How to make Willow Water Rooting Hormone

A hard wood or semi hard wood cutting needs help to grow good strong roots, usually from a rooting hormone.

You can make a natural and very effective rooting hormone at home. With willow cuttings.

When I was a very young Mum. In New Zealand. All us Mums would visit each other for a cup of tea and a home made bikky and some actual sane conversation.

In those days we did not call them Play Dates – we called them Dropping in for a Cup of Tea. They were for Mum. Kids just came along for the fun because it was frowned on to leave them home alone. All these visits were in the morning because afternoon was nap time.

Morning is the perfect time to take cuttings.

Each of these visits always had a garden tour. Our gardens were our paradise. Our very own space. Our peaceful place. If our friend admired a plant we would pull them off a piece, wrap it in damp newspaper, then dry newspaper. We would scrawl the name of the plant on the dry newspaper (this was not a fail proof system but we persevered) tie the bundle up with kitchen string and tuck it into the pram at babies feet.

On the walk home we would snag a few willow twigs from some random strangers front garden and this was our rooting hormone.

90% of our gardens were grown from cuttings from our friends gardens and when we shifted house – like I did often – we would take little bundles of wet newspapers full of cuttings with us. (I never bothered to label anything – I would know what the plant was by the leaves).

I always have a jar of home-made willow rooting hormone – you just never knew when you might see the perfect plant growing over someones fence right into your hand. oops! It will store for around two months in your ‘fridge.

I can take a cutting and have it hidden up my sleeve before anyone even sees the dip of the bush.

Here is one of my willows. It is a twisted willow. ‘Morning FreeBee.

Large twisted willow tree with pig asleep underneath.

Take willow cuttings.

Cut a couple of long willow cuttings. About a pencil width.

Long willow cuttings

Assemble willow bundles

Cut up into 4 inch sticks.

Strip off leaves.

Bundle together (rubber band or string).

Place the Bundle in a Glass Jar.

And fill the jar with boiling water (make sure this is natural water – no chemicals).

Willow rooting hormone. Willow sticks in jar of hot water.

Soak the willow sticks in the water for 24 hours.

Strain off the Willow Rooting Hormone.

Strain the willow water into another clean jar.

Take the cutting.

Take your cutting from the mother bush. Cut just below two shoots, with two or three buds higher on the cutting. Cut on an angle and strip off the bottom shoots. The roots will grow from these wounds.

Stand the Cutting in the Willow Water

Immediately pop your cutting into the jar of cold willow rooting hormone making sure the two shorn bud wounds are in the water. Leave for a couple of hours. The cutting will draw the willow water up.

Two Hydrangea cuttings.

Grandma would place her cuttings in a jar with the willow cutting. (The willow cutting was literally growing in the jar for the whole summer). It would occasionally share its water with a cutting Grandma brought home.

Even more effective is whole jar of willow water rooting hormone. Waiting in your refrigerator. (Warm up to room temp before use). To be fair mine lives on a cool windowsill.

Pot up the cuttings

Pot up your cutting in a pot of potting mix and make sure the water stays damp (not too wet). It is important not to grow cuttings in a medium that already has fertilizer added, the roots need to grow at a natural pace. At Massey University we grew our cuttings in river sand.

Willow Water Rooting Hormone is great for soft wood cuttings or semi hard wood cuttings like hydrangea and lavender, sage or basil. I think lavender is on the cusp of a hard wood cutting but it still grows as long as the cutting is from first year wood.

The sap is rising fast at this time of year and I have always had the best luck with cuttings in the spring.

Today I am taking cuttings of another hydrangea plus my favourite lilac and a pompom tree.

These are all considered semi-hardwood and grow easily with the help of the willow water rooting hormone.

And of course – every year- I grow a few more willow trees. All the twisted and regular willows on the property, except one of each, have been grown from cuttings.

When you are done with the willow water – add it to the water in your watering can and water your plants with it. It is a tonic!

Wheat Fields

The cover crop is being sown. We are late this year, due to such a rainy winter.

The Kitchens Garden

Asparagus is up.

I will cover the asparagus beds in deep straw today – it was too windy yesterday.

Horrible shot – sorry about that. Pictures of asparagus are never pretty!


Asparagus for dinner I think!!

Have a lovely day!

Take care. Talk soon.


29 Comments on “How to make Willow Water Rooting Hormone

  1. I’m the first to admit I am terrible at growing anything – this is so interesting though! I’ll be sure to drop it in to conversation to look knowledgeable.

  2. I can imagine you strolling past interesting plants and literally pinching cuttings on the sly, arriving home with sleeves full of new specimens. That’s inspiring!

  3. I am going to look around for a willow. There’s an old hydrangea bush that needs to be removed because of the back deck expansion. I was going to dig it up and transplant it but this seems like a better idea. Thank you.

  4. I make tons of cuttings in Spring, too. Once the sap starts flowing and lighting is right, it’s hard NOT to get things to grow. I’ve used minimal rooting hormone on rosemary with good results. I’ve even had some luck with cinnamon trees.

    • Nice! Cinnamon trees!! That sounds cool!

      The rosemary I cut in the deep winter is growing really well! I can see the roots through the plastic container!

  5. The story this morning behind the practical advice is to treasure C! Now my mind is dancing with images of you, your secret snips being pulled from a pocket and very covert borrowing of a few well placed twigs, then just moseying on your way 🙂

    I had gorgeous hydrangeas in my side yard prior to selling the house. While it would not have been allowed, I so wish those plants, or a few of my own twigs could have come with me. A few folks have very similar plantings in their yards a few blocks away so I love walking past when they bloom. A blue color like I have never seen before.

    • That colour depends on the soil. You probably have the right soil too!

      Snip a little off – they won’t mind.

      You could even ask for a bit if you want to be unconventional!

  6. I especially love “curly” willow – so decorative in tall bouquets. Wish I one in this yard. I’ll have to keep an eye out around the neighborhood for likely snips. Old ladies long ago used to titter in telling anyone that plant snitches became the most outstanding specimens – in their gardens.

    P.S. I meant to post yesterday (& can’t recall if I did ) – that my ability to “like” other comments which had only just recently appeared for the first times, & has now vanished again. Tech, always mysterious muddy water to me.

  7. Are yours Buddleja or proper lilacs? I have a Buddleja that it leggy and hardly ever blooms. I’m ready to give up on it after fussing over it for years. Didn’t know about willows; neat trick.

  8. I once had a flowering current, the currents were rare but the small, yellow flowers in spring were very fragrant of clove and cinnamon and in fall the leaves turned many colors on a slightly weeping bush. I’ve never seen another since it died but would love to find one. I also had a very old type of rose, maybe cabbage roses or moss roses (?), soft pink, each on a separate stem with lots of thorns which also died all after a horrid winter. I’m itching to plant something, just have no place to do so here as I am only here till I can get a place of my own. Everything will have to be managed with a hand trowel while I crawl around but it’s amazing what you can manage that way.

  9. I had a weepy willow switch in a bucket and forgot about it. Froze solid over winter, in the spring I planted it and now have a weepy willow with a 5 foot diameter trunk. I steep leaves from that tree in water and use it to water my seedlings.

  10. Spring! Makes me want to run out and grow something! Thank you for the green thumb tips. I’ll give it a try. Happy dance in the sunshine and through the puddles!

  11. I haven’t seen any willows here at all, I don’t think they can cope with the climate, so I don’t think I’ll be able to take advantage of this very useful idea. I’ve always used the tip Old Bill gave me, which was to dip the cut end into raw honey and then straight into the soil. No idea if there’s any science behind it, but it seemed to work, and his geranium cuttings were always epic.

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