How to make your own Natural Rooting Hormone for your plants

This is a Free Step-by-step tutorial on how to make a natural rooting hormone for your chilli seedlings. This rooting hormone can be used for seedlings and also to aid cuttings when propagating plant material. In this tutorial we will be making our brew from Willow tree cuttings.

I am a chilli grower. What has this actually got to do with me? Well, if you have grown chillies before you will know that stagnation that happens to chilli seedlings shortly after the first set of leaves. They seem to just stagnate and there appears to be very small growth if any at all. Well, that is because all the growth is happening below the surface. The seedling is developing a root network so it can best supply the food for above ground. Root development is essential to a healthy plant and this is where this rooting hormone comes in. Watering you seedling with this rooting hormone when that stagnation kicks in, will help and aid better root development and help protect your little seedling from pathogens.

Willows are fast growing, deciduous trees that can be found along rivers and in most city parks. The Willow belongs to the genus "Salix" - of which there are about 400 different varieties. But for this exercise we just need any one of those 400 that you can get your hands on. But please note, this is a seasonal exercise that is applicable at spring time when the Willows are bursting into green with new growth.

The Willow is truly an amazing tree that has been used for thousands of years for simple tasks such as making baskets, rope and paper, to more complex medical applications such as pain relief. Chewing on Willow bark was prescribed for fever and inflammation and the bark from certain varieties of Willow has even been used as a pain killer, as it contains Salicin which is similar to Asprin (Acetylsalicylic Acid). So, not just a pretty tree, but a hugely useful one as well.

But, without a doubt, the most impressive attribute of Willow trees is their ability for growth. Not only can Willows grow at an amazing rate, they are also able to shoot roots from broken off branches and can even do this when planted upside down! And the reason for this is due to the naturally occurring hormones in Willows - Indolebutyric Acid (IBA) and Salicylic Acid (SA).

Now the function of Salicylic Acid is as a hormone that triggers a plants resistance response when being attacked by pathogens. That is a good thing, this will improve a plants resistance to pathogens. Indolebutyric Acid is a hormone that stimulates plant growth. Which is just what we want for our little seedlings. And what better than to get both these hormones from one source.

Come spring time, when the Willows are bursting with new lush green growth, both IBA and SA are present in high concentrations in the new green growth of Willows. Please note new green growth of Willows, not the older established growth.

What we are going to be doing in this exercise is make a brew that contains IBA and SA. For this to happen, we need to leach the IBA and SA from the Willow cuttings into water - and it couldn't be easier. At the end of this process you will have a slightly greenish brown tinged water that has IBA and SA in it, that will be an effective, natural rooting hormone. We like to call it Willow Brew. And this is how it is done…

  1. Find your Willow tree. Please see picture if you have no idea what a Willow tree looks like. If you have young kids, bring them too - they will love this exercise. Find a good established tree that has a good flush of new green leaves and shoots.
  2. Take scissors or pruning shears. The new green growth is soft, so a good pair of scissors will suffice. If you don't have any of these, your hands will suffice too. Remember it is the new growth we are looking for, not the older growth. IBA & SA are present in highest concentrations in the green new shoots.
  3. Collect a good shopping bag full of green shoots. We have chosen to take the leaves as well, although it is suggested that you should strip off the leaves. There is lower concentrations of IBA and SA in the leaves. Anyway, it is your choice. Please don't strip the tree entirely bare. Take what you require. Luckily with the Willow, it will regrow rapidly and tri-fold when you break off any shoots.
  4. Take your cuttings home and process immediately so everything is fresh. Use your scissors or shears to cut down the shoots further to small pieces.
  5. Once chopped up, fill a 5 litter bucket with rain water or spring water. We always recommend rain water or spring water as tap water has high doses of chemicals we really do not want.
  6. Immerse your cuttings into the water and leave to brew in the water for 2 - 3 days. We do not want to cover up or close the container as we want good oxygenation! Stir 2 - 3 times a day. This brew must be fresh and should never smell stale or fetted.
  7. After 2 or 3 days when the IBA and SA have leached into the water, your Willow Brew is ready. Now we need to strain all the solids from the water and we can apply the Willow Brew directly to the plants with a sprayer or watering can. This can be supplemented for regular watering and will show visible results in about 6 days after the first watering. You will see improved plant growth and plants will have an improved immune system.
  8. For those of you attempting to propagate plant cuttings, place the ends of your cuttings in the Willow Brew and plant after 2 - 3 days. The Willow Brew will trigger growth and root growth in the tip of the cutting and also help protect the cutting from pathogens, strengthen the cuttings defense against infections.


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