How To Keep Herb Cuttings Alive With Rooting Hormones

When you are trying to grow herbs from cuttings, you may find that many of your cuttings don’t grow roots. They may fail to root at all, root but have yellow and sickly leaves, or die. In our last post, we wrote that you needed only water to grow cuttings, which is true, but in some cases your cuttings may need a little more help.

If you aren’t seeing results, or if you are attempting to grow herbs from woodier cuttings (such as rosemary), then you should try using rooting hormone. Search in Google for rooting hormone near me.

What are Rooting Hormones?

Plants use hormones to grow just like humans and animals, though their hormones are different. Various hormones cause a plant to focus on roots rather than side buds, for example, or start flowering, or drop fruit. The particular hormones we are interested in here are “auxins”, the hormone that tells the plant to root. One auxin is called Indole-3-butyric acid (IBA). There are a few synthetic chemicals that replicate IBA and they are available to home gardeners in various different forms, such as powders, liquids, and gels. Your search for where can i buy rooting gel? ends here.

Some kinds of cuttings require rooting hormone more than others. The greenness of the stem is what determines the cutting’s rooting capability. The top part of a cutting is called “softwood.” This is the part of the stem that is green and bends easily without breaking. Softwood cuttings can often root in water alone and don’t need hormone. In most herbs, your cuttings will all be softwood cuttings. Basil, mint, cilantro, lemon balm, etc. are all mostly softwood. Other herbs that grow more stiffly, like rosemary and thyme, will have stems that have already turned brown and hardened. The middle part of the stem, where the green changes to brown, is called semi-hardwood. The hardest part of the stem is called hardwood. These older parts of the stem contain less rooting hormone than the softwood part of the stem. If you take a hardwood cutting, you will definitely need to apply growth hormone. Buy rooting hormone here.

How to Apply Plant Rooting Hormone?

Dosage is important. Too little hormone will have no effect on the plant, but too much hormone will cause the plant to yellow and wither. Just like real medicine, it’s important to get the dosage right.

Tip: To prevent contamination, always remove a small amount of hormone first and put it into a separate bowl or dish. Throw away any unused powder at the end. This will prevent you from carrying over any diseases from one plant to another. Where to buy rooting hormone for plants?

How to Use Growth Hormone for Plant Cuttings?

For powdered rooting hormone, dip the end of your cutting into a shallow plate of hormone powder. Then tap the end of your cutting on the table or the edge of the plate to shake off excess powder. You should have a thin film of hormone leftover on the skin of the cutting, no more than a quarter-inch away from the base of the stem. You can put the cutting into a glass of water to start it, or you can plant it directly in a pot of potting medium (more on that below). If you do use a potting medium, don’t shake off the stem first. Just push the stalk firmly down into the soil. Any loose hormone will rub off into the soil, which is fine. It’s better to start out with too little than too much.

For liquid rooting hormone, dip the end of your cutting into a cup or bowl containing the hormone. Only hold the cutting there for a second or two, not more. Too much time can cause the plant to absorb too much hormone, which may cause the leaves to yellow or burn the plant stem. Liquid hormone is powerful and the results can be better than average, but the dosage can be difficult to get right. Beginners often prefer powdered hormone instead because it is harder to make mistakes.

You may want to ask what you can use instead of rooting powder. The answer is, rooting hormone also comes in gel form, which is the easiest to apply because it’s easier to measure dosage, and the gel tends to stay on the plant stem better than powdered hormone does. Rooting hormone gel works best when you are planting your cuttings in a rooting compound medium and not in a glass of water. Dip the cutting in a bowl of gel according to the instructions. Typically, the gel should come up about a quarter of an inch on the stem. Push the cutting directly into the rooting medium afterward. Discard any unused gel when you are finished. Buy rooting gel.

With rooting hormone, you should see a better response from your cuttings than if you used water alone, especially if you have more semi-hardwood or hardwood cuttings. Rosemary and thyme, for instance, are unlikely to root in water alone, but with rooting hormone and a dry rooting medium, they can do very well.

How to Use Rooting Hormone for Tree Cuttings?

Aside from herb cuttings, you may also want to try using root hormone for your tree cuttings. According to, trees are the most expensive plants to buy, so it makes sense to propagate them from cuttings. Auxin, the hormone for plants, makes the process easier by encouraging your cuttings to form roots. Most liquid and powdered rooting hormones contain synthetic forms of auxin called IBA or NAA. Liquid concentrates are often more convenient to use, as you can adjust the amount of hormone used by adding more or less water in the dilution cup.

Here are the steps on how you can use rooting hormone for your tree cuttings:

  1. Take your cuttings in spring or early summer when trees are producing new growth. Clean your pruning shears or knife first with rubbing alcohol, or dip the blades in a mix of 1 part bleach to 9 parts water.
  2. Harvest your cuttings in the early morning. Select 4- to 6-inch pieces from the tips of healthy shoots, and cut each just below a node — the point where a leaf meets the stem. Wrap the cuttings in damp paper towels until you are ready to pot them.
  3. Fill your pot with a moist, sterile soilless mix, such as seed-starting mix or a vermiculite/perlite mix. Prepare your rooting hormone following the instructions on the package.
  4. Strip off the lower leaves on a cutting, allowing only a couple leaves to remain at the tip. Cut those leaves in half if they are large. Dip the lower end of the cutting in the rooting hormone.
  5. Poke a hole in the potting mix. Insert the base of the cutting about 1 to 2 inches deep, making sure at least one node is covered. Tamp the mix tightly around the base of each cutting.
  6. Stick three or four plastic drinking straws into the mix around the edges of the pot. Turn a gallon plastic bag upside down and place it like a tent over the pot, making sure the straws hold the bag away from the cuttings.
  7. Zip the bag partially shut under the pot for trees that like high humidity. Leave the bag open for trees that prefer drier conditions.
  8. Place the pot in a warm location where it will get bright light but no direct sun. Make sure the soilless mix remains damp but not soggy.
  9. Check the cuttings for roots after a month. Tug lightly on a cutting to see whether it still moves easily in the soil or resists the pull.
  10. Remove the bag for a short period of time once most of the cuttings have rooted. Increase that time gradually, until the cuttings are hardened off and can be transplanted.

How To Use A Rooting Medium (Instead Of Water)?

A quick note on rooting mediums. Rooting medium is not dirt or soil: in fact, it usually contains no dirt or soil at all. Instead, it is often a lighter material that is less abrasive to the plant cutting, and which tends to hold water better. Rooting mediums can be fine gardener’s sand, perlite, vermiculite, sand, sphagnum moss, and other similar materials. You can pick any of these up at a gardening store.

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