This is a cut-down version of the how-to article I wrote on the topic.
Lots of gardeners like to use rooting hormone for starting cuttings, particularly roses, trees and woody ornamentals. Here’s an excellent organic alternative for those of you who hate chemicals and synthetics -- and it’s free.
You can cut branches from any member of the willow family (Salix) and soak them in water to easily make your own natural organic rooting solution -- willow tea. Your homebrew will contain indolebutyric acid, a growth hormone and one of the active ingredients in store-bought rooting products.
Cut a few 1-inch diameter willow tree branches from this year’s growth. Remove all of the leaves and buds from the branches. Cut them into 1-inch sections. You’ll need about a big double handful of these sections to make your willow tea. Split the sections from top to bottom to expose as much of the inner tissue as possible.
Cover the willow pieces with about an inch of water in a heavy pan. Use rainwater if possible. Bring the water to a vigorous boil, then remove from the heat. Cover and allow willow tea to seep overnight. Dip the solids out of the liquid, which will look like weak tea.
Set the cut stem ends of your cuttings into the willow tea for a few hours before planting them. You can allow them to soak overnight, if you like.
Store excess willow tea in the refrigerator. Take it out and bring it to room temperature for watering your cuttings while they’re rooting.
These are the references that I used:
Texas A&M University: Rose Propagation From Cuttings
University of Arkansas: Willow Water
Ohio State University: Gardening Folklore
Willow Tea: Homemade Rooting Hormone Sans Chemicals
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