All auxins are hormones, but not all hormones are auxins. The auxin known as IBA (indole-3-butyric acid) contributes to the formation and growth of healthy roots and is the substance in Hormex Rooting Powder. Vitamin B-1 (thiamine) is the additional active ingredient in Hormex Liquid Concentrate. B-1 is a plant growth regulator produced naturally in leaves that moves into the roots to assist their growth. B-1 is always beneficial to plants. By adding B-1 and liquefying its hormone, Hormex Liquid Concentrate promotes thrifty growth at all stages in a plant’s development. Learn more in my blog at Hormex.com.
Much of my gardening attitude is a combination of basic organic gardening strategies and hard won experience. Organics is primarily front end loaded; that is, what you do to create good growing conditions and avert common problems at the beginning pays off with healthier plants in the end. I know this is true, from the sad experience of trying to avoid it. I love my pets and would like to believe that because I trained them as youngsters not to climb into my raised beds, they don’t. Truth is, it may not be them, but the neighbor cats. At any rate, I have learned how delicate the healthiest transplants can be when excavated by a curious animal. The organic answer is to keep them out (front end thinking) rather than try and remedy the damage later. Sometimes the two influences on me come together in almost poetic ways and therein lies this blog. I’ve planted a pot or a garden bed every week since February and still have flats to go and plants to dig up and move. The rhythm goes like this:
- Dig. Digging may be a hole big enough for a 3 gallon shrub or no more than a trowel full for a cucumber plant. It is always a little deeper and a good bit wider than the transplant.
- Amend. Even though I am planting in already improved garden soil or top quality potting mix, I amend with organic matters before planting. My products of choice range from worm castings to poultry litter fertilizers chosen to add nutrients and microorganisms as well as barks and sands to improve soil structure. This task achieves the organic goal of continuously improving the soil and it does work to lessen maintenance later.
- Plant. I’m careful to plant at the same level or just slightly higher than the plant was growing originally and to stake at planting time if absolutely necessary.
- Water and Stimulate. Since plants are mostly water, it makes sense that a new transplant needs water to prevent wilting. But exposure to the world outside its original container and plunging into new soil can be traumatic even with ample water at transplant time. That’s where Hormex Liquid Concentrate comes in, to work with the water to provide exactly what the roots need to get them growing. I have used other products and made my own compost tea to use as a root stimulator, but none of them can match the results of HLC. I call it transplant shock insurance, something to do on the front end.
- Mulch. The benefits of mulching with ground bark or a similar organic material are well known. I am greatly opposed to mulch volcanoes, and generally advocate limiting its depth to 1-2 inches. In recent seasons I have learned that a thin layer of mulch in the top of pots really helps prevent drying out in windy weather.
- Cover. The last step doesn’t mean quite what it sounds like; instead, the finishing touch is flexible wire fencing set up as barriers over raised beds and around young shrubs and trees. This kind of fencing is called hog wire, but we know it as cat wire, an unfair title since squirrels, dogs, possums, and who knows what else might wander through. It was the cats, though, that drove me to it when they discovered the catnip bed and destroyed my cash crop.
I’ll admit that part of the relentless optimism of gardening means constantly planting something with the unspoken expectation that it will grow. By gardening with organic principles in mind, I put the most effort into the beginning of the season and use my vast experience of gardening success and failure to tailor those tasks to meet my gardens’ needs and mine. Still, I was rushed one afternoon recently and didn’t put the cover on a new planting of okra and Peter peppers. The next day, 2 okra plants and one pepper were out of the ground, chewed a bit, and wilted badly. The sad thing is that this is not the only time I have had to deal with transplant shock so I knew what to do – replant and drench with Hormex Liquid Concentrate at slightly higher than the transplant rate: 1/2 tsp. in 2 quarts of water. Disaster averted and the transplants are fine five days later!
Now, if we could predict the weather…
Anybody who was ever a teenager knows about hormones. We produce them naturally and in differing amounts throughout life, but it is the adolescent years that get most of the attention. Yes, we all know about mood swings and body development because these hormone-influenced conditions hit close to home. Plants produce hormones, too, and their role in plant growth and especially propagation cannot be underestimated. The naturally-occurring plant hormones are auxins, cytokinins, gibberellins, and ethylene. The latter is important in fruit ripening, as when we put a cut apple into a plastic bag with a pineapple or green bananas to speed them to the table. Gibberillins are noted for their impact on cell division and elongation. You may know someone who ‘gibbs’, applies the auxin to their camellias to increase bloom size. Cytokinins influence cell division, lateral bud development, and leaf longevity. Auxins are the hormones used to promote rooting, but they are also promote uniform flowering and fruit set and, in some cases, forestall early fruit drop.
The auxin known as IBA (indole-3-butyric acid) contributes to the formation and growth of healthy roots and is the substance in Hormex Rooting Powders of various strengths. Vitamin B-1 (thiamine) is the additional active ingredient in Hormex Liquid Concentrate. B-1 is produced naturally in leaves and moves into the roots to assist their growth and is always beneficial to plants. By adding the hormone B-1 to liquid auxin, Hormex Liquid Concentrate promotes thrifty growth at all stages in a plant’s development.
