Willow as a root growth hormone?

catman529(6b)January 28, 2009

I have researched and discovered recently about using the growing shoots from willow trees and making a tea/infusion with these to use as an all-natural root growth hormone. Does this work well, and should I use it when I plant my tomatoes out in the garden (mid-April)? I bury most of the plant sideways and remove the leaves that would otherwise be underground. I imagine planting them and then watering them with this willow "tea" would help the stems to root faster...am I right, and are there any risks to the plant in doing this?

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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

catman, willow water has been known for a long time as something to use when rooting cuttings from various plants and shrubs.

But when talking about using it for tomatoes I can't see how it would help.

Tomato seeds germinate, seedlings are raised, transplanted and put out into the garden or a container.

Root development is just fine as long as you transplant the seedlings at the 1-2 true leaf stage b'c doing it then shocks the root system and allows for greater vegetative growth , initially, at the expense of root growth, in order to get as much foliage as possible b'c it's the photosynthesis that supplies the whole plant with energy to grow.

If you were to take cuttings from mature tomato plants you still wouldn't need to use willow water b'c tomatoes are somewhat unique in forming roots from any stem that's buried in soil or artificial mix.

Which gets to your system of trenching plants, which many do, and many have to do if their plants get too tall, LOL, b'c new roots will automatically form all along the buried stem creating an extensive root system for the plant.

So I can't see watering inground plants with willow water to "help the stems root faster", I think you really perhaps meant to increase root growth, b'c it happens naturally with tomatoes.

For rooting cuttings from stuff like geraniums, and lilac cuttings, and on and on, it may well be helpful b/c they don't form roots along stems as do tomatoes.

Hope that helps.

Carolyn

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 11:55AM
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HoosierCheroKee(IN6)

Catman,

The growing shoot tips of willow contain substantial amounts of auxin ... a hormone that stimulates growth of the meristem. Auxin also can stimulate aventious root growth in cuttings. You can extract the auxin by bruising the willow cuttings (use the growing tips with new leaves and green branches) and steep it in cool water.

And yes, you can stimulate root growth in tomato cuttings by holding them in willow tea, as well as give a booster shot to tomato transplants by watering them with willow tea.

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 2:27PM
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carolyn137(z4/5 NY)

And yes, you can stimulate root growth in tomato cuttings by holding them in willow tea, as well as give a booster shot to tomato transplants by watering them with willow tea.

*****

Bill, the first part I could kind of agree with, although I don't think it's necessary, but I've not seen anyone talk about the second part or seen data that would support that, but I admit I haven't Googled the effect of willow water as a drench for inground plants/container plants/

Carolyn

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 3:00PM
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catman529(6b)

Thanks Carolyn and Bill for your input. I might as well not worry about watering the trenched plants; I will definitely try making this concoction for rooting other cuttings I may want to grow. Is it necessary to steep them in cool water; will boiling water destroy the auxin or decrease it? How long should it be steeped in cool water?

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 3:15PM
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HoosierCheroKee(IN6)

Catman,

When I took the Master Gardener course, the instructor just said to bruise the young tips and leaves and let them steep in cool water overnight. He was talking about using this "home remedy" more as a rooting assist like Rootone than as a growing aid in the garden.

Another friend of mine, who knows way more about horticulture than I do, says this: "Auxin would have some benfit, though I wouldnt bother, especially in soil. It would result in more fine feeder roots - which would increase surface area - however the downside to that might be concentrated root mass in small area which quickly depletes the localizes nutrients and would potentially be more susceptible to moisture stress."

    Bookmark   January 28, 2009 at 6:41PM
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larryw(z6Ohio)

Hey, catman, give it a try! Nothing like a little experiment
to liven up time in the garden, and you just might discover something positive we could all gain from.

Maybe every other plant in a row, at least two of each variety, one with treatment and one without. I think I'd give Rootone a shot also, as a comparitive against the homemade stuff.

Larry

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 9:18AM
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catman529(6b)

I think i might try it; I will only plant somewhere from 8-12 plants because of limited space, but I might give it a try. The one thing about dense roots in a small area makes me want to be cautious and not give them too much. I do want the roots to spread out...I think I will try with at least one plant though...

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 9:59AM
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larryw(z6Ohio)

I wouldn't worry about roots clumping up. Any roots that are propigated are going to reach out to chase nutrients because that is what they are programmed to do. They are not going to chase a neighbor root. When plants get "rootbound" it is because the roots are constrained from growing outward to search for nutrients--so they will grow round and round in the container that limits their space. If you till your general planting area and make a general broadcast of fertilizer which is then distributed fairly evenly by retilling those roots will grow out to get it.

I pull out my plants every fall and burn them to cut back on folliage deseases for next year. I have never seen a rootbound plant. I have, long ago, seen plants that were put in rootbound but then recovered and grew roots generally outward from the original ball.

I have a very hard time imagining a tomato plant suffering
from having too many roots! Never has one complained to me about that condition.

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 1:06PM
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catman529(6b)

Sounds good...lots of roots are just what I want.

I don't plan on fertilizing; I do have some half-composted organic matter on top of the garden which I will till in before planting out. I also need to run a PH test of the soil. If it is too acidic, I will burn some wood and spread the ash (this is a source of lime, am I right?)

    Bookmark   January 29, 2009 at 1:22PM
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