Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Using Willow as a Root Stimulator

Any of you who have worked with willows (Salix) before know that they root very easily.  In fact many people who have Globe Willows in their yard got them from friends who handed them a stick and told them to stick it in a bucket of water.  There is a reason that they root so easily - they contain a natural chemical called indolebutyric acid (IBA).  IBA is a natural growth regulator.

The offshoot of this is that you can use willow as a root stimulator when taking cuttings.  I know I am a little early in the season to be talking about cuttings (Unless you are in Australia!), but I thought it was a good topic to get us all excited for the upcoming spring!

When taking cuttings you generally dip the bottom end of the cutting in a rooting hormone.  I am not as wealthy as I would like to be, and always looking for a way to be self-sustaining, this is an inexpensive (free) and self-sustaining way to give my cuttings a head start on life.

Here's what you do:
  1. Gather some pencil size branches from whatever type of willow you have (live - not dead).
  2. Cut them into approximately 3-4" pieces. You will need about 2 cups of cuttings for every gallon of water.
  3. Dump the willow pieces in a container (bucket, pot, etc...) and pour a gallon of boiling water over the top.
  4. Let the willow tea steep overnight.  (The longer it steeps the more IBA will be released)
  5. You can store the solution in the fridge for up to 2 months. 
*Good Idea: Label the container - nobody wants to take a sip of willow tea, it's just not the same as a good sweet iced tea!

You then soak your cuttings in the solution before planting.  As a bonus the IBA will inhibit bacteria, fungus and viral disease.  (You want your blog to go viral - but it's a bad thing for your plants)

Willow also contains salicylic acid (often used as an anti-acne treatment, for people - not plants) that is very beneficial for young plants.  If you water your young plants with your tea it will also help inhibit bacteria, fungus and viral disease.

Get your hands dirty!


  1. Fun idea. It would be neat to do a little experiment comparing the willow tea to a commercial IBA dip and to treatment.

  2. thanks Matt, I have lots of Willow but didn't know about this, I never use rooting powder because the only time I tried it all the cuttings died, I now know it was because I probably used too much, Frances

  3. Thanks Matt, I want to try this. My mom has a pink pussy willow that I really want a cutting of. Pussy willows are willows right?

  4. Liz - Great idea! I may have to do that this spring - I will let you know what I find.

    Lifeshighway - Yes, pussy willows would work - I believe their latin name is Salix caprea. As long as they are Salix you are good to go!

  5. Interesting!I wonder if there are any other plants that have the same property.
    Thanks for the thumbs up for my yard art entry, Matt.

  6. A very good post. Willows are easy to propagate and make great living fences.

  7. gardenwalkgardentalk beat me to it. I was just thinking some of our garden fencing is like myself and getting past it. I was considering using this as a living fence. I would be grateful to hear of anyone's experience with this.

  8. I have not personally made a living fence with willow - but it is intriguing. I found an interesting article - at suite101.com (http://www.suite101.com/content/how-to-make-a-living-willow-garden-fence-a202538)
    and Blue Stem Nursery has some really good information too - http://www.bluestem.ca/living-willow-structures.htm

    Have fun and send pictures when your done - I'd love to see how it turns out!

  9. I can't wait to try this! How do you find all these interesting facts? You are amazing!!


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