Using rooting hormones is a great way of encouraging root growth, especially when plating clippings or otherwise propagating your plants. However, these hormones need to be used carefully and judiciously.
You cannot water plants with rooting hormone because the hormone is designed to be used for propagation and not on plants with established roots. Rooting hormones should be applied to the cutting before planting. For established plants, consider using root stimulators for improved root growth.
This article will explore what rooting hormones are, how to use them the right way, and what you can use to stimulate root growth in established plants instead of rooting hormones. Read on to learn more about rooting hormones and their usage.
Using Rooting Hormone for Plant Propagation
When used correctly, the rooting hormone can be particularly helpful in propagating plants from the stem and ensuring the successful establishment of new cuttings.
How Propogation Works
Here’s how you should use rooting hormones to propagate plants:
Identify the Right Type to Use
Read the instructions carefully to ensure that the type of hormones you’re buying is right for your plants. Hormones for softwood cuttings are different from hormones for hardwood cuttings.
Use the Proper Concentration & Amount
You’ll also need to use the right concentration and quantity of the rooting hormone. Depending on the type of cutting, you might use anything from 0.1% to 0.8% of the hormones for propagation.
Liquid and gel varieties may need to be diluted before use, so ensure that you read the instructions on the package carefully. Using too many hormones can inhibit root growth instead of encouraging it.
Apply It to the Base Before Planting
Apply the hormone to the base of the cutting just before planting. Take as much powder, liquid, or gel hormone as required and transfer it to a container for easier dipping.
Dip the cuttings in the container, and shake off any excess. Discard whatever remains after all cuttings are covered.
Add Mycorrhizae as Well
You can improve the success rate of the rooting hormones by adding mycorrhizae to the soil along with the rooting hormone.
Learn more about using mycorrhizae in my article that explores if you can water in Great White mycorrhizae: Can You Water In Great White Mycorrhizae?
Note: Don’t use rooting hormones if you’re placing your cuttings in water. The hormones will make the water sticky and slimy, which will not help the cuttings thrive. Rooting hormones are designed to be used in a potting medium or soil, not in water.
Is It the Same as Fertilizer?
Rooting hormones seem to do what fertilizers do: encourage growth and development in the plant. But that doesn’t mean that they are the same thing.
Rooting hormone is not the same as fertilizer. Rooting hormones like auxin stimulate the growth of roots, whereas fertilizers provide nutrition that serves as material for growth. Put simply, the hormones signal the stems to produce roots while fertilizer provides the plant energy to do so.
While plants can be propagated without rooting hormones, all plants need fertilizers to grow. Fertilizers supply nutrition in the form of macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium and micronutrients like copper, calcium, and zinc to plants.
Plants use the nutrients to perform photosynthesis, develop plant tissue, and grow. In contrast, rooting hormones are synthetic versions of naturally occurring hormones like auxin that encourage root growth in fresh cuttings.
They are especially useful for hard-to-root cutting like bougainvillea and hibiscus. Rooting hormones usually also contain fungicides that protect cuttings from pathogens that may cause root rot or other diseases, which helps the cuttings thrive.
So while rooting hormones and fertilizers achieve the same result of new growth, they do not do it in the same way.
Can You Use It After Planting?
Rooting hormones are most effective when applied to cutting right before they’re placed in a potting medium. However, that isn’t the only time that you can use it.
You can use rooting hormone after planting, but remember to use it only for cuttings that haven’t grown roots. Apply the rooting hormone at a much lower concentration than when you apply it to the cuttings before planting.
When applying rooting hormones after planting, spray enough until you see the excess draining away, then allow the cutting time to root. The concentration of the hormones to be applied after planting should be about one-fifth of what you would normally use.
How to Root Cuttings if You Forgot Rooting Hormone
If you’ve simply forgotten to dip the cuttings in rooting hormones, you can apply the hormones after planting, as we’ve just discussed. However, if you don’t have rooting hormones, there are several other ways to root your cuttings.
You can simply plant your cuttings into the soil, water gently but thoroughly, and keep an eye on the cutting as its roots. Remember that rooting hormones are not necessary for root growth.
Plants possess their own hormones and typically root well on their own so long as you’ve picked a healthy stem, leaf, or root as the cutting.
You can also make a tonic using willow bark, which has been traditionally used as a natural alternative for rooting hormones. The tonic can be used exactly the same way as you would use the rooting hormone.
Cinnamon, honey, and apple cider vinegar are other alternatives that can be used if you can’t access any rooting hormones. These have antifungal and antibacterial properties that protect fresh cuttings from infections and encourage rooting.
Remember to use the cinnamon in its powdered form. Apple cider vinegar should be heavily diluted in water before use to prevent burning.
In addition to these, a good quality rooting medium that is rich in organic matter and nutrients that is kept consistently moist will go a long way in helping your cutting take root.
Watering correctly is very important – too much, and you’ll overwhelm the cuttings; too little, and you’ll dehydrate the plant. Water enough so the first inch or so (2.5+ cm) of the soil remains damp but not soggy, and apply water as often as required.
4 Ways to Stimulate Root Growth in an Established Plant
When it comes to plants with established root systems, you can’t use rooting hormones as they will likely do more harm than good.
However, there are other ways to stimulate root growth in established plants:
Water Deeply and Infrequently
While the rate and quantity of watering differ from plant to plant, most plants, trees, and shrubs do well when watered deeply and infrequently. Only watering when the soil starts to dry out encourages deeper root growth.
Ensure Your Plants Have Proper Nutrition
While most rooting mediums will have enough micronutrients, plants quickly use macronutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Apply a good quality balanced fertilizer during the growing season.
Keep the Rooting Medium Aerated
Breaking up the potting medium or soil gently, incorporating aerating materials like sand, or using a plug aerator can help incorporate air into your rooting medium.
Apply Organic Material Like Mulch
Organic materials provide fertilizer and improve aeration by introducing microbial activity in the rooting medium. It also helps maintain moisture levels, which naturally helps root growth. Mulch and compost are good examples of organic matter that help plants grow healthier and deeper roots.
You can’t water plants with rooting hormone, as it is meant to be applied to cuttings that don’t have established root systems. Rooting hormones can be applied to cutting after they’ve been planted but in much lower concentrations. Natural alternatives include willow bark tonic, cinnamon, honey, and apple cider vinegar.
To encourage root growth in established plants, water them deeply and infrequently, and keep them fertilized, especially with nitrogen. Ensure that your rooting medium is well-aerated and has sufficient organic matter.