Learn how to use rooting hormones powders or liquids Correctly to increase cutting success with this step-by-step tutorial on propagating plants from cuttings or leaves!
When you're propagating a plant, it can be challenging to find the right cutting to best promote root growth.
Luckily rooting hormones have made it easier than ever to propagate because it works on just about any part of the mother plant.
From pieces of stems to a simple leaf, with the help of rooting hormones they can all sprout roots and become a whole new plant.
To help your cutting grow robust roots quickly and allow your plants to thrive, you should definitely consider using rooting hormones for all your propagating projects.
During this post, I'll discuss what rooting hormones are as well as why you should use them. I'll also cover when they are ideal, mistakes you can make when using rooting powders and how the different cuttings and different kinds of rooting hormones affect your plant’s health and success rate.
What are rooting hormones?
When propagating plants, rooting hormones are a fantastic way to help sprout healthy roots quickly in a variety of plant cuttings.
Rather than having to wait weeks or months, the rooting hormone speeds up the rooting process and strengthens frail cuttings into healthy new plants.
It is also a great way to save a rotting plant by taking a cutting from it and making it into a new one using rooting hormones. While you may lose the mother plant, you can get several new, healthy plants from it.
What's in rooting hormone?
Much like the human body produces hormones and chemicals in charge of certain processes, plants produce their own sets of hormones.
There are four main classes of plant hormones, and they all have specific jobs to do within the plant to promote healthy root growth.
- Auxin: This promotes and stimulates root growth while decreasing the growth of side buds. It also controls tropism, apical dominance and fruit retention.
- Gibberellin: This controls cell division, flowering and the size of fruits and leaves.
- Cytokinin: This hormone promotes cell division and leaf aging.
- Abscisic acid: This is a stress hormone that will inhibit other hormones when the plant is under stress.
Understanding how these work and which'll promote or hinder your plant’s root growth can better help you choose which root hormone is best for your plant.
Why do some cuttings need rooting hormones?
Weak or rotting plant cuttings often need an extra boost for proper root growth. If a cutting is from a plant that was underwatered, overwatered, or dying, it can be almost impossible to get healthy roots to grow without rooting hormones.
To have healthy roots proliferating from less than ideal cuttings, rooting hormone is the way to go. It also is necessary when you want to grow during a time where this plant would not be naturally growing roots.
It allows you to have healthy plants all year round without having to worry about the plant’s natural timeline.
Are rooting hormones necessary for cuttings?
Some plants like African Violets are very good at propagating on their own while others need an extra boost. In order to get the best possible root growth from your cutting, you should definitely consider rooting hormones.
If you are using a cutting of a dying or unhealthy plant, then you'll need rooting hormones to get a healthy new plant from them.
They're also necessary if you don’t have the patience for regular growing times and want to see fast results.
The key thing to remember is that rooting hormones will never lessen your chance at growing roots, but only help increase the likelihood of strong, healthy roots more quickly.
What cuttings are ideal for rooting hormones use?
Rooting hormones are incredibly versatile and can work on just about any plant cutting. From woody stems to blooming plants, all types of cuttings benefit from rooting hormones and drastically increases your chances of successful propagation.
Root cuttings, stem cuttings and leaf pieces all work with rooting hormones and can help turn very fragile cuttings into strongly rooted plants in a relatively short amount of time.
Woody stems are by far the hardest to propagate naturally without the assistance of rooting growth.
There is an incredibly long wait time for rooting to take place and if you want to speed up the process and gain healthier roots, rooting hormones should always be used when propagating woody stems.
Succulents and similar plants don’t have stems, and a leaf must be used to propagate. When you are going with a leaf cutting it is important to apply the rooting hormone to the part of the cutting that was closest to the center of the mother plant.
This'll promote better root growth than dipping further from the center location.
The ideal root cutting is two inches long and relatively slender. Rather than dipping, roll the root cutting in the rooting hormone and then plant it.
How do I choose the right rooting hormone?
Rooting hormones typically come in three strengths, so it is important to consider what kinds of plants you'll be using it on before buying.
- The first strength is ideal for soft and herbaceous cuttings.
- The second strength is intended for semi-hardwood cuttings.
- The third strength of rooting hormones is designed for hardwood cuttings that can be stubborn when sprouting new roots.
The most common form of rooting hormone is rooting powder as it can easily be applied to cuttings without risking using too much.
It is important to only dip the cuttings in the powder when it is dry because wet cutting can pick up too much of the rooting hormone and allow the spread of contamination from one cutting to another.
When in doubt, simply tap or shake the cutting gently to release any access powder.
Liquid rooting hormones
While the liquid version of the rooting hormone has the same active ingredients as the powdered version, it does include an alcohol base instead of talc.
