Rooting tonics, also called rooting hormones or rooting compounds, are products that contain plant growth hormones used to stimulate root growth during plat propagation. Many commercially-sold rooting products contain a synthetic form of indolebutyric acid. If you have access to a willow tree or shrub, you can easily make your own rooting tonic, because indolebutyric acid occurs naturally in all varieties of willow trees.


  1. Collect approximately 2 cups of willow branches or 3 cups of bark.
    1. Choose small, young branches that are no thicker than a pencil. The highest concentration of hormone exists in the youngest branches.
    2. You can also use bark from live older willow branches or trunks. If you go this route, you need to use more bark because it contains less hormones.
    3. Do not gather old dead branches from the ground, as they will contain very little indolebutyric acid, if any.
  2. Cut the willow branches into pieces between 3-to-6-inches long. If using bark, cut it into 2-to-4-inch pieces.
  3. Put the willow into a pan or bowl that is large enough to hold the clippings plus a gallon of water.
  4. Boil 1 gallon of water and pour it over the willow clippings.
  5. Allow the willow and hot water to brew for 12-24 hours.
  6. Pour the liquid into glass containers with lids that close securely and discard the pieces of willow. You can store the tonic in the refrigerator for up to two months.
  7. Use the rooting tonic when propagating new plants.
    1. Soak the tips of your cuttings in the rooting tonic for several hours before planting them.
    2. In addition to encouraging the growth of a strong root system, the willow rooting tonic inhibits the development of bacteria, fungus, and viral disease.


  • Honey may also be helpful as a sanitation agent, although it contains no hormonal advantage. Dip the cut end of the plant in the honey and then put it in the soil immediately. Alternately, you can boil 2 cups of water, add 1 tablespoon of honey, and soak the end of the plant for several hours before putting it in the soil.
  • Add approximately 1/2-cup willow rooting compound to 1 gallon of water and use the mixture to water the young seedings during the first few weeks of growth.
  • Some people have reported success using aspirin as rooting tonic. To try this method, dissolve an uncoated aspirin in 1-cup of water, then soak the cut end of the plant in the water for several hours before planting.
  • In a 2007 U.S. Department of Agriculture study, a diluted solution of 1.3 teaspoons of hydrogen peroxide in 1 gallon of distilled water was found to control disease in plants and cuttings. Growth and flowering benefits were seen in nasturtiums irrigated with the solution. Use the solution as a dip for cuttings to promote sanitation.

Was this page helpful?

Related Content from OSU Extension

Have a Question? Ask an Expert!

Ask an Expert is a way for you to get answers from the Oregon State University Extension Service. We have experts in family and health, community development, food and agriculture, coastal issues, forestry, programs for young people, and gardening.

Ask Us a Question