Do it yourself rooting hormone.

Willow roots and callus.
Photo by Carol Quish

Spring is a time of new growth and hopeful new potential. It is the season of raging hormones in animals and plants. The willow family of trees and shrubs contain a comparably high level of the hormone responsible for rooting, called indoleacetic acid or IAA for short. Gardeners can use this naturally occurring hormone by making ‘willow water’. Extract the IAA from cuttings of willow branches placed in a bucket or vase of water. The highest concentration of the chemical occurs in the one to two year old twigs. Basically any branch with green bark, not grey. Place them with their distal end down, (bottom down, top up). The IAA will leach into the water that can be used to initiate rooting in other plant cuttings placed in the water. The water can also be used to water the seedling of newly started seeds, transplants or cuttings.

The willow branches will produce roots into the water within a couple of days. These will become new willow trees or shrubs just like the parent willow plant from which you took the cutting. Willow cuttings will grow even if just cut and stuck in damp soil. The willow family, Salix, all possess this ability to root with abandon.

I was given a fairly big curly willow branch by Nancy DuBrule-Clemente at the Hartford Flower Show on February 25th. Within three days, callus starting forming along the stem areas that was under water. On day five, roots started shooting out of the stem. After two weeks, vase is a tangle of pink and white primary and branching feeder roots. The willow water will be used on my new tomato seedlings under lights in the house. Then it will be time to plant the willow stem with roots into a pot of soil medium while I decide where in my yard is the ideal spot for a curly willow tree!

Willow twigs in water.
Photo by Carol Quish.

.Curly Willow twigs after 10 days in water. Photo by C. Quish

By Carol Quish.