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Rooting Hormone for Plant Propagation

What are Rooting Hormones?

Rooting hormones are not essential to plant propagation, but definitely helpful and can significantly increase chances of successfully rooting cuttings. Rooting hormones are beneficial for any cuttings, but are not as practical for the added time and expense when it comes to herbaceous plants.

Herbaceous plants have no persistent woody stem above ground and may be annuals, biennials or perennials. Source: Wikipedia1)

Rooting compounds are most useful when it comes to shrubs and tree. These hormones come in powder, liquid and gel forms and while all are effective, experts in the nursery industry agree that the liquid rooting hormone is best.1)

I think of rooting hormones as akin to vitamins or like placing an antimicrobial antiseptic salve like Neosporin on a wound. The healing, pain and re-growth of skin would happen anyway, but the salve helps the process along. Or with vitamins, our bodies will extract nutrients from whatever foods we consume, however, providing the optimal diet and supplements means our bodies can work on growth and reparation over just survival, so the growth process and overall health is greater.

But what are rooting hormones?

Rooting Hormones are natural or synthetic hormones that replicate the naturally occurring plant hormones that induce growth. The predominant plant hormones for rooting are auxin and cytokinin.

Co-dependent Hormones and Vitamins

Plant hormones, Cytokinins promote cell division, while auxins induce division and growth. So auxin and cytokinin need each other.

The relationship of auxin and cytokinin is comparable to the relationship of vitamins D and K in our bodies.

“Vitamin D improves bone health by helping you absorb calcium. However, it is vitamin K that directs calcium to your skeleton, to prevent it from being deposited in the wrong areas.”1)

Plant Hormones

There are 5 Types of Plant Hormones

  • Auxin
  • Cytokinins
  • Gibberellins
  • Abscisic Acid
  • Ethylene

To learn more about plant hormones, we thoroughly enjoyed this article. It’s very well written, engaging, funny and interesting for kids and adults alike, so sharing that link in case you’re interested in learning more about plant hormones in general.1)

Elderberry cuttings – image by Norman’s Farms

Tips for Using Rooting Hormones

Do not place the cutting directly into the hormone powder or compound. This can contaminate your entire batch and cause a breakdown in efficacy.

Grow Plants and Trees from Cuttings

We have some Goji Berry bushes and their lowest branches on the ground have begun layering—sending down their own roots producing a new plant. These we will cut and place in a pot of growing medium. Same thing with our Mahonia plants. Ours are prolific with berries that ripen May-June in zone 7b. Though this year birds go those and our blueberries.1)

I love to root all kinds of cuttings. Just the idea of making many plants from one is inspiring. In fact, when my husband prunes our plants, it’s not uncommon for him to find the cuttings show up inside in all kinds of vases, jars and glasses of water. There’s just something about salvaging things that might have more life and purpose that makes it hard to toss them to wither.

making many plants from one is inspiring.

Of course, I realize another way to look at it when it comes to plants is that it’s a bit like trimming hair or nails, so I don’t have to feel bad about harming the plants, (yes, I’m weird like that). But the difference is that there’s still life in the plant cuttings and they have within them the ability to produce more plants.

I’m all about bringing out potential in all living things.

The more we grow, the less practical it is to have so many cuttings to root, so sometimes we have to let them go to compost, comforted by the fact that it’s still being put to good use. I see a nursery business in our future. First on the wishlist is a high tunnel or greenhouse!1), as our counter and greenhouse window in the kitchen is already at full capacity.


When to Take Cuttings

Multiply your plants, including trees and shrubs, with a simple method of taking cuttings. You can start in May and take cuttings on until October, depending on your growing zone. It’s easier than you think and it creates an infinite supply of new trees and plants for you… forever!

The very best timing depends on the kind of plant. A general rule of thumb is to take cuttings from new shoots that have become woody enough to be sturdy but not so old as to be hard. These are call “softwood”.

Take softwood cuttings with an actively growing tip or shoot.

