Is rooting hormone allright? A better alternative?

belle_isis(zone 5B MA)July 16, 2003

I am going to try to root some of my roses shortly, and I have a few doubts about the safety of rooting hormone. I know nothing about it, but when reading the label, I get the impression that I need a HazMat suit to handle it.

Is it acceptable organic practice? Is it dangerous? are there better alternatives?


Belle Isis

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I can't imagine what there was on the label that would give you that impression. Just don't eat it, and you won't have any problems. But that would hold true for many everyday things, wouldn't it? Otherwise, opinions differ on whether rooting hormones should be used in a strictly organic garden.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2003 at 2:49PM
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If you don't use the rooting hormone, what is the right thing to do? You don't just stick them in the ground and hope for the best, do you? Just wondering. I'm trying to do this. - Barb

    Bookmark   July 17, 2003 at 11:28PM
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Sophie Wheeler

Do you use talcum powder on your body? How about dish soap to wash your dishes? What about gasoline in your lawn mower or car? Do you use laundry soap? Bleach? Rooting hormone is safer than all of these, and especially the bleach you put on your laundry. I'll bet most people haven't read all of the cautions that come with all of these common chemicals, and they use them all the time. The cautions are there to help you know how to safely use something, not to paralyze you with fear over using it. Just as with bleach, if you use it as labeled, it is safe. As is anything used as labeled, including fertilizers and other common garden chemicals like sulpher. Don't drink bleach or spray it in your garden and you'll be fine, and don't eat the rooting hormone or deliberately inhale the powder and you'll be fine.

As far as being "organic" goes, well that is up to you. IBA, the active ingredient in most rooting compounds occurs naturally in callous tissue on plants when they root. This is just synthetically reproduced to give the plants a boost in rapidly rooting. If you use BT in your garden, you'll probably feel OK about using rooting hormone. BT also occurs naturally, but the stuff that is sold is produced by genetic engineering of bacteria to make such a large quantity of it, and I've not heard any wild alarms about that yet from the organophiles.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2003 at 8:34AM
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belle_isis(zone 5B MA)


Of course I would use anything as labelled, but I won't use everything that I can find at the store. I won't use talcum powder, pesticides and fungicides, and I certainly would never use anything like BT! I don't need to anyway, my garden doesn't have that many problems.

What I am trying to understand is if I need to use rooting hormone or not. Or if there is another solution that is simpler and doesn't make me nervous. What is the toxicity of rooting hormone? That is something I can't ascertain from reading the label, because maybe the label is alarmist, as they often are.

My package says to not have it in contact with the skin. Does this mean that it is a dangerous carcinogen, or just an irritant? That's what I would like to know.


Belle Isis

    Bookmark   July 18, 2003 at 10:03AM
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Sophie Wheeler

Just curious as to why talcum is a no no for you? I understand about your choices on fungicides and pesticides, but I've never heard of talcum being a problem.

As for what the cautions are for on the rooting hormone, it's a gastric irritant when swallowed--it is a form of acid, after all. It won't really hurt you, but it'll give you an upset tummy. As with any chemical in powder form, (especially an weak corrosive like IBA) it's irritating to mucous membranes when it comes in contact, thus the caution to not breathe it in and use eye protection. Now,these protections are recommended for someone who is around the stuff every day as a means of minimizing their health risks, and for occasionally rooting a few roses, avoiding getting it on your skin or breathing in the dust should be enough unless you have other health problems like asthma. ANd, the cautions on the MSDS are for someone who is dealing with IBA full strength, wheras Rootone or other similar products are usually 3% IBA and the rest inert products like talc.

You are certainly amongst the minority in the organic community who wouldn't use bacillis thurigensis for caterpillar damage. It's one of the more commonly recommended and approved "organic" remedies. I have to admire anyone who is committed to the level that you seem to be.

Here is a link that might be useful: MSDS for indole butryc acid

    Bookmark   July 18, 2003 at 2:18PM
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belle_isis(zone 5B MA)


Thank yo for the data on the rooting hormone, that's exactly what I was looking for. It looks allright, then.

Regarding the talcum powder, it is a carcinogen, and I see no reasons anyway to have a powdered mineral around my nose.

I garden with compost, water, elbow oil and a bit of alfalfa tea (new this year), so I am not aware of the practices of organic gardeners per se. This method works very well for me, and I don't think I should tinker with nature more than what I do by using BT. Or planting BT corn!


