Rooting hormones are necessary when you start plants from cuttings, and you can actually make your own at home. The hormones are applied to the bottom of the plant to promote root growth, but they also act as natural prevention against bacteria and fungi. These hormones are generally purchased at local gardening outlets, but by following the steps below, you can make your own effective rooting hormone!
First, you will need to acquire willow tree branches. Most people think of weeping willows when they imagine a willow tree, but there are hundreds of species of willow and each one will be effective for this job. The reason is that willow trees contain a large amount of auxins, which are a natural plant growth hormone. Actually, auxin is the primary ingredient in store-bought rooting hormone products.
Collecting willow branches during the spring, before their leaves form, is easiest. Look for the tree's dark brown bark to aid in identification. They often grow near streams or in swampy areas. You will need to cut about 20 branches to make an ample amount of rooting hormone, but make sure they are at least one-quarter of an inch in diameter.
Next, cut the branches into three-inch pieces and add them to a gallon of hot water, allowing them to soak for 24 hours. Then, use a strainer to remove the pieces of willow, saving the water. This solution is packed with nutrients and auxin that will promote root growth in your new plants. Be sure to apply the rooting hormone to your plants as soon as possible. You can soak your cuttings in this solution for a day or so before you plant them, or use the willow water to water seeds. The rooting hormone can be kept in a refrigerator for up to a month without losing its effectiveness.