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

How to use rooting hormones

Rooted fig cuttingsOne of the main tricks horticulturalists use to increase their success rooting cuttings is to treat the twig with the proper rooting hormone.  Rooting hormones feel a bit strong to me, so I usually try without them first, and am currently experimenting with a much weaker solution made from willow twigs.  That said, certain species are unlikely to root without the extra help.

Using rooting hormones is much more complicated than I'd at first thought, with various options existing for the type and concentration of hormone, the solvent, and the application method.  In terms of types of hormones, most people use either IBA or NAA, with gamma form of first and alpha form of the last being most effective.  Although some plants prefer one hormone over the other, most will root quite well with either, in which case you might be inclined to go for NAA since it's much cheaper.  On the other hand, NAA is more prone to burn plants if you don't get the concentration just right.

Speaking of concentration, that's a point where you either need to search the literature or use a lot of trial and error since each plant likes their rooting hormone at a different strength.  The stronger your hormone, the less time you want to allow your cutting to sit in the solution, with a five minute dip working for strong solutions of rooting hormones, but with up to 24 hours necessary if they're diluted.

Kiwi rootingAnother factor influencing how effective a rooting hormone will be is the solvent it's dissolved in.  Although some people dip into powdered hormones, the solid is apparently much less effective than if you dissolve the rooting hormones in water or in some form of alcohol.  Alcohol is more effective at ensuring the rooting hormone actually works its way into the plant, but some species get shocked by having their stems stuck in alcohol and can drop their leaves or die.  If you do want to use alcohol, you can buy rooting hormone already dissolved in ethanol, or can make some yourself using rubbing alcohol (isopropyl alcohol).

I'll keep you posted if I decide to change over to chemical rooting hormones in the future.  In the meantime, a gentle tug on my fig cuttings suggests both the control and the willow-treated stems might already be starting to root ten days after placing them in pots.  So maybe I don't need the chemicals?

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This post is part of our Reference Manual of Woody Plant Propagation lunchtime series.  Read all of the entries:

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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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Hi, I noticed you have you cuttings in some sort of green stuff. What is that?


Comment by Theresa Taylor Thu Feb 28 12:39:12 2013
Theresa --- The first photo isn't ours, but is an interesting fig-rooting experiment I thought others might enjoy perusing. If you click the photo, you'll see the source. I'm pretty sure the photo here is rockwool.
Comment by anna Thu Feb 28 16:55:15 2013
would you like to trade a few fig cuttings?
Comment by daniel erdy Wed Mar 20 01:22:45 2013
Daniel --- I'm afraid we don't have any cuttings of our own to share at the moment. We live at the northern extreme of fig habitat, so I have to wrap the figs for the winter and we still lose a lot of the twigs to freeze, so by spring, I want everything that remains for the tree.
Comment by anna Wed Mar 20 07:33:07 2013
I first found this as a christmas tree preservative. They'd close it out after the holiday. It was my go-to stuff for rooting cuttings. do you know of it? What is your opinion?
Comment by John Thu Dec 12 15:50:11 2013
John --- Interesting! I haven't used that, but this does seem like a very seasonable thing for people to try.
Comment by anna Fri Dec 13 10:11:28 2013

I found the link in case anyone wants to try it out!

Comment by John Fri Dec 13 16:10:57 2013
Never used hormone on fig. It makes its own. Never had a problem.
Comment by daveb Fri Apr 2 13:59:26 2021

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