How to Use Rooting Hormone When Propagating Plants

Plus, find out whether or not it's necessary.

succulents being potted on wooden surface
Photo: Juj Winn/Getty

If you want beautiful, full, diverse planters without the hefty price tag, you may consider propagating your plants. Propagation is the process of growing new plants from clippings of existing plants. While it's a fairly simple process requiring little more than soil and sunlight, some may want to help Mother Nature along with a rooting hormone. Here's what you need to know about the technique.

What Is Rooting Hormone?

Just as hormones regulate processes in the human body, plants have hormones that help govern their growth and development. Chemicals known as auxins inform plants when to form roots. Rooting hormone products, which are commonly sold in powder, liquid, and gel form, contain natural auxins or synthetic compounds, which can be applied to clippings to stimulate root growth during propagation.

Do Your Plants Need It?

Not exactly. Plants propagate naturally, and if given the proper conditions and care, cuttings will sprout roots using their own hormones. However, some people choose to use rooting hormones to speed up the process, or for plants that have proven difficult to propagate in the past. "It's a personal choice," says Nadine Kremblas, the Living Arts Lead at Pistils Nursery, a specialty plant shop in Portland, Oregon. "Rooting hormone can help yield better results, but it's not necessary."

Plants that easily propagate, such as most varieties of succulents, rarely need the jumpstart that a rooting hormone can deliver. However, plants that are more reluctant to root, such as citrus plants, can benefit from it.

How Do You Use Rooting Hormone?

Hormones are powerful chemicals, and if used incorrectly can kill clippings and plants. With many different concentrations of rooting hormone available, it's important to carefully read the product's packaging to ensure that the formula is appropriate for your plant. During propagation, rooting hormone should be applied immediately before you place your clipping in the soil.

For powdered hormones, dip the base of the cutting into the hormone, then shake gently to remove any excess. Place the cutting into moist soil, loosely covering the base. For liquid and gel hormones, first check the package to see if it's a ready-to-go mix or a concentrate. If concentrated, dilute the product with water according to the directions. Once your hormone is ready, dip the base of your clipping into the liquid or gel, leaving submerged for only a couple seconds-too long can damage the plant. Plant the cutting as you would using a powdered hormone.

Remember that rooting hormone should be used only during propagation. Feeding a mature plant hormones can damage the root system. Rooting hormone should be stored in a cool, dark place. Check the expiration date before using, as the chemicals can break down over time.

Feeling Inspired: Martha Shows Us How to Use a Rooting Hormone in the Video Below

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