As part of being a gardener striving for natural and more wallet friendly alternatives I was on the lookout for a substitute to artificial rooting hormone.
I had several problems with the store bought stuff:
- They give you so much that I can’t possibly use up everything before it expires.
- You get three different kinds, one for soft-, semi- and hardwood cuttings! Why not make a universal one?
So I set out to research alternatives to rooting hormone and found two (1) being Honey and the other (2) Willow. Now I don’t have access to willow, but I can get a hold of honey… This lead me to thinking; ‘What would be the most efficient type of rooting hormone?’ and I started some experimentation. I am going to go all ‘sciency’ now
So let’s review the possibilities (hypotheses):
- Are alternatives to rooting hormones superior in their rooting capabilities?
- What can I use as a substitute for willow in the experiment for comparative purposes?
- Do I use organic or processed honey?
- Will there be any difference between the organic and processed honey results?
Now let’s set up the experiment:
- I will use basil cuttings to compare rooting efficiency as they root in water and I will be able to see the rooting process in a glass of water.
- I will have one control, which is the basil cutting in water (this acts as the base-line for comparison to the other ‘experiments’).
- The experiments are: (1) Artificial Rooting Hormone, (2) Processed Honey, (3) Organic Honey and (4) Aspirin as a substitute for willow.
For the exact details of each:
- Artificial Rooting Hormone: Bayer Seradix B No. 2, semi-hardwood cuttings
- Processed Honey: Eleures radurised pure natural honey
- Organic Honey: On tap blue gum.
- Aspirin: Compral (100 mg Paracetamol, 400 mg aspirin) contains aspirin (salicylic acid), which is a product of willow bark.
OK! So here are my recipes for each of the experiments. In order to keep everything the same I made 100 ml solutions (liquids) of each and dipped the cuttings into each for 30 seconds. After which the cuttings are placed in a glass of clean 250 ml tap water. The control cutting was placed directly into tap water with no dipping in either solution.
Recipe for Artificial Rooting Hormone
- I took the 2# rooting hormone powder and diluted it 1:1 with water to get essentially a 1# solution for the basil cutting.
Recipe for Honey Rooting Hormone (Processed & Organic) – this is a standard one found all over the Internet
- Boil 2x cups of water
- Add a table spoon of honey
- Cool & dip cutting into solution
This is stored away from light (or in a dark brown glass jar) and will keep for 2 weeks. To make less, you can add 6 ml of honey to 100 ml of water.
Recipe for Aspirin
- Added half a tabled (one tablet is 400 mg of aspirin) to 100 ml = 2 mg/ml solution.
All roots were recorded at the same initial length (this means it was said to be ‘rooted’ at the same length, this was @ 2 cm) and the experiment was done once the water control had rooted (as it was expected to take the longest amount of time to root).
To my surprise the processed honey rooted first (12 days) and performed the best (longest roots and most roots by the end of the experiment). [I thought that the artificial rooting hormone would be first]. The organic honey took 14 days to root with about half the number of roots and was a 1/3rd of the final length of the processed honey’s roots. The rooting hormone was about a week later (18 days) and had made two short roots by the end of the experiment. I think the Compral (aspirin) poisoned its cutting, because it died before any root formation on day 23. The control took its time and produced roots at day 37, the roots were minimal and less robust.
So, why does honey work better than artificial rooting hormone?
Well it has to do with the composition of honey. It is high in monosaccharides (simple sugars) such as Fructose and Glucose, as well as containing 18-20 of the 20 amino acids needed by all living organisms. This allows the cuttings access to quick energy and complete nutrition. The high sugar content lends to honey’s antiseptic (antibiotic) nature that prevents infection and promotes root growth.
From this home-based experiment it is clear that grabbing some store-bought honey from the pantry is the best option for rooting cuttings. I think that this might be due to the higher sugar content of the processed honey and that it may have acted as a better antiseptic.
So, I have decided to ditch the artificial rooting hormone and to make up enough honey every time I want to propagate. It is a shame that the aspirin cutting died, it would have been nice to compare the willow to honey, but I suppose I would have to leave that for those of you who have access to willow . It turned out to be a fun and interesting fact-finding home-experimentation…