Belle Isis

    Bookmark   July 18, 2003 at 2:47PM
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Oh, LOL, LOL...Mercy, mercy. There,..I'm alright now.

Belle Isis, you need to check in here more often. There's no connection at all between Monsanto's Bt corn and the Bt products used worldwide by devout organic gardeners. And you're not tinkering with nature any more by using it than you are by knocking a nasty bug off of a flower.

Monsanto merely developed a corn that makes its own Bt. And lots of organic gardeners aren't too happy about it. And, like it or not, you probably eat some of that corn in some manner every day. But that doesn't have anything to do with your garden or mine.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2003 at 3:30PM
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belle_isis(zone 5B MA)


I am glad you are feeling better. Just to reassure you, I don't eat corn anyore, nor corn products since a few years, unforunately.

Yes indeed, I don't see the point in changing the bacteria population in my garden by adding BT, and yes indeed, this is very different than dunking a JB in a pot of water. And I don't approve of its production methods either.

I am sorry I am not reading this forum more often, as I guess you have had this discussion before.


Belle Isis

    Bookmark   July 18, 2003 at 3:49PM
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Willow water has a mild form of root stimulating hormone. Just chop up willow twigs, dump them in boiling water, let it cool overnight, & water the new plant with it.

An older gardener told me that her mother taught her to lick the end of the cutting.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2003 at 5:02PM
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I know one thing for sure about rooting hormone powder it increases the chances of your cutting taking root many times over.

    Bookmark   July 18, 2003 at 11:32PM
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kidhorn(7a MD)

I use Dip N Grow and it has a nasty smell and a scary label. It's because it has alcohol in it to disinfect the cutting.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2003 at 8:52AM
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Belle Isis - willow water is the only alternative I've heard of, but I hear that it is not very effective. I use Hormex 3 or 8. It is a powder so you can put a small amount in the bottom of a little jar. You stick the cutting in, swish it around, tap off the excess, and you never touch the stuff. It doesn't have an odor.

HollySprings - I can't remember exactly, but there was something out a few years ago about talcum powder being linked to cervical cancer.

    Bookmark   July 21, 2003 at 7:08PM
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Title: Plant rooting improvement using 3,4-substituted aromatic aldehydes.

Authors: Schachler, Guenter; Ewald, Dietrich; Schrinner, Kerstin; Ewald, Elke; Matschke, Juergen.

Authors affiliation: Institut fuer Forstwissenschaften Eberswalde, Germany.

Patent application: Ger. (East) (1991), 3 pp. CODEN: GEXXA8 DD 291915 A5 19910718 Patent written in German. Application: DD 90-337894 19900216. CAN 115:226169 AN 1991:626169

Patent Family Information

Patent No. Kind Date Application No. Date
DD 291915 A5 19910718 DD 1990-337894 19900216

Priority Application
DD 1990-337894 19900216

Abstract: "Spruce rooting is improved by phenolic compds., preferably substituted benzaldehydes (e.g. o-vanillin). An aq. soln. contg. 1000 mg o-vanillin/L, applied at 5 L/m2 to spruce seedlings caused rooting improvement."

    Bookmark   July 21, 2003 at 10:38PM
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elmonte1(z5 NM)

I was curious if anyone has ever made rooting horomone from scratch? We use to make it at an old job, unfortunatly I never found out what was in it.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2004 at 1:16PM
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lori_elf z6b MD

I've tried an organic rooting gel called "Rootstock" that is derived from soybeans, but I didn't think it was as effective as the non-organic kinds. But it's better than not using anything at all. I've also heard you can reproduce willow water by disolving an aspirin in a gallon of water. Now, aspirin isn't organic but is chemically very similar.

    Bookmark   January 30, 2004 at 5:45PM
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IBA is one thing, but some rooting powder formulations also include a "helpful" fungicide to inhibit rot of the rooting cutting. If you're concerned about organic methods, I would expect the fungicide to be of far direr concern to you than the rooting hormone component itself.

If the rooting compound does contain a fungicide, it will say so on the packaging / ingredients list.

Best - exop

    Bookmark   February 3, 2004 at 6:12PM
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Millie_36(Z6b MO)

Roses managed to root for centuries before 'rooting hormones' came along. Maybe that is why so many of the Old garden Roses are so tough. One way to weed out the wimps. I do think the willow tea helps.

