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Rooting hormone is one of those things that you can go your whole plant…career? experience? without hearing about. It’s not necessary, not particularly widely pushed in garden centres, plant shops or even mentioned much on YouTube BUT there’s a massive group of people in the hobby that SWEAR by it.
I sit very firmly on the fence. I have it, it works…ok and nine times out of ten I forget to use it.
Some people SWEAR by it.
If you want to give it a go, great, but if you don’t I personally don’t think you’re missing out on anything great. There are other things you can do that will help your cuttings root faster.
What is rooting hormone?
This is one of those words I dread having to say because I have no clue as to how it’s pronounced. Luckily, it’s not come up in my life so far.
The active ingredient in rooting hormone is Indole-3-butyric acid. We shall henceforth be referring to it as IBA because I’m not typing the whole thing out again (plus that’s what all the cool people call it).
IBA itself isn’t very soluble (it is a bit, but not a lot) so it’s usually dissolved in alcohol.
Interestingly, scientists don’t really know how IBA works. It’s an auxin (which are hormones found naturally in plants that govern growth and root formation and all that jazz) and we know that IBA converts to IAA (another auxin) but also it works on its own.
We don’t know what’s going on in the plant when auxins get to work, we just know they make plant grow. Science!
Does rooting hormone work?
Yes. Cuttings that have rooting hormone applied tend to root faster than ones that don’t.
The most commonly available rooting hormone is found in powder form, and if you put it in water, there’s less contact with the node, and therefore less chance of the rooting powder working.
If you typically propagate in water (rather than soil propagation) then you may need to hunt down liquid rooting hormone.
Anecdotally, I’ve not had much success with rooting hormone. I recently propagated a Philodendron brasil ten different ways and the one with rooting hormone on rooted veeeery slowly. Slightly faster than just in regular moss, but nothing noticeable – like a day or two.
***There are a tonne of factors that can influence how fast a cutting can root, so I’m 100% NOT saying that rooting hormone doesn’t work. However, there are faster ways to get your cuttings to root. Cutting rooted in nutrient water were CONSIDERABLY faster than everyone else***
How to use rooting hormone
There are various different types of rooting hormone so…read the instructions. If you’re using a powder, be sure to moisten the node so the powder sticks, and make sure it’s on the node, not the end of the cutting. We’re rooting the node, not the stem.
There are loads of different mediums, dosages, ingredients out there. There’s no one method of using it.
The most common rooting hormone seems to be this one, which is a different brand to the one I have, but the same ingredients in the same amounts. If you look at the reviews on Amazon, it seems to work very well for outdoor plants like roses, but isn’t great for house plants.
If you read the instructions it says to moisten the end of the cutting you’re dipping into so the powder adheres. If you stick the whole thing in water, it’s unliely to work very well unless that’s the way it was designed to be used. Like a said, read the instructions.
Is rooting hormone necessary?
No. To be honest, I find it a little bit too much hassle. Now, it’s not very much hassle at all – takes like 10 seconds – but as someone with suspected ADHD a lot can happen in that 10 second trip to the sink.
it’s one of those things that I encourage people to try out and see if they like it – like leca. It’s fun, and can really benefit people that gel with it, but it’s not a silver bullet that will solve all your plant-rooting woes.
Can you make homemade rooting hormone?
I haven’t tried any of these. I will, but that’s worth its own post. I’m just giving you a few things to try.
1 – your own spit – I mean, it’s worth a shot? Gross, though. Apparently licking cuttings is a thing, but I’m not gonna.
Am I currently watching YouTube videos of a guy trying it out? I am. Did it improve root growth? It did not. Small amounts of saliva did basically nothing, large amounts actively harmed them.
2 – Apple cider vinegar – ok, I’m vegan and have bouts of being VERY into nutrition, so I hear a LOT about ACV. Let’s just say that if it did all the things people claim it can do, we’d all be immortal.
OMG the same guy has a video!
Anyway, does it work?
No! some stems had very small roots, other had none, the control (in water) had loads.
3 – Cinnamon – I’ve tried this an it didn’t work. Probably because regular cinnamon isn’t the right type to use and proper ceylon is expensive. A lot of people wear by using cinnamon to ward off fungus gnats though, so there’s that.
I checked out what Jimmy had to say in the topic, and he had success with cinnamon, so it’s definitely worth trying.
4 – Honey – I’m not gonna try this because vegan, but Jimmy had mediocre results. Bear in mind that he just dipped the cuttings in fancy raw honey. Regular honey didn’t work, and neither did boiling it up in water.
5 – Aspirin – it either doesn’t work or is harmful. Avoid.
6 – Willow tea – I get that this is DIY, but also it’s surely more hassle to make than just buying rooting hormone??
I can’t give an answer on this, because all of the articles I read also suggested using aspirin as an alternative. If you have a handy willow tree then be sure to give it a go and let me know.
7 – Pothos – this I will try (but haven’t yet) because it really needs its own article. Will update in the future.
Problems with using rooting hormone
There’s no real issue with using root hormone other than the powder is not great for our airways. If you have a mask handy then I’d recommend popping it on before using it.
Be sure to check the instructions so you don’t end up poisoning your plant with rooting hormone (the hormone shouldn’t harm it, but whatever it’s suspended in might).
Saty away from using aspirin and apple cider vinegar and you should be ok!
Is rooting hormone the same as keiki paste?
Ok I just always assumed that they were different forms of the same thing, but apparently not!
The active ingredient in keiki paste is cytokinin, not auxin. Cytokinins do help with root formation, but their main job is the formation of new shoots, which is why keiki paste is used to encourage keikis (babies) on (in?) orchids.
I have never used it.
I love orchids, but atm they do not like me.
Applying keiki paste is more of a process than just whacking some powder on a node. You need to find a node on the flower spike that hasn’t flowered but also isn’t too woody. The exact amount of nodes you can put keiki paste on seems to be a contested issue. Most people say max 1, but others are saying making that orchid WORK and apply it to a couple.
Again, keiki paste is not necessary. In fact, when you first get into orchids they recommend that beginners remove keikis because they can sap the energy from your plant.
Rooting hormone is a fun thing to try (well, not fun fun, but you know what I mean) but for those of us who primarily prop in water then it’s really not worth the trouble. If you like to prop in soil then go for it.