How fast and how well cuttings take root and begin to grow depends on the condition of the plant material, the media you choose to root in, and the temperature of the media, air, and water used in the process. But in the end, we are dependent on the amount of IBA available to the plants for roots to be stimulated. The role of IBA in plant growth is to regulate and direct growth by working in relation to other hormones like cytokinins. For example, the ratio of auxin to cytokinin in some plants can determine whether cells differentiate into roots or shoots. By adding Hormex products to the process, we increase the auxin influence towards roots.
How this influence occurs can be attributed to the nifty ability of auxin molecules to move from cell to cell, to marshal their influence where it is needed. It’s a talent we mere mortals do not share which imparts to the plants the ability to shift growth patterns right down at the cellular level. It even allows them to react to some external threats. We take advantage of this quality when we expose some kinds of cuttings to the air so that they form callus on the cut surface before rooting them. The injury of an open wound on the stem stimulates cells to adapt and become thicker to block further fluid loss. Fortunately for us, this layer also develops roots more quickly than the fresh cut stem.
All auxins are hormones, but not all hormones are auxins. Chemically, each auxin consists of an aromatic ring and carboxylic acid group in quite elegant molecular arrangements of carbon and hydrogen. When I was a teenager, we didn’t talk much about hormones, human or plant, but a good biology teacher offered extra credit for a report on plant anatomy and I stumbled into a curiosity about how growth happens. In college, I learned about plant hormones in class but really first observed their power when I tried to root bougainvillea and lollipop plant, aka golden shrimp plant. Both are rather woody, tropical plants then in consideration for greenhouse production schedules. My first task was to determine whether tip cuttings or stem cuttings would root better and to compare cuttings rooted using IBA with those that had no hormone applied. I used a single blade knife to make clean cuts from healthy stems on the stock plants. I made labels, filled flats with a damp perlite/peat media, and tapped out a little rooting hormone onto a brown paper towel laid on the bench in the head house. I stuck the untreated groups and then rolled each remaining stem base in rooting powder and shook off the excess before sticking it. Virtually every tip cutting died before roots could form, but the 2 that survived were from the treated group. The stem cuttings were much more successful overall. Some of the untreated made a few roots, but nearly all the treated stem cuttings rooted and rooted very well in the same length of time. The proof of the pudding, as they say, was in the hormone.
One especially rewarding aspect of the opportunity that I have been given by Hormex is to communicate directly with those who use the products by answering their questions. This week I am bringing two of their issues to this blog so everyone can benefit. If you haven’t explored the propagation methods described here, you can expand your rooting horizons by trying them.
When you get into propagation, you can literally watch growth happen and some methods make that easier than others. Two recent questions asked about using Hormex products in aeroponic cloners and rooter pots. One reader has recently switched from rooting in perlite to using a device that suspends cuttings in a mist bath. It’s not as complicated as it sounds, I promise. With a simple web search, you can learn more about aeroponic cloners and their principles, view manufactured products and videos, and find DIY designs for those who are handy. After I saw one at a hydroponic herb farm used to root rosemary and learned how efficient it was, I became a fan of the technology. The farmers grow a variety of herbs to harvest and package for grocery stores, and hydroponics gives them advantages in both space and cleanliness. They had a huge mother plant of rosemary but had trouble producing it quickly enough to keep up with their customers’ demands until they tried this soilless propagation method. This reader wanted to know about application rates for using Liquid Hormex Concentrate in the device.
Aeroponic cloning machines expose the base of cuttings to a fine mist so the roots are never exposed to soil. The process creates an ideal root system for hydroponics and for many kinds of cuttings to pot up. You fill the container with water almost, but not quite, up to the bottom of the cut stems and a pump system delivers mist to the chamber to promote rooting. There are 2 ways to use Liquid Hormex Concentrate with these clever devices. One is to dip each cutting into undiluted LHC for 3-5 minutes before placing them into the rooting pots and the second is to add LHC to the water. Yes, you can do both. The rate the reader is using is roughly equivalent to ½ teaspoon in the 6 gallon tank, or slightly less than the rate suggested for use as a transplanting drench (1 tsp/5 gal). I suggested that he increase that amount to 1 teaspoon in the 6 gallon tank.
Another reader will be using rooter pots, devices that can speed up and improve upon the classic air layer technique to clone plants. He asks about choosing Hormex Rooting Powder strength to best root a range of different fruit plants: apple, peach, pear, plum, nectarine, and cherry trees plus grapes, blueberry, blackberry, raspberry, and aronia or chokeberry bushes.
