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Rooting Hormones for Plants for Best Propagation

Rooting hormones for plants are not essential to plant propagation, but definitely helpful and can significantly increase chances of successfully rooting cuttings.

You can use rooting hormones for all plants, however they’re most beneficial for woody plants. For the added time and expense it’s just not as practical or necessary for herbaceous plants.

Rooting hormones are most beneficial for plants, shrubs and trees with woody stems.

What are Rooting Hormones?

Rooting Hormones are natural or synthetic hormones that replicate the naturally occurring plant growth hormones.

The predominant plant hormones for rooting are auxin and cytokinin. Auxin and cytokinin need each other because auxin and cytokinins are the addition, multiplication and division hormones for plants.

Predominant Plant Rooting Hormones

  • Auxin – induces growth from root to stem
  • Cytokinins – promotes cell division in plant roots and shoots

Auxin induces growth and cytokinins promote cell division.

The relationship of auxin and cytokinin is comparable to the relationship of vitamins D and K in our bodies; they both need each other to function properly.

“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.”

5 Types of Plant Hormones

  • Auxin – induces growth from root to stem
  • Cytokinins – promotes cell division in plant roots and shoots
  • Gibberellins – stimulates stem growth, germination, and flowering
  • Abscisic Acid – regulates seed and bud dormancy; controls organ size and stomatal (pore) openings
  • Ethylene – an ‘aging’ hormone that accelerates plant growth and development
How to Root Elderberry Cuttings. #PlantPropagation #RootingHormone #PlantClippings #ElderberryPlant
Elderberry cuttings – image by Norman’s Farms

What Do Rooting Hormones Do for Plants?

I think of rooting hormones as akin to applying an antimicrobial or antibacterial herb or salve on a wound. The healing, pain and re-growth of skin would happen anyway, but the salve helps the process along.

Another simile would be to compare rooting hormones for plants with vitamins and immune boosting foods and supplements. Our bodies will extract nutrients from whatever foods we consume. However, fortifying that helps our body’s process of reparation over just survival, for greater health and quicker recovery.

Experts agree that liquid rooting hormone formulas for plants work best.

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" by 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 7a. These are great immunity boosting berries so long as the birds don't eat them all in one fell swoop. One year we lost all our Mahonia berries and blueberries.

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.

Plant propagation... making many plants from one is inspiring.

Plant Propagation and Potential

Of course, I realize another way to look at it when it comes to pruning plants is that it's a bit like trimming hair or nails. It doesn't harm the plant to prune it, (unless you over do it). So I don't have to feel bad about harming the plants. But the difference is that there's still life in the plant cuttings and they have still 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. Sometimes we have to let them go to compost or kindling. At least the upcycling and repurposing is comforting by the fact that it's still being put to good use.

I see a nursery business in our future. First on the wishlist are larger greenhouses. We're working our way up to it. First a kitchen garden window, then an indoor greenhouse, followed by a cattle panel greenhouse. Next, we'll graduate to a nice larger greenhouse, high tunnel, or maybe even a geodesic dome greenhouse, like we published here.


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!

We clip cuttings May-October in mid-zone 7a. Adjust according to your area.

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".

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

I easily rooted rosemary from newer shoots, but when I took stouter clippings from thicker sections 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.

Take softwood cuttings with an actively growing tip or shoot.

New Shoots on Beech Tree and how to propagate plants with rooting hormones. #RootingHormones #RootingPlantCuttings
New growth on a beech tree.

Propagation Tips from Mike of Mike's Backyard Nursery

Supplies for Propagation

  • Pruner shears - we favor Felco
  • Dish tubs - for planting multiple cuttings (check your local dollar store for best price
  • Rooting compound
  • Drill (for drilling holes in dish tub); or use hammer and nails, ice pick or knife

If you're just getting started, you may also enjoy a plant propagation book.

7 Tips for Rooting Cuttings

Excerpted from WaldenEffect.org3)

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.

Plant Cuttings and Rooting Hormones. #PlantPropagation #PlantClippings #GrowFreePlants #RootingHormonesForPlants

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 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 with soft wood.

4. Choose a good rooting medium.  A growing medium is what you place your cutting into so that it can root.

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.

Rooting Mediums

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 wood cutting around the planting end 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.

Plant Propagation for Free Plants with the help of Rooting Hormones for Plants. #FreePlants #PlantPropagation #RootingClipping #RootingPlants

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. Here are some of the natural compounds that stimulate root growth. Any one or more of these can work, stirred into water or steeped as a tea, such as the willow bark, honey, or aspirin.4)

  1. Willow water
  2. Apple Cider Vinegar
  3. Cinnamon
  4. Honey
  5. Aloe vera gel
  6. Aspirin
  7. Spit

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.5)

If you want to read more on plant patents and what to look for, you may enjoy this article by Amy on AmyCampion.com6) Another article by Oregon State University, helps us understand the seemingly unfair law against propagating any plant we may purchase.7)

For more on cloning, cutting and pruning, you may enjoy this other article.8)

For pruning and propagating blueberries, we really enjoyed the

And lastly, please share your rooting journey. Let us know what you're rooting and which rooting hormone and process you prefer. Send us a note or post on the GardensAll Facebook.


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