Rooting hormone is a chemical substance applied to plant cuttings to stimulate faster and strong root development. The product also protects against fungal and bacterial infections that may affect the formation of new roots on the cuttings.
While rooting hormones are perceived to increase the success rate of a propagation process, they are rarely essential, especially in plants that root easily. Many succulents, including the holiday cacti, don’t need any root stimulator when growing them from cuttings.
Homemade rooting hormone – Recipes
Most rooting hormone products are synthetic, containing compounds artificially produced in industrial laboratories. While they aren’t expensive, using them creates safety and environmental concerns.
However, making your rooting hormone is possible with the ingredients in your kitchen cupboard. I’ll take you through some recipes I have tried that worked wonders.
While participating in some gardening forums, someone mentioned cinnamon as a great natural rooting hormone. I did not hesitate to try propagating easter cactus cuttings for more plants I could offer as gifts to my friend. This did not disappoint, as all the cuttings got rooted.
To use cinnamon as a rooting hormone, take 1 spoonful of cinnamon powder and pour it onto a paper towel. Dip the cut-end of the cutting into the powder, then shake gently to remove any excess. Then, place the cutting into moist soil or your preferred rooting media.
Honey naturally has antibacterial and antifungal properties. Using it as a rooting agent makes the roots grow faster and protects the cutting against fungal infections and diseases. Honey is safe and eco-friendly.
Take 1 tablespoon of honey and add to two cups of lukewarm water. Stir the mixture to form a complete solution and store it in a closed container. When ready to grow, dip the cutting base into the solution and place it into the soil.
Apple cider vinegar
Apple cider vinegar is beneficial to plants in many ways. It can be used as a fertilizer, for cleaning plant leaves, as a natural pesticide, and as a rooting hormone. In higher concentrations, ACV kills plants, including weeds, so it has to be used carefully around plants.
Mix 3 teaspoons of apple cider vinegar into 1 gallon of water to use ACV as a rooting agent. Dip your cuttings into the solution and plant them into your preferred growth media.
Aloe vera gel
Fresh aloe vera gel can be used as a natural rooting hormone. It has antibacterial and antifungal properties that protect the cuttings from infections. Cut a thick aloe leaf from a healthy plant, and get the gel. You may blend the gel with a little water before using it for rooting.
How to use a rooting hormone
Whether using a homemade rooting agent or a store-bought, it’s important to know how to use it for the best outcome. Here is how to successfully propagate cacti and other plants using rooting hormones.
- Obtain a stem cutting from a healthy, robust mother plant using a clean, sharp knife or scissors. The cutting should be about 6 to 8 inches long.
- Place the cuttings in a cool, dry place for two to three days for the cut end to callus over. This essentially prevents rot or fungal infection to the cutting.
- Once ready, dip the bottom end of the cutting into your preferred rooting hormone. If you are dealing with a powdery product, you may be required to wet the cut end section of the cutting with water to help the powder stick.
- Dip the cuttings into your preferred rooting media and mist to keep it damp and not waterlogged. If you are propagating cactuses or succulents, water the cuttings only when the soil feels dry to prevent root rot.
- Place the cuttings in a place with bright indirect light as you wait for them to root. For cacti, it might take between 3 to 6 weeks for roots to develop. The period may vary depending on the plant species, the climate, and the season.
- Once the cutting has fully rooted you’ll also see new growth and you can now transplant it into its new home. If you are potting, be sure to use a well-draining soil and a pot with drainage holes.
Tip: Dont obtain a cutting from a flowering shoot or stems; they are less likely to root. Most plants actively grow during spring and summer, the best time to propagate.
Do rooting hormones work?
I always wanted to know if rooting hormones really work, so I tried rooting my columnar cactus cuttings without the hormone, and truly I did not achieve more than 50% survival of the cuttings. Most of them died, while others took longer to form new roots.
In my next experiment, I used the rooting hormone when propagating a fishbone cactus. Seeing all the cuttings root and thrive into new plants in just 3 weeks. This saved time and encouraged me to grow more plants whenever I wanted.
Based on my observation, rooting hormones work especially for plants that are difficult to root through cuttings. I recommend you use it to propagate the Peruvian apple cactus, the giant saguaro, the old man cactus, and other hard-to-root plants.
If you decide to use a rooting hormone, you can make your own, as explained in this guide, or go for the commercial ones available in stores but read and follow the instructions on the product label. Rooting the cuttings in the right growth conditions will help increase the success rate.
“Home Propagation of Houseplants,” the University of Missouri Extension
“ New Plants From Cuttings,” Purdue University
Heuser, Charles W. (Editor), Richard Bird, Mike Honour, Clive Innes, Jim Arbury (Contributing Authors), (1997) The Complete Book of Plant Propagation, Taunton Press.
My name is Diane M Lewik, and I am the founder of this website. I am a degree holder in plant biology from the University of California – Berkeley. Over years, I have cultivated a vast collection of succulents and I have learned a great deal about how to grow and care for these unique plants.