    Bookmark   July 2, 2004 at 8:25AM
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ChrisA_MA(z4 MA)

Not that I've ever rooted anything, but my thought had been that if I were to try rooting without hormone, I'd pile some nitrogen heavy compost on about the time it bloomed, and about a week after deadheading when all those green shoots are skyrocketing about, take my cutting. It seems to me that that's the time when the growth hormones natural to the rose would be at their highest... but it's pure speculation.


    Bookmark   July 2, 2004 at 9:44AM
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tich75(WA Aust)

I use honey as a rooting hormone for roses and other plants.

    Bookmark   July 5, 2004 at 10:50AM
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Millie_36(Z6b MO)

Using honey made me stop and consider. I wonder if it's benefit is in preventing rot rather than in stimulating root production? Honey is a natural preservative...never goes bad unless you take it before the bees have capped it that case it may contain too much water and will sour or ferment.

I had a link, that I can't find at the moment, to a story about the Chinese using fresh barnyard manure to seal a graft...guess there is always an alternative way to do things. ;)

    Bookmark   July 8, 2004 at 8:05AM
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Sorry about the long post, but perhaps I can shed some light on the topic. All plants contain the necessary hormones (IAA, NAA, and IBS) to root, otherwise how would they root in the first place? The only reason some cuttings are hard to root, or won't root at all on their own is because of the plants natural process of damage control, i.e. wound response.

Abscisic Acid is a stress hormone that plants use to automatically dieback injured areas in response to wounding or disease such as occurs at the severed end of a cutting. Adding additional hormone to a cut stem to induce rooting is one method of counteracting this response, but essentially all you are doing is disinfecting the area while providing enough additional hormone to maybe (maybe not) develop more mass than the abscisic acid released during the wound response can cope with. Eventually, if you're successful, it's because you reach a point where the wounded area is either partially closed, and/or the root material has eclipsed it, and abscisic acid stops being produced.

Why explain all this? Because there is another method (already mentioned) that works just as well without stressing the plant by forcing it to grow both more mass as well as fight the effects of abscisic acid, willow water. Someone already mentioned aspirin being the same thing, well it is and it isn't.

Aspirin, which as we all know comes from the bark of the willow tree, does contain one of what appears to be two necessary/active ingredients in willow water for successful root incubation. This is Salicylic Acid. Salicylic acid is an abscisic acid inhibitor. That's to say, not only will it stop the affect of already present abscisic acid on wounds, but it stops the wound response and production of abscisic acid all together. On top of this it acts as an anti-coagulant keeping the fresh cut open and allowing the cutting to wick much needed water and nutrients during this vital stage.

The second vital ingredient, a substance that you won't get from aspirin, is rhizocaline. A mysterious yet naturally occurring compound of what is thought to be vitamins B, H, boron, sugar and/or other nitrogenous minerals that act in conjunction with IAA, and IBS. Research has found that this is the key catalyst to promoting root formation. All plants contain and use it, but willow has such an abundance as to make it king of rhizocaline.

If extracted and used properly, willow water can be the most effective way to produce rooted cuttings. There are many recipes for making it; leaving willow branches in water for 4 weeks to root; steeping 6 inch willow cuttings in cool water for 72 hours; or 1 inch cuttings for 24 hours; boiling the cuttings; mashing and splitting the cuttings and brewing them in bot recently boiled water. There are loads, and some of these may be more (or less) effective than others. But to get the real expert's advice, go to Dr. Makota Kawase who in the mid 1960's discovered rhizocaline by experimenting with willow and has been developing the process ever since.

Dr. Kawase's advice: "cut current year's growth from any Salix species. Then, remove the leaves and cut into one inch pieces. Place these right side up (Eireann: direction is important since rhizocaline and IAA move polarly down the stem of any cutting) in a glass, add 1/2" of hot water, cover with a plastic bag and let sit 24 hours. Steep your cuttings in this for and additional 24 hours, and then place in the rooting medium with or without rooting hormone, as needed (Eireann: My suggestion is without). The willow water may be stored in the refrigerator and covered to prevent contamination, but is best used up within three days."

Additionally Dr. Kawase encourages the use of etoilation in promoting rooting. Total darkness, he found, increased rooting "sharply" up to four days, which is three days faster than anything I ever did with store bought rooting hormone. The basal tips MUST be in darkness for rooting to occur.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 9:08PM
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IBS=IBA (indole-3-acetic acid) above, sorry habit.

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 9:27PM
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indole-3-acetic acid isnt IBA! its IAA. IBA is indolebutyric acid. Sorry AGAIN. It must be much later than I thought.

