excess (if the powder won’t stick then dip the cutting in water, first). Stick the cutting into a pre-made hole in moist potting compost, preferably around the edge of the pot, where soil evaporation is at its lowest.

Cuttings are vulnerable because they don’t have roots to absorb moisture. Prevent evaporation from the leaves by creating a humid environment, either by placing the cuttings in a propagator or fixing a clear plastic bag around the pot to lock moisture in. A heated propagator will also provide bottom heat, which can aid root growth.

Place your cuttings in a spot where they will receive dappled sunlight.

Keep an eye out for new leaves. Once new growth is apparent, roots will have developed. Remove the plastic bag, or propagator lid, and water the compost if necessary.

What to Consider When Choosing the Best Rooting Hormone

Rooting hormone products are relatively inexpensive and range from around $13 for a bottle that will treat up to 50 cuttings to $25 (or more) for a large container that will treat more than 100 cuttings. The most significant difference is in the type of product and whether it contains added ingredients, such as nutrients or fertilizers intended to help the plant grow and thrive once the cutting develops roots.


Rooting hormone products come in three main types: liquid, gel, and powder. No matter the type, all three are used in a similar manner: the gardener dips the end of the cutting in the hormone product and then puts the cutting in a moist, growing medium.

  • Liquid: Bottles of liquid rooting hormone come in either ready-to-use formulations or concentrated formulations that require mixing with water. Some gardeners feel liquid offers the best coverage since it can seep into tiny pores in the cutting.
  • Gel: This rooting hormone adheres well to cuttings and provides a slightly thicker coating of the hormone than liquid varieties, which may offer more root-boosting stimulus.
  • Powder: One of the most common types of root hormone products available, powder is simple to use and offers a thick layer of root-stimulating chemical. Before dipping the cutting in the powder, many gardeners will dip the cutting in water, so the root hormone adheres better.


The majority of rooting hormone products on the market today contain one of two common chemicals, IBA or NAA, both of which are synthetic forms of natural plant hormones known to stimulate root growth.

  • Indole-3-butyric acid (IBA): A chemical form of the plant hormone, auxin, IBA triggers root growth and is found in many commercial rooting hormone products of all types.
  • Naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA): Similar to IBA, NAA is a synthetic chemical formulation that stimulates root growth and retards rotting. It is often found in all three types of rooting products.
  • Added nutrients: While IBA and NAA are the active ingredients in rooting compounds, some products contain additional nutrients, such as nitrogen, to boost leafy green growth or have various vitamins to help bolster floral production. These added ingredients can be helpful, but some gardeners prefer to use only rooting compound, so they can add the exact nutrients they choose to the soil later.


The information necessary for propagating cuttings is available in gardening books, but, for the most part, the process is straightforward and simple enough for even newbie gardeners. The following offers an idea of the basic techniques used for taking cuttings and applying rooting hormone. Before proceeding, do a little research on the intended plant. While cuttings can successfully propagate many plants, others require different methods. Some cuttings should be from greenwood (new, supple growth), while others should be taken from the older, hardwood portions of a stem. Knowing the best method of propagation for a specific plant will increase the odds of success.

  1. Take a 4- to 8-inch stem cutting from a healthy plant.
  2. Strip all but one or two top leaves from the stem.
  3. Bruise the end of the stem by slightly crushing it or take a sharp knife and scrape away some of the stem’s outer covering. This step helps the rooting hormone penetrate more efficiently.
  4. Dip about 2 inches of the stem in the rooting compound. If you’re using a powdered mixture, dip the cutting in water first, so the powder adheres well.
  5. With a pencil or stick, make a hole about 2 inches deep in the growing medium and insert the treated end of the cutting.
  6. Press the growing medium around the cutting and cover the whole pot or tray with plastic to keep moisture in while the cutting takes root. By keeping the cutting in an enclosed container, the soil will stay moist, which is a requirement for roots to develop. Alternately, consider starting the cutting in a self-watering planter where it will receive a consistent amount of moisture.

