Propagating With Rooting Hormones: Why You Need It and How to Use It on Plants

Key Takeaways

  • Rooting hormone (commonly known as rooting powder) is a man-made chemical that contains useful compounds that help stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, and roots sprout easier.
  • If you are propagating plants, using rooting hormones will help a lot to help your plants sprout new roots.
  • There are many active ingredients in rooting hormones that help plants’ roots grow. Here are some of the major classes of plant hormones:
    • Auxin, which promotes root growth while decreasing the potential of side buds.
    • Gibberellin, which helps cell division, flowering, and the size of fruits and leaves.
    • Cytokinin, which helps in cell division and leaf aging.
    • Abscisic acid is an anti-stress hormone that will help the plant grow when under stress.
  • There are three types of rooting hormones:
    • Rooting powder
    • Liquid rooting hormones
    • Cloning Gel*
*We prefer using cloning gel as it is easy to apply and works 99% of thetime. Click here to skip to see more information.

Learn how to use rooting hormones with this informational guide 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, using rooting hormone has 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 whole new plants.

To help your cuttings grow robust roots quickly and allow your plants to thrive, you should definitely consider using rooting hormones for all your propagating projects.

In 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 different cuttings and different kinds of rooting hormones affect your plant’s health and success rate.

Before we move on, if you want other information on houseplants, go back to our main Houseplants page.

What Is Rooting Hormone for Plants?

What Are Rooting Hormone?Pin

Rooting hormones are plant hormones that are used to stimulate root growth in plant cuttings.

Rooting hormones come in various forms, including powders, liquids, and gels, and can be synthetic or natural.

They work by providing the necessary hormones and nutrients that the cuttings need to develop roots, increasing the chances of success in propagating new plants.

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 stem or leaf cutting from it and making it into a new one by using root hormones. While you may lose the mother plant, you can get several new, healthy plants from it.

What Are the Active Ingredients in Rooting Hormones?

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 promote or hinder your plant’s root growth can help you choose which root hormone is best for your plant.

Why Do Cuttings Need Rooting Hormone?

There are times when stem or leaf cuttings lack the hormones and nutrients required to establish roots on their own; they frequently require rooting hormones.

Rooting hormone contains these hormones and nutrients, which stimulate root growth and increase the likelihood of successful propagation.

Furthermore, cuttings are frequently obtained from older plants that may have lost part of their natural rooting hormones, making the use of a rooting hormone to induce root formation even more necessary.

Rooting hormone can help protect cuttings from illness and infection, boosting their chances of propagation success.

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 root growth hormones.

Rooting hormone is the way to go to have healthy roots proliferating from less than ideal cuttings. It is also necessary when you want to grow during a time when 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 and seasonal growth timeline.

Are Rooting Hormones Necessary for All Plants?

Short answer, not necessarily. For example, plants like African Violets are very good at propagating on their own, however, others need that 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 hormone 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 of growing roots, but only help increase the likelihood of strong, healthy roots more quickly.

What Type of Cuttings Can I Use Rooting Hormones On?

What Cuttings Are Ideal For Rooting Hormone Use?Pin

Rooting hormone is incredibly versatile and can work on just about any plant cutting, including stem cuttings, leaf cuttings, and root cuttings.

From woody stems to blooming plants, all types of cuttings benefit from root hormones, which drastically increases your chances of successful propagation.

Stem cuttings 

Woody stems are by far the hardest to propagate naturally without the assistance of rooting growth.

For example, 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.

Leaf cuttings 

To propagate succulents and similar plants don’t have stems, and a leaf must be used to propagate them.

When you are starting 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.

That’ll promote better root growth than dipping further from the central location.

Root cuttings 

The ideal root cutting is two inches long and relatively slender. Rather than dipping, roll the rooted cutting in the rooting hormone, and then plant it.

How to Apply Rooting Hormone on a Plant Cutting

rooting powder correctly Pin

Gather Your Leaf or Stem Cuttings

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.

Prepare the Rooting Hormones

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 the concentrated liquid rooting formula, you will also need to dilute the chemical before use.

Apply the Rooting Hormones to the Cuttings

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 it.

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.

Be Patient and Wait for Roots to Sprout

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. 

That’ll help the rooting hormone promote quick root growth. Then place it in direct sunlight.

Roots Have Sprouted: Move to A new pot

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 cuttings 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 like a normal plant.

Types of rooting hormone to Choose From

rooting powder in plant propagationPin

Rooting hormones are classified into three types: powder, liquid, and gel.

Powder rooting hormones are the most prevalent and can be easily applied to cuttings by dipping them in the powder.

Liquid rooting hormones are also common and can be applied by dipping the cuttings into the liquid or spraying it on the cuttings with a spray bottle.

