Stephanie is the creator of Garden Therapy, where you will find hundreds of garden-related projects, crafts, and recipes to help you live a better life through plants.
As a certified plant lover, I am always looking to grow more plants as quickly as I can. A rooting hormone is an excellent way to encourage new cuttings to grow roots quickly. This DIY rooting hormone recipe is easy to make and completely free thanks to one very special plant…willow!
Have you ever been amazed at how fast willow grows? Both the trees and shrubs grow at such a speedy rate that you may blink and discover two more branches suddenly appear.
Okay, they may not grow that fast, but they are one of the fastest-growing plants in the world. There’s an actual scientific reason for this too. Willows grow so quickly because they are packed full of a very special plant hormone called indolebutyric acid.
The next time you find yourself pruning back that unruly willow of yours, don’t throw away the branches. You can actually utilize the willow’s strong growing hormones when growing other plants. This DIY rooting hormone harnesses the power of willow to help your other plant cuttings grow quicker.
History of Willow
With over 400 species in the genus Salix, there are many types of willow found across the world. Willow has a long medicinal history, most known for being the natural form of aspirin. Salicylic acid is the main component in willow bark and when isolated, you make aspirin!
Aspirin was first produced in 1899 but the leaves and bark have been used for thousands of years by indigenous people for treating inflammation and pain.
And before commercial rooting hormone was available, willow was used as a natural rooting hormone for propagating plants.
How do Rooting Hormones Work?
Just like us, plants have hormones too. While they don’t cause acne and weight gain like they do in us, they help plants immensely with growth.
There are four main hormones for plants: auxin, gibberellin, cytokinin, and abscisic acid. Auxin is the one I am interested in today as it stimulates root growth.
Known as the rooting hormone, there are two naturally occurring auxins: indoleacetic acid (IAA) and indolebutyric (IBA). There are also two synthetic auxin hormones known as NAA and 2,4-D which you can find in commercial rooting hormones.
By providing a plant with auxin, we are giving them the hormones they need to encourage cuttings to grow roots. Just like medicine, you need to give the right dose of rooting hormone. Too much and the plant will die. Not enough, and it won’t make a difference.
What is a Natural Rooting Hormone?
Before there were commercial rooting hormones, there were natural rooting hormones. Many plants will produce their own rooting hormones after some time but adding them right after making a cutting will help to speed up the process.
My go-to natural rooting hormone is willow as it contains high levels of the auxin IBA. Willow also contains salicylic acid which acts as an antifungal and helps to increase the success of the propagation by protecting against infections. Young willow shoots will have the most IBA.
One or two willow branches is all you need to have enough willow water for this DIY rooting hormone to feed your garden and propagation station. In fact, pruning stimulates new growth in the willow tree and you will find yourself with endless shoots.
You can either use willow water with new propagations by soaking the stem for 24 hours or use it directly on already rooted cuttings to encourage stronger roots. Watering new seedlings with willow water is also an excellent way to promote growth.
Willow Water Rooting Hormone Recipe
Willow (Salix) branches are rich in the hormones indolebutyric acid (IBA), which stimulates rooting, and salicylic acid (SA), which protects the cutting from fungi and bacterial infections. Make willow branch tea as a DIY rooting hormone for propagating cuttings.
- Young willow branches, the diameter of a pencil or smaller
- Boiling water
- Glass jar
First, harvest your willow branches. You want to harvest young branches, ideally in the first year of their growth. The branches should be no thicker than a pencil.
Then, remove all the leaves from your branches. Cut the branches into 1-inch pieces. Don’t worry about being exact, just get cutting!
To soak the branches, you’ll need a heat-proof container such as a mason jar. Fill your container with your cut willow branches until half full. Pour boiling water over the willow and let the mixture steep overnight. After 24 hours, strain out willow branches.
How to Use Rooting Hormone
Your willow water can be used to soak new cuttings, or to water already rooted new cuttings in soil. If you are soaking cuttings in willow water, be sure to dilute the water so it is at half strength.
You can also use your willow water to water new seedlings using a watering can.
To store your willow water, place it in the fridge and use it within two months.
Willow Water DIY Rooting Hormone Recipe
Make this willow branch tea to help your propgations root and grow quicker.
- Young willow branches, diameter of pencil or smaller
- Boiling water
- Glass jar
- Harvest young branches of a willow tree, ideally first-year growth.
- Remove and compost all of the leaves and cut the branches into 1-inch(2.5 cm) pieces
- Fill a jar half full with branches and pour boiling water over the branches to fill the jar. Allow to steep overnight, strain the next day.
- Soak new cuttings in willow water before rooting or use it to water cuttings. When rooting cuttings in water, dilute willow water to half-strength. Willow water can also be used to water seedlings. Store willow water in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.