Use rooting powder correctly

Use rooting powder correctly

What is Rooting Powder?

Under the name “rooting powder”, various agents are commercially available that are said to have a positive effect on root growth. Especially in professional horticulture, natural growth hormones are used that occur naturally in all plants and are responsible for cell division and cell growth. From a chemical point of view, these hormones belong to the group of auxins - the so-called growth regulators - and should not only help to develop roots more quickly, but also significantly reduce the failure rate. After all, not all cuttings take root, which in turn has an economic impact on farms if there are high non-rooting rates.

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The relevant plant hormones are natural growth hormones

  • Indole-3-acetic acid
  • Indole-3-butyric acid
  • and 1-naphthalene acetic acid.

Various solvents (e.g. alcohol) and fillers (e.g. talc) are added to these so that they can be used. These root activators not only ensure that the roots grow at all, but also have an influence on their growth in thickness and length. Plants with strong roots are better supplied with water and nutrients, grow faster and more luxuriantly and often need less fertilizer and irrigation water in their later location. Hence, growth hormone use is beneficial for a number of reasons.

In the home garden, however, other root activators are usually used that do not require any artificial hormones. These are usually made from algae, which also contain a smaller proportion of natural hormones. These rooting powders also score with added nutrients and trace elements that promote healthy growth.


Do Rooting Powders Really Work?

In principle, rooting powder or root activators - after all, these agents are not only available as powder, but also in liquid form or as gel - give plants treated with them growth advantages. However, these agents can fail with some cuttings or show hardly any noticeable effect, which has various causes. Not every plant “jumps” to the treatment, especially since other factors play a major role in the successful rooting of cuttings. Incorrect use and overdosing also have fatal consequences: Both can result in the plants developing little or no roots.

What do you need rooting powder for?

As already mentioned, rooting powders are mainly used for the propagation of cuttings, whereby non-native and exotic species in particular often have difficulties with root formation and therefore benefit from support. However, there are other areas of application where the rapid development of strong roots is important. This is the case, for example, when placing new plants in the bed or in a planter, especially when it comes to sensitive plants. There is already a rootstock here, but it has to be moved to take root - the faster this happens, the less stress the plant experiences and the faster it puts its energy into above-ground growth.

Furthermore, root activators are suitable for use in plants to be grown from seeds, as they also promote germination and the development of the seedlings. Here it is advantageous to choose agents that kill germs, since seedlings are often carried away by fungal or other infections. If, on the other hand, fungi, bacteria and viruses have no chance to spread from the outset, the young plants can develop undisturbed. The best way to find out which means are suitable for this in the section “Alternatives”.

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Seven attempts to get a "new" hydrangea 🤨 ... it never worked out in the last few years, now I have worked with rooting powder for the first time. I'm curious if it will be something! #hydrangeas #cuttings #rooting powder #garden #gartensaison2019 #sevenaufein one stroke

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Which plants are particularly difficult to root?

You can tell from the parent plant whether a cutting is easy or difficult to root. In general, robust and easy-to-care-for species form roots very quickly and safely, while capricious plants also find it difficult to reproduce. Many woody and not hardy container plants - such as the various citrus species - as well as camellias, roses and hydrangeas often benefit from the support of root activators.

Use rooting powder correctly

How you use the rooting powder correctly depends on several factors. Firstly, the dosage form is decisive for the type of application, because powder, tablets or gel each require a different approach. In addition, cuttings are treated differently than finished plants that are only to be used or young seedlings. Carefully read the instructions for use of the respective manufacturer and adhere to their recommendations - especially with regard to the dosage of the selected agent.

You can usually use powdery root activators in four different ways:

Rooting powder: four ways to use it
  • Dissolve in water : Rooting powders dissolved in water are suitable for watering cuttings and already rooted plants, whereby the latter can be treated with this agent both during planting and when repotting.
  • Mixing with potting soil : Instead of dissolving the powder in water, you can also mix it directly with the potting soil. Be sure to note the specific relationship between soil and root activator.
  • Sprinkling in the planting hole : If you want to plant already rooted plants in the garden or in a planter, you can simply sprinkle the recommended amount of rooting powder into the planting hole as well as the starter fertilizer.
  • Immersing the cuttings : When propagating cuttings, it is often advisable to dip the interface of the cuttings, which are later placed in the substrate, in rooting powder. Then shake the cutting very gently and carefully so that only a thin film actually sticks.
rooting powder

Root activators in tablet or gel form, on the other hand, dissolve in water and use this as a nutrient solution for cuttings or adult plants. These solutions do not have a long shelf life, which is why you should always mix them freshly before each use and not leave them to stand for long periods of time.

What alternatives are there to rooting powder?