Gel rooting hormones are thicker and stickier than liquid rooting hormones, making them less untidy and easier to administer. They can be simply applied to the cuttings or the planting hole.

For the greatest results, use a rooting hormone that is suited for the type of plant you are propagating, and carefully follow the directions.

Rooting Powder 

The most common form of plant rooting hormone is rooting hormone 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.

Our favorite is this rooting hormone powder. It is inexpensive and gets the job done. It also works well considering the risk of cross-contamination with powdered options. 

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Liquid Rooting Hormones 

While the liquid version of the rooting formula 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.

Our favorite is this liquid rooting hormone because it comes with containers to put the liquid into and makes diluting the chemical much easier than others.

Plus, there is no need to look around for containers or worry about cross-contamination because this product sanitizes itself. 

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Cloning Gel

Cloning gel is quickly becoming the most popular type of rooting hormone because of its convenience when using it.

This is because there is no need to time the dipping of your cutting or shake off excess powder. Simply dip and plant with no worries.

This is the particular rooting hormone gel that we use. It is an affordable gel option that is both easy to use and care for, so your plant gets what it needs right from the beginning.
Clonex HGC726005 Rooting Gel, 100 ml, Brown
  • Clonex is a high performance, water-based, rooting compound
  • Contains a full spectrum of mineral nutrients and trace elements to nourish...
  • Supplies hormones to promote root cell development

What can I use instead of rooting hormone?

There are several natural alternatives to synthetic rooting hormones that have been shown to be effective in promoting rooting in plants. 

Honey, for instance, contains natural enzymes and sugars that stimulate root growth and also has antibacterial properties that protect the cuttings from infection. 

Cinnamon is another natural rooting hormone alternative that has antifungal properties. Other examples include aloe vera gel, willow water (which is effectively willow branches soaked in water for several days), aspirin, apple cider vinegar, and even hydrogen peroxide.

      Troubleshooting When Using Root Hormones

      Things To Watch Out ForPin

      Check the Strength of Rooting Hormones

      Root growth hormones typically come in three strengths, so it is important to consider what kinds of plants you’ll be using them 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.

      Keep Cuttings Dry

      Wet or slightly moist cuttings can affect the amount of rooting hormone they have access to when dipped. With rooting hormone 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 Apply too Much Rooting Hormone

      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.

      Avoid Plant diseases: Don’t Cross Contaminate and Use New Rooting hormones

      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 the expiration dates of the Rooting Hormone

      While a container of the rooting hormone may seem like enough to last years if not decades, 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.

      Storing Your Extra Rooting Hormones Properly

      To help slow the degrading of the chemicals and keep the rooting hormone functioning as it should, it is important to store the container if it comes incorrectly.

      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.


      Is Rooting Hormone Good for Plants?

      Rooting hormones do not harm your plants. They help improve your plant cuttings in rooting faster. They contain a compound called auxin which assists the roots to develop more quickly and stronger than they would without plant hormones. Bottom line, applying rooting hormone significantly increases the chances of propagating plants.

      Do You Water After Using Rooting Hormones?

      Watering is usually not necessary after you apply the rooting hormone to the cuttings. Plant hormones come in three forms: gel, powder, and liquid. Each form does not require watering afterward.

      What Stimulates Root Growth In Plant Cuttings?

      Auxins are chemicals that signal and stimulate plants to sprout new roots. Rooting hormones that you can buy, come in powder, liquid, or gel form, and contain organic auxins or synthetic substances that can be applied to cuttings during the process of propagation to help them grow roots faster.

      How Long Does It Take for Rooting Hormone to Work?

      It takes anywhere from 1 to 8 weeks for the rooting hormone to work. It all depends on the plant type and the rooting hormone used. When propagating, patience is needed.

      Why Is My Plant Not Rooting?

      Your plant is not rooting because either the leaf or stem cutting was not viable, to begin with. Either the leaves or stem are broken or too small, or the plant was not designed to thrive on its own and create a new plant for whatever reason. Other reasons could be that you have a poor soil type or that the growing medium has inadequate drainage.

      Can I Add Rooting Hormone to Water Propagation?

      No, do not add rooting hormone in water propagation. When used, it will only make the water thick and sticky, thus creating a slime on the plants. Using the rooting hormone in conjunction with the potting soil is preferable. Simply dip the ends of the cuttings in the rooting hormone, shake off the excess, and insert the cutting into the soil.

      Can You Use Honey To Propagate Plants?

      Yes, honey can be used to propagate plants. Honey functions effectively as an organic rooting hormone because of its antibacterial and antifungal qualities. Honey protects cuttings from infections and lets the cutting’s own rooting hormones drive root growth.


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