Yup, 2:30 am

    Bookmark   March 23, 2005 at 9:34PM
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Interesting thread.

Link to tangential issue in this thread:

Here is a link that might be useful: Talcum Powder and Cancer

    Bookmark   April 15, 2005 at 11:25PM
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Hi there all of you!

Look I am a REAL amateur...and am growing roses..
and am rooting them...
and its not hard at all.

I tried to root about 5 cuttings...last fall
and all of them budded...and leafed.

I made a couple of mistakes...but I learned...
and alive..and growing.

Hereis how: Old grandmothers..knew. That was my first lesson. How do you think they shared with neighbors?
Well, just like me. I cut off the the fall...

and I stuck the cuttings in juice bottles..with water..
They developed roots...little ones...and several didn't...but they all leafed. Its the " where you cut "..that is important.

Amazing eh?

I kept two of the smaller olive bottles..( because they had cuttings only 5 inches high)
in my bathroom window near the open window..( cracked open about 1 inch)

These leafed in spring. The others also leafed.

I merely took the ends...which had little roots..
and several didn't...( these I just dipped in rooting hormone and dipped a pencil in the dirt..and planted the branch)
and planted dirt you buy from wallmart..or anywhere : Potting Soil.

I placed them outside.

Lesson one: Don't put them down on a deck...Squirrels dig.

Lesson might lose something that turns the branch dark...and they die.

Lesson...several make it!

This fall...I will do it again.

Happy rooting!

    Bookmark   May 8, 2005 at 9:23PM
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merrall(z5 VT)

I think whether you need rooting hormone or not depends entirely on the cultivar. I've had some varietys root beautifully just by sticking them in soil, others have'nt budged even with rooting hormone and tlc. one of the reasons that grafting is so common is that some roses, no matter how vigorous etc. just won't form a good root system on their own. If I were you I'd try an experiment- half of each variety with and without hormone. If it works without, then why bother, if it doesn't, I'm sure it won't kill you

    Bookmark   September 26, 2005 at 10:18PM
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okiez7(z7 OK)

Below is a link to some actual experiments on rooting roses. He has some experiments with Willow Water and some with no hormone. I suggest anyone doubting the effectiveness of rooting hormones conduct some simple experiments of your own. I have conducted several experiments and yes I can root some roses without anything at all, but I can root several times as many by using the hormone.
Good Luck

Here is a link that might be useful: Malcom Manner's Rooting Experiments

    Bookmark   November 3, 2005 at 11:37PM
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I saw a video showing the use of honey instead of rooting hormone while I was researching on tips how to propagate rose cuttings.

    Bookmark   June 4, 2010 at 9:26PM
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More often than not, I have had success rooting cuttings in clear drinking glasses placed in the window. It does take a long time, but it is shocking how life desires to continue regardless of environment.

    Bookmark   January 27, 2011 at 2:19PM
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Very interesting thread on rooting hormones. I think I will try honey and putting them in the dark for 4 days. Those were the solutions that seem like they will work best for me. One point that I didn't see made while reading the responses is that BT, while it may say that it doesn't hurt beneficial insects, it is known to damage beneficial micorbes. I don't want anything damaging my soil population and I am concerned about the use of rooting hormones as well and definitely not using BT for that reason.

    Bookmark   July 8, 2011 at 5:12PM
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When I want to clone my cuttings, I use natural honey as opposed to commercial rooting gel. Also, when watering my cuttings, I use a 3% concentration of hydrogen peroxide in my water mixture in order to stimulate root growth (by the natural breakdown of the H202 into one water molecule, and one oxygen atom) as well as assistance in protection from fungus, disease, and insects alike.

    Bookmark   June 5, 2012 at 4:36PM
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michel7(8 AL)

Uhkilleez (luv your moniker!)
I would like to know more re your peroxide in water mix. How much perox to water do you use? This is very interesting as I use HP for a tool dip and put some in the water for my cut bouquets as a disinfectant.

You mentioned insect control. Have you ever used perox as an insect spray. Just ruminating.

You seem to know the chemistry, which I do not. Could you explain (simply, if possible) how the breakdown of the molecules is helpful in cloning? I am interested as I always have a variety of plants in the rooting process.

By natural honey, I assume you mean directly from the beekeeper, not the grocery shelf. I have never tried honey, but like to experiment in my gardening. Thanking you for any ideas you can offer. Michel

    Bookmark   June 14, 2012 at 12:28PM
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    Bookmark   May 23, 2014 at 5:27PM
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