New growth on a beech tree.

If the cutting is too young (too green and flimsy) or too old, (hard woody), they’ll root more slowly and are likely to rot before rooting.

I easily rooted rosemary from newer shoots like this, but when I took stout clippings from thicker sections of the plant, thinking I would get a head start on growing a bigger plant, they rotted before rooting. Since then I’ve learned that you can scar the wood to potentially stimulate rooting by cutting back the bark to the green, so I’ll try that next time.

There are good tips from Mike of Mike’s Backyard Nursery in this video.

From 1)

If you’re just getting started, you may also enjoy this Step by Step Guide to Plant Propagation by Kathy Green, available on Amazon. Next, a summary of seven tips for root cuttings.

7 Tips for Rooting Cuttings

Excerpted from

1. Pay attention to time of day and time of year.  Softwood, greenwood, and hardwood cuttings are all taken at different times of year, and different plant species respond better to different seasons.

Prune softwood plants early in the morning.



2. Skip the tips and blooms.  These have less stored energy,

Prune non-bud, non-flowering stems.


3. Stick to the young.  Fresher parts of a tree are root more easily. You can try to get more youthful twigs by finding sprouts low and near the trunk. (This is what we’re doing with our Goji, elderberry and blueberry plants.

Look for youthful twigs.


4. Choose a good rooting medium.  A growing medium is what you place your cutting into so that it can root. Rooting mediums include sand, peat, perlite, pine bark, pumice, or sandy soil, and pre-filled rooting trays.

So I’ve learned that my “cutting in water method” works, it may not be the best. The cuttings that can root in a growing medium stand a better chance of taking root when transplanted into soil.

Use a good rooting medium.


5. Rooting hormones help.  Some rooting hormones, include anti-fungicidal agents. You may not need the chemical aid of fungicide if you have a good rooting medium and you don’t overwater.

Rooting hormones help.


6. Wounding isn’t always bad.  Difficult-to-root greenwood and hardwood cuttings are sometimes wounded near the base to promote rooting.  Wounding usually consists of scarring the bark (but not the green cambium underneath) for half to one inch of the base.

Scarring can promote growth.


7. Keep cuttings moist but not wet.  Keep plants in partial shade or cover with an opaque plastic bag. The bag can help retain moisture, but don’t let it get too wet.

Do not dry out… do not over water.


For rooting hormone, you may try the best selling Garden Safe Take Root Rooting Hormone available from Amazon.

Source: WaldenEffect.or2)



So here’s the thing: you buy a tree or two, once. You clone it over and over again for an infinite supply of new plants, shrubs and trees. Now that’s the best return on any investment, ever. In fact… that’s how nurseries are born!

Homemade Rooting Compounds

You can make your own if you have the time. There are three really great articles on this:

  1. GardeningKnowHow.com3)
  2. PreparednessMama.com3)
  3. DeepGreenPermaculture.com3)

Plant Patents

CAUTION: This is not recommended for plants with patents, especially if you plan to resell them. It’s actually an illegal infringement of patent rights—in other words, it’s against the law—to propagate a patented plant. The plants you buy should come with a patent number on a plant stake if there is a patent on it.

Patented Plants List

You can obtain a patented plants list from the These are often a year or two behind, but it should help cover most plant scenarios you’ll encounter.3)

If you want to read more on plant patents and what to look for, you may enjoy this article by Amy Campion on her website,3) and this one by Oregon State University, which helps us understand the seemingly unfair law against propagating any plant we may purchase.3)

For more on cloning, cutting and pruning, you may enjoy this other article.3)

For pruning and propagating blueberries, we really enjoyed the

To find more on the layering propagation method, visit

If you want to see comparison’s of rooting hormones, you might find this comparison article helpful.

And lastly, please share your rooting journey. Let us know what you’re rooting and which rooting hormone and process you prefer. You can leave comments below, or post on the GardensAll Facebook or send an email.

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