Rooter Pots work very well to clone trees and berry bushes, too, if they are stout enough to support the device. I first saw them used in an arboretum to propagate a fiddle-leaf fig tree that had grown too large for its space. By using the pots, docents were able to produce clones of this favorite tree for their benefit sale in advance of the necessary pruning. I’ll confess the cup-shaped rooters nestled among the huge fiddle-shaped leaves looked like something in a sci-fi movie, maybe the jewelry a robot would wear! The metal or plastic pots open up completely to enable you to enclose a section of stem while it is still attached to the tree. They hold a lightweight soil mix and have holes for drainage once they are closed around the stem. You keep them watered and open them for inspection after a few weeks to watch the progress. Once the roots are plentiful and long enough, it is time to cut the stem below the rooter, open it up and pot up the new tree or shrub. Rooter pots do require you to wound the stems by stripping a band of bark off to promote rooting from that site. The use of Hormex Rooting Powder to coat the bare stem will greatly increase its ability to make roots and the strength to use depends on the plant being cloned. For fruit trees and berry bushes with woody stems, use HRP #8 in rooter pots and find other specifics about strengths and species elsewhere on this site.
Please keep asking questions!
Since plants are mostly water, it makes sense that a new transplant needs water to prevent wilting. But exposure to the world outside its original container and plunging into new soil can be traumatic even with ample water at transplant time. That’s where Hormex Liquid Concentrate comes in, to work with the water to provide exactly what the roots need to get them growing. I have used other products and made my own compost tea to use as a root stimulator, but none of them can match the results of HLC. I call it transplant shock insurance, important to do on the front end to get plants up and growing.
In an improvement over traditional air layering, Rooter Pots work very well to clone stems that are stout enough to support the device. The plastic or metal pots open up completely to enable you to enclose a section of stem while it is still attached to the tree. They hold a lightweight soil mix and have holes for drainage once they are closed around the stem. You keep them watered and open them for inspection after a few weeks to watch the progress. Once the roots are plentiful and long enough, it is time to cut the stem below the rooter, open it up and pot up the new tree or shrub. Rooter pots do require you to wound the stems by stripping a band of bark off to promote rooting from that site. The use of Hormex Rooting Powder to coat the bare stem will greatly increase its ability to make roots and the strength to use depends on the plant being cloned.
Most of us have gone through at least a spell or two of feeling undefined, maybe in the time between childhood and the teenage years or the void between the end of one baseball season and the next. I cannot be described as either driven or laid back and there does not seem to be a word for the undefined condition in between. In the garden, there are green stems and woody stems, and then there are plants with a bit of both, like tropical hibiscus.
Once a hibiscus plant is mature, its green stems are new growth that appears continuously and its brown structural stems get woodier with age. They are not technically shrubs but are also a far cry from green stemmed plants like coleus or philodendron. The former are closer to trees in their interior plumbing and so require specific rooting techniques while the latter will often root in water. Hibiscus is neither, yet both! The easiest, most effective way I know to root my favorite double apricot bloomer is a little different, too. First, I do not use true tip cuttings. Instead, cut a sturdy stem no bigger around than a pencil with 8-12 inches of brown stem. Trim off green stems and all but 3 leaves. Slice a fresh diagonal cut through the lower end of the stem at a joint (or node) and roll that end in Hormex Rooting Powder #3. Stick the cutting 3 or 4 inches deep into a small pot of damp perlite or cluster a group of 5 stems into a tall quart sized pot. I have also used rooting cubes as is often advised, but found them shallow for the tall cuttings. I have seen hibiscus rooted in sand and in bark, but I like the roots that form in a pot of perlite. They are plentiful, sturdy, and suffer little transplant shock when moved to a container or garden bed.
Some hibiscus will root in just weeks, others take much longer. If you decide to root several different varieties, give each its own container to avoid confusion later. If you have a mist system or propagation hood, use it to raise the humidity around hibiscus cuttings without overwatering them. You can leave the pots outside in humid shade, float them on a saucer of water that lets the perlite draw up what it needs, or make a cloche from a 2 liter plastic drink bottle. Cut the bottom off the bottle but leave the cap on. Set it in the pot and over the cuttings or cover a small pot with one cutting completely. As the humidity builds inside the cloche, water droplets will form on the inside. That’s your cue to take the top off to let in fresh air and prevent heat buildup.
Similar in-betweeners are butterfly bush, and chaste tree and they will also root in perlite in the same fashion as hibiscus. However, I have been able to root them from shorter cuttings taken nearer to the tip of a branch than hibiscus. The shorter, greener cuttings are much more dependent on high humidity, of course, since they are tender and wilt easily. That’s another reason to use the woodier part of the plant.
You have to remember that perlite has no nutrition in it, but is simply a support material that assists in water management around the cuttings. When rooting cuttings like hibiscus in perlite, it is important to provide a minimal amount of fertilizer and a maximum amount of rooting hormone. Rolling the stem in Hormex starts the process but you can do more. Water when the perlite looks dry on top with a solution of 2 or 3 drops of Hormex Liquid Concentrate mixed in 1 quart of water. It probably won’t take the full quart to water your hibiscus cuttings, so give a half cup or so to each of those new tomato plants. They’ll appreciate it!