Making homemade rooting hormone from willow

For this project I used a fast -growing Salix purpurea variety, but any fast growing Salix species will work. Trim the younger growing tips of willow trees that are no more than a pencil width thick. The bark should be fresh and colored, from last year’s growth. You’ll have some greyed bark, too, and that’s alright. Under the greyed bark there is more of what you need. Thicker woody pieces are too difficult to cut for this project though.

Remove the leaves from the stems. Cut the branches into one-to-two-inch pieces. You don’t need to be exact. The more surface area that is exposed the easier the plant constituents will dissolve into the water. Place the willow pieces into a heat proof container. Fill the container half full of willow pieces.

I used a half-gallon, wide-mouth Mason jar, so I needed four cups of cut up willow pieces. The bundle of willow in the picture turned out to be exactly four cups of willow pieces.

Put the jar in a warm spot to preheat a bit before moving on to the next step. Boil some water. Take the water off the heat and let it cool down slightly, if you are using a heat proof glass jar. Pour water over the willow pieces in the container. Fill the container all the way up with boiling water. Cover the container to hold in heat. Let the willow steep for 48 hours. Strain out the willow pieces.

Retain the willow water this is your homemade rooting hormone.

How to use willow rooting hormone with softwood cuttings

The best time to take softwood cuttings from ornamental shrubs and perennials is May or June, when the softwood cutting is no longer flexible but before the hardwood has begun to form. To root these, pour some water in a small vase or Mason jar. Soak the cuttings in the cooled willow water for 24 hours.

Plant the cuttings in soil-less medium, in a pot. Cover loosely with a cloche or plastic bag to prevent moisture loss by evaporation. Softwood cuttings should be rooted in 6 to 8 weeks. To test the rooting progress, give the cuttings a small tug. If the plant resists, it is rooted.

When you use your willow water, pour out just what you need into another container. To protect the integrity of your homemade rooting hormone, don’t pour the used solution back into the original jar. Use it to water plants, instead.

How to use willow rooting hormone with hardwood cuttings

Hardwood cuttings from plants such as cherry, plum, or roses are taken during the dormant season before bud break. Cut a branch that is about pencil thick. Peel the bark from the very bottom of the cutting about 1 inch long, down to the cambium layer, removing the thin top layer of bark.

Trim the cutting to 6 inches long. Make sure there are at least 3 buds above the peeled bark, though more are okay. Soak the bottom of the cutting in willow water for 24 to 48 hours.

Fill a pot that is at least 5 inches deep, with soil-less medium. Push the cutting into the soil-less medium so that two inches of it is below the soil surface. Water with more willow water. Cover with a cloche or a plastic bag to retain moisture.

Place the pot in the shade in a sheltered location or in a greenhouse, protected from freezing temperatures and high heat. Water only when there is no more condensation on the inside of the cloche. Occasionally use this homemade rooting hormone when watering to promote strong root growth.

The plant should show signs of rooting any time from 3 to 10 weeks from planting. Once the plant is showing signs of rooting you can remove the plastic cover. Offer the plant protection for at least a year before planting it out in a permanent spot in the garden.

Other types of propagation that can be helped with willow water

Both layering and air layering are types of propagation where a branch from the mother plant is encouraged to develop its own root system while still attached to the mother plant. When propagating by layering, watering with willow water can encourage root development in the offspring, while also preventing fungal infections at the wound site.

Willow water can be used to encourage root development and inhibit transplant shock when transplanting nursery stock to a permanent location in your garden. For all the reasons that willow water helps with propagation, it is also a useful amendment during transplanting. Use willow water to water in transplants when you are dividing your perennials in the spring. Willow water will help the plants’ defense against fungal attacks during this vulnerable time.

How long will this homemade rooting hormone keep?

The willow water will keep for two months in the refrigerator. Label the jar and date it, including the expiry date. Once you reach the end of its “best before date” use this homemade rooting hormone to water your garden and then make more. But this is only a rule of thumb. It may in fact last longer.

Get growing!

Make homemade rooting hormone and willow water for your propagating projects to save money and create healthier plants. Since the willow growing near you has already successfully defended against the most common pathogens in your area, it can increase your success in your propagation projects.

While you’re playing around with willow, you might want to try making your own headache relief.

Originally published April 2016 this post has been updated.