This requires a quick dip of the cutting, but it can be slightly more difficult to gauge if you’ve used too much so always make sure the cutting is dry and then pour a tiny bit of the rooting hormone into a dish to control the amount of exposure.
Dip the cutting in for about five seconds and then plant it immediately after or your cutting will die of thirst from the rooting hormone exposure.
Gel rooting hormones
Gel is quickly becoming the most popular type of rooting hormone because of the convenience when using it.
This is because there is no need to time the dipping of your cutting or shaking off excess powder. Simply dip and plant with no worries.
How do you use rooting hormones?
Before you can apply the rooting hormone you have to have something to apply it to. This means gathering your cuttings and making sure they are dry enough to use the rooting hormone.
I recommend putting the rooting hormone into a small container or dish in order to better control the amount of the chemical you are putting on your cutting.
If you're using concentrated liquid rooting hormone, you will also need to dilute the chemical before use.
Applying your rooting hormone differs depending on the medium you choose to use. If you decide to go with a liquid, then you simply need to dip your cutting for five seconds and then plant.
Powdered rooting hormone requires the cutting to be dipped in distilled water and then placed into the powder.
Once you roll the powder onto it, shake it gently to rid the cutting of any excess. Gel rooting hormone is by far the easiest because you just dip and you’re done.
After the cutting has been exposed to the rooting hormone you are ready to plant it. There should not be a lot of time between the rooting hormone being put onto the cuttings and planting, so you don’t run into dehydration problems.
I recommend you have the planting containers ready to go before dipping. Place the cutting into the growing medium of your choice (soil, peat moss, etc.) and then cover it with a humidity dome or plastic bag.
This'll help the rooting hormone promote quick root growth. Then place it in direct sunlight.
While the cuttings are establishing healthy root growth and are starting to gain a root system it is crucial that you provide enough moisture for the cutting to thrive.
Until the root system is fully set up the plant can get dehydrated very quickly and must be kept in a high humidity environment (thus the bag).
Once the root system has fully formed, you can move the plant to a low humidity zone with no bag and start treating it as a normal plant.
Things to watch out for
Keep cuttings dry
Wet or slightly moist cuttings can affect the amount of rooting hormone it has access to when dipped. With powder, the wetness can cause too much of the hormone to stick to the cutting.
Dipping in the liquid when the cutting is wet can make it difficult for the cutting to retain the needed amount of rooting hormone, even when dipped for the full five seconds.
Don’t overdo it
It is important not to use too much rooting hormone when applying it to your cuttings. Put some rooting hormone into a small separate dish and dip your cuttings into it as an excellent way to control the amount of hormone you are using.
It is crucial for healthy plants to always dump excess rooting hormone out of the container and wash it out after every use.
You don’t want to dip cuttings from various plants in the same dish because it is an easy way to spread diseases from plant to plant.
While it may seem like an inconvenience, it is the best thing for your plants in the long run, so a little extra effort is well worth it.
Check expiration dates
While a container of the rooting hormone may seem like enough to last years if not decades, but chemicals do expire, and it is important to check the date before use.
Some companies say that it should be replaced every year while others say between two and four years when properly stored.
There is no unanimous designated timeframe for the rooting hormone so while it may last beyond the expiration date, it is better to be safe than sorry and follow the given dates.
To help slow the degrading of the chemicals and keep the rooting hormone functioning as it should, it is important to store the container it comes in correctly.
Do not switch the chemical to another container other than the one it came in because it is designed to keep the chemical sound for the longest amount of time.
You should always read the directions on the container to know how to store it, but typically the rule of thumb is to store rooting hormones in dark and cool places.
This means keeping the container out of direct sunlight and never in a space warmer than room temperature.
The ideal places are cool metal cabinets or even the fridge, but the container will usually have recommendations on how to store their specific product for optimum performance.
What are the best rooting hormones available?
My personal picks for the best rooting hormones are:
Gel: HydroDynamics Clonex Rooting Gel is a great affordable gel option that is both easy to use and, so your plant gets what it needs right from the beginning.
Liquid: I really like Dip ‘N Grow Liquid Rooting Hormone because it comes with containers to put the liquid into and makes diluting the chemical much easier than others.
No looking around for containers or worrying about cross contamination because this product sanitizes itself.
Powder: I like Garden Safe rooting powder because it is inexpensive and gets the job done and works well considering the risk of cross-contamination with powdered options.
Lindsey Hyland grew up in Arizona where she attended University of Arizona’s Controlled Environment Agriculture. She has supplemented her formal education by working on various organic farms, including spending a semester abroad in India.
Growing and/or raising just about anything gets her excited. She is especially passionate about environmental justice and low-tech, sustainable ways to better run small-scale farms and homesteads. Lindsey started Urban Organic Yield to discuss gardening tips and tactics.