The Best Rooting Hormone…
and how to use it
A Look at the best rooting hormones for plant propagation
By the team at DIY Gardening
What are rooting hormones? How do gardeners use them? What do they achieve, and are they really necessary? Are they worth the money?
Explore our guide to the best rooting hormones you can buy and learn how gardeners use them when propagating plants.
What are Rooting Hormones?
Propagation is the process of removing part of a plant and placing the stem in a moist growing medium such as peat, compost or coconut coir. With the correct level of moisture and humidity, the stems will grow roots and then start to develop into a new plant.
Propagation is a cheap, fun and satisfying way to multiply plants.
All plants contain growth hormones which help them to develop. Young plants, in particular, require lots of hormones at the early growth stage of their development.
Gardeners typically cut stems just below a leaf node (see photo below) as these contain natural hormones and are far more likely to sprout roots than any other part of the stem.
However, to give the plant an extra boost and improve the chances of successful propagation, the stem and node can be dipped in artificial rooting hormone before planting in the growing medium.
How Do Gardeners Use Rooting Hormone?
Once you’ve taken the cuttings taken from the donor plant, the tips should be dipped into the growth hormone and then inserted into the peat, coconut coir or whatever medium you’re using.
To prevent contamination, the hormone which is in either gel or powder form should first be placed into a small container. Never dip the stems directly into the pot as diseases may transfer from one plant to another. You can discard any excess hormone.
Using rooting hormone is incredibly easy, just follow the detailed steps we’ve created for you further down this page.
The Best Rooting Hormones
The team here at DIY Gardening does a lot of propagating, not just for fun and satisfaction but also to save money and share plants with friends and family.
We’ve tested the best rooting hormone you can buy for your garden, and we recommend the following products.
We’ve listed both powders and gels but excluded liquids as we’re not a fan of them. Liquids are easy to spill, and you’re more likely to use too much and accidentally overdose the plant.
1) Doff Rooting Hormone Powder:
- Has the highest number of positive reviews online.
- Good size bottle that’ll create hundreds of cuttings.
- The cheapest product we could find.
- Contains a seaweed extract to boost the success rate.
- In our opinion, this is the best rooting hormone.
2) Root!T Gel:
- We prefer gel as spillage and contamination are less likely.
- Huge bottle size.
- Cone nozzle for inserting the gel into the plug or growing medium.
- Ideal for gardeners wanting to create lots of plants from cuttings.
3) Clonex Rooting Hormone:
- Gel-based, we prefer this to the liquid variant from Clonex.
- The strongest rooting hormone we could find.
- We had very good results with Clonex.
- Use on any type of cuttings including hard and softwood.
Natural Alternatives to Rooting Hormones
Lots of gardeners are trying to reduce their reliance on powerful chemicals and there are alternatives to rooting hormones.
Westland’s rooting gel contains no chemicals, hormones or fungicides and is an organic product worth considering if you want to grow plants naturally.
The product contains natural oils that have been proven to stimulate root growth and online reviews from customers are favourable.
Step by Step Guide to Propagating With Rooting Hormones:
If you’re new to propagating and have never used rooting hormone before, just follow these simple steps:
- Make sure you’re propagating at the best time of year, which is unlikely to be in winter.
- Check the weather and choose a warm yet overcast day that isn’t too hot. Hot weather can stress the plant and reduce the chances of successful propagation.
- Water the plant well the day before, we want the cut stems to contain plenty of moisture. You’ll find that dry, wilting stems are unlikely to propagate.
- Clean your snips or secateurs to prevent disease and contamination. Alcohol is best, but hot water will suffice.
- The best time to take cuttings is in the morning when the shoots are full of moisture.
- Cut the stems just below the leaf node; a clean-cut is better than a tear. Around 8-10cm in length is about right.
- Trim off excess leaves, so only one or two small ones remain, we don’t want too many leaves as the fledging plant will lose too much moisture through them.
- Non-flowering shoots are best, but you should remove flowers if any are present – we want the plant’s energy to be focused on root growth, not on flowering.
- Dip the stem and the node in the rooting hormone, which should be removed from the original bottle to prevent contamination.
- Insert the stems into the growing medium (peat, soil, coconut coir, etc.), water in and then seal in an airtight container such as a propagator or a plastic tub.
- Use a heated propagator to speed up the process, especially if the weather is cold.
- Place the container in good but not direct sunlight.
- Check the stems after a few weeks and aerate the environment.
- Periodically check for roots growing out of the bottom of the container, when you see them you’ll know you have successfully propagated the plant.
- Acclimatise the new plants to the outside environment slowly to avoid the shock of sudden temperature changes when you relocate them to the garden.
The following items aren’t necessary but we recommend them:
Heated propagators use little energy, this one consumes 14watts per hour, yet they provide enough heat to speed up root growth from your seeds or stems.
Helpful Plant Labels:
If you’re propagating lots of plants you’ll need to keep track of when they were cut and the name of the plant. These wooden markers are ideal for labelling.
According to the RHS, Mycorrhizal fungi help plant roots to grow deeper and stronger. This improves nutrient uptake and creates a healthier plant.
Is Rooting Hormone Really Necessary?
While rooting hormone can help propagated plants to grow strong roots, it’s not essential and in fact, some plants don’t need rooting hormone at all.
For example, you don’t need to use rooting hormone on these plants:
Some plants, however, are very difficult to propagate and rarely strike roots without rooting hormone.
You may find it’s easier to propagate these plants with rooting hormone:
Rooting hormone is fairly cheap and you don’t need much of it, just enough to cover the base of a stem. We think it’s a worthwhile investment if you plan on doing a lot of propagating.
What is the best rooting hormone; powder, gel or liquid?
We prefer powder rooting hormone as it’s the easiest to handle. The gel works just fine too, but the liquid version is easy to spill and may release the hormone too quickly, causing an overdose.
On what part of the plant can rooting hormone be used?
Gardeners typically use rooting hormone on stem cuttings, but you can use it on leaf and root cuttings too.
What's the best soil or growing medium to put the cutting in?
Cuttings do not require lots of nutrients but they do need a light, airy and well-drained growing mix. We like coconut coir but peat is still popular among many gardeners. Specialist seed and potting mixes are available from most garden centres.
Can I create my own rooting hormone at home?
While honey isn’t a hormone, it is excellent for rooting. Honey contains enzymes that encourage root growth but more importantly, it also has antifungal and antibacterial features. These protect the new roots from infection, rot and failure. Just boil a cup of water and add a tablespoon of organic honey and let the liquid cool.
More From Hannah Miller:
This guide to rooting hormone was created by Hannah Miller and was posted to our blog on the 25th of May 2021.
Hannah is a keen amateur gardener, mother and a former NHS administrator.
She enjoys gardening as much as she cares about the environment and likes to share her knowledge with others.