In a previous post, I wrote about starting cuttings. Cuttings are a reliable means of starting plants indoors. When you start a cutting in soil, it may produce roots on its own. But to improve your chances of producing plant roots, most gardeners recommend that you dip the cut end of the plant in rooting hormone.
One simple rooting hormone may be made from salicylic acid, a substance found in the bark of willows.
What is salicylic acid?
Salicylic acid is found in all willows. It is a compound used to make aspirin. Additionally, it is what causes willows to produce roots quickly. Salicylic acid works so well that if a willow branch breaks from a tree and lies on the ground, it will sprout roots if it is not picked up first. If you want to test this theory, build a bent-twig fence out of willow twigs. Within a season your fence will develop roots and begin to grow.
How Do You Make Rooting Hormone?
There are several recipes for willow tea rooting hormone. All of them work. The basic theory is to infuse a glass of water with salicylic acid and then soak the ends of your cuttings in them before planting.
Here is a recipe that works very well:
Fill a canning jar with 1 cup of willow twigs or chopped willow bark. If you use bark, the inner cambium layer must be present. This is the layer that contains the salicylic acid. The best time to use bark is in spring when it slips easily from willow trees.
Pour boiling water over the twigs or bark. Allow the bark to soak overnight. Then seal the jar and place it in the refrigerator when it is not in use.
To use the rooting hormone when planting cuttings, dip the cut end of the cutting into the hormone before planting.
Willow bark rooting hormone tea can be stored in a refrigerator for a week or longer if you want to re-use it. After two weeks, you should throw out the liquid and make fresh rooting hormone.