Rooting powders based on growth hormones cannot be chemically reproduced by laypeople, as they need a certain basic chemical education, an appropriate laboratory and the right ingredients - but these are usually not available in pharmacies. But it doesn't matter because there are a few alternatives that are also very effective and easy to obtain.

The best home remedies for better rooting

Why make it complicated when the following home remedies make it much easier and, above all, cheaper?

Willow water

Probably the best home remedy for planting roots is willow water. Young willow branches contain large amounts of plant growth hormones (especially indole-3-butyric acid), and they are also rich in salicylic acid, which is effective against numerous pathogens and thus strengthens the resistance of the plants. And this is how you get the effective willow water:

  1. Cut young, pencil-thin willow twigs, preferably in spring or early summer.
  2. Cut the branches into smaller pieces.
  3. In terms of quantity, you need two coffee cups of willow branch escalope for approx. Three liters of water.
  4. Alternatively, you can use willow bark, but you need at least three cups of it. The hormone levels are significantly lower in the older parts of the plant.
  5. Fill the willow pieces into a sealable container.
  6. Pour freshly boiled water over them.
  7. Seal the jar and let the mixture steep for 24 hours.
  8. Now be the willow pieces off and fill the brew into a glass bottle.
  9. The rooting solution is now ready to use and can be stored in the refrigerator for up to two months.

You can put cuttings to be rooted in the willow water for a few hours before planting or water them with it immediately afterwards.

This video shows very nicely how cuttings can be propagated in roses with the help of willow water:



Salicylic acid is not only found in willow branches, but also in the pain reliever aspirin. This means that you can use simple aspirin tablets for plant reproduction as well as willow water: Buy aspirin in the pharmacy and ask explicitly about uncoated tablets. Dissolve one tablet per glass of water and either water the plants with the resulting aspirin water or put the cuttings to be rooted in for a few hours before planting. Incidentally, unlike willow water, aspirin tablets do not contain phytohormones - as the plant growth hormones are also called - but act primarily against all kinds of pathogens and strengthen the still young plants.

What else you have to look out for in a successful cuttings propagation

“Roots feed us, revitalize us and bind us firmly to the earth. So plant them carefully. " (Author unknown)

When propagating cuttings, however, it is not just the rooting agents used that determine success or failure, but also the following factors:

  • Season of the year : Generally, cuttings should be cut in early summer as this is the time when plants grow best. In the autumn or winter months, on the other hand, there is usually no point in trying to root plants. During this time, nature pauses and all growth is stopped.
  • Substrate or water glass? : For a rooting in the substrate you should always use a germ-free and nutrient-poor growing substrate (9.05 € at Amazon *), since normal potting soil is too rich. If, on the other hand, the cuttings are to be rooted in the water glass (which also does not work for all species), change the water daily.
  • Plant part used : Not all cuttings are alike! Depending on the type of plant, you use different plant parts for propagation. Most species can be propagated via head or shoot cuttings, while others root better when using root sections, cracks (here the cutting is not cut, but torn off), leaf cuttings (especially with thick-leaf plants and other water-storing leafy plants), offshoots or Cuttings.
  • Temperature and humidity : A warm (depending on the type of plant between 20 and 25 ° C) and light, but not directly sunny location is also important for successful rooting. In addition, the humidity should be kept constantly high for the period of rooting, for example in an indoor greenhouse (made from a PET bottle yourself).

frequently asked Questions

I've read that cinnamon can also be used as a rooting hormone. Is that correct?

The spice is obtained from the bark of the cinnamon tree, but in this state it no longer contains any growth hormones. However, cinnamon works against fungi and other pathogens, which is why the powder is well suited for the prevention and strengthening of cuttings. By the way, honey has the same effect as long as it is real, untreated beekeeper honey (and not the stuffed and chemically treated stuff from the supermarket).

You should stick rose cuttings in a potato, because then they root faster. What is it?

In fact, rose cuttings root better if you put them in a fresh potato tuber beforehand and then plant them together. However, the method has a problem: if the tuber starts to rot, the cutting is over too. Willow water in this case is less risky and also more effective.

My grandma claims that apple cider vinegar makes the plants root faster. Is she right?

Similar to cinnamon and honey, apple cider vinegar does not have a direct root-forming effect, but it reliably kills fungi and bacteria. The dosage is important here, because too much apple cider vinegar acidifies the substrate and thus deprives the plant of its livelihood - most plants need a neutral to alkaline soil to thrive. Mix a teaspoon of vinegar with about a liter of water and just briefly dip the cuttings with the cut.


Put rooted cuttings - especially if you have rooted them in a water glass - in a suitable plant substrate as soon as possible. Otherwise, specimens that are transplanted too late will be hindered in their development and could weaken and become susceptible to infection due to lack of nutrients.