Before the use of synthetic rooting hormone compounds gardeners would make a willow tea to increase the likelihood of their cuttings growing (strike rate). It turns out that what we might call folklore has some scientific backing as willow steeped in water releases indolebutyric acid – a hormone that stimulates root growth, and salicylic acid which triggers the plants defenses and helps protect the plant from pathogens. Pretty cool eh?
Now I have always been pretty useless at growing box (buxus sp.) from cuttings. It’s something that I’ve tried time after time. After all have you seen the price of decent sized box plant in nurseries? To me it makes sense to try and propagate them from plants you already have.
After a bit of research I decided to combine the bits of many different willow tea recipes:
Homemade rooting hormone instructions
- You’ll need a handful of sticks of willow, preferably the ends of the branch as that’s where the growing hormones are. Don’t use dead branches,
- Take off all the leaves and cut the sticks into short pieces (so that they’ll fit in your jar),
- Put the sticks into a heatproof container with a lid I used an old glass jar,
- Fill the jar with hot water so the water covers the sticks- be careful if you are using a glass jar you don’t want the glass to explode if the water is too hot,
- Seal and label the jar,
- Leave for at least 24 hours and up to two months – I went about a week before I moved onto the next step,
- Remove the willow while retaining the willow water,
- Put your cuttings in the willow water to drink it overnight,
- Plant your cuttings,
- Use the rest of the willow water to water the cuttings in if you wish
- Look after the plants in the usual way
They grew well and I am pleased with the result.
Perhaps you are wondering why a forest gardener is bothering with buxus sempervirens at all, after all it’s slow growing so I probably won’t be around to harvest the wood, doesn’t do much for biodiversity and you certainly can’t eat it. Truth be told I am also a sucker for a formal knot garden and a bit of ornamental topiary and I hope there will be a little space in my garden for those too.
The second experiment? Artists Charcoal. That’s another story.