The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Homemade willow rooting hormone

Steeping willowI've played around with taking advantage of willows' natural rooting hormones in the past, but have never gotten very serious about it.  However, an actual tested recipe in The Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation (combined with some gifted fig cuttings) prompted me to give it another try.

Natural rooting hormone

To make rooting hormone tea from first-year willow twigs, just strip off leaves (if any are present), cut the wood into small pieces, and cover them up with water.  After 24 hours of steeping, pour off the liquid and use it immediately, or store it in your fridge for up to six years.

Since willow rooting hormone isn't as strong as commercial preparations, it's best to let the base of your cuttings sit in the willow juice for a day before moving them to their rooting chamber.  I'm treating half my fig cuttings with willow rooting hormone and letting half sit in water for a day as a control and will let you know if I see a difference in rooting.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I wanted to root some tea plants, but can't find the rooting hormone. Now I think I'll go find some willow! Is Dirr's book your favorite for plant propagation? I took a class years ago but my notes aren't very good, and I'm getting interested again in the subject.
Comment by De Mon Feb 11 08:11:29 2013

De --- It's the best book I've found so far, although I haven't read them all. I'm going to do a lunchtime series on it soon to highlight the pros and cons.

Meanwhile, I looked up tea for you, and the book seems to recommend taking cuttings in July to August, treating with 1000 ppm IBA, and then rooting under mist. They note "This is an easy Camellia species to root."

Comment by anna Mon Feb 11 08:24:37 2013
Hi-I had learned of the creek willow's use from Silas, I guess. But he also told of using a cut potato, of sticking the rootstock down in one. Maybe that was just to hold in moisture, or even give the rootsotck nourishment? I tried it a few times,ak but always forgot to check back, and lost the start!
Comment by adrianne Mon Feb 11 08:29:37 2013
Mom --- Fascinating! That's too many variables for this experiment, but I think I'm going to have to test that too. It makes sense that a potato would be a good rooting environment. Do you remember what Silas was rooting that way?
Comment by anna Mon Feb 11 09:40:35 2013
Thanks Anna for looking up the details on my tea plant! I was guessing hardwood cuttings, but now it looks like I have some time to play with the willow stuff :-)
Comment by De Mon Feb 11 09:51:25 2013

Anna I'd recommend varying your soak time in the willow water. Such as cut fresh and dip for x minutes then try again.

I know a lot of Universities and Extension offices use Dip N Grow. The thing with Dip N Grow is the longer you let it soak the worse the cutting does. I believe for Dip N Grow they say no less than 5 seconds and no more than 1 minute.

Anyways just a thought I'd throw your way.


Comment by BSmith Mon Feb 11 11:50:24 2013
BSmith --- The time has to do with the concentration (and also the solvent in some cases). If the rooting hormone is very concentrated, you want to dip for a very brief time because otherwise it burns the bottom of the cutting, but this stuff is very diluted. The 24 hour soak came with this recipe, so I'm assuming someone had tested various times and figured it worked well with the willow water. I was considering doing a different willow extract in rubbing alcohol, which is more adept at getting rooting hormones into cuttings. In that case, I'd do a much faster dip.
Comment by anna Mon Feb 11 12:59:55 2013
I've been looking to experiment with the home made willow solution for some time now and this is really helpful. For me, since its not as practical to soak my soft herbaceous cuttings in this solution for 24 hours, I am going to try soaking my composted bark compressed cubes for 24 hours in them and then squeezing out excess moisture. Thanks for the information! I Imagine this will help. always innoculate your cuttings after 4-6 days when cell division has began with a mycorrhizzae and/or bacillus (subtilis or related) and it will prevent rot, damping off, or any problems associated with an overwatered propagation when using a liquid solution/soak like this!
Comment by Rusty Shackleford Wed Feb 13 14:47:27 2013

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