Rooting Plants

Here, I will give my opinion on the use of honey as a rooting agent. An opinion is the best I can do as I have never used honey for rooting purposes. As I am very successful at rooting plant cuttings, I see no need to start using honey, now.


Honey does have antibacterial properties. It is possible that honey has the ability to kill certain pathogens responsible for damping off during the rooting process.

Even if this is true, honey's antibacterial properties do not stop there. The antibacterial agents in honey are non selective. That is to say, they kill good bacteria as well as bad. Most of us know, plants do best in soil rich in beneficial micro organisms.

Not only does honey have the ability to kill bacteria non selectively, it also has the ability to cause a proliferation of some types of bacteria; bacteria which may in fact be detrimental to the rooting process.

To successfully root cuttings, certain requirements must be met. It is my opinion that plants successfully rooted using honey did in fact root well, not because of the use of honey, but because these certain requirements were met. The ag agents I've spoken with say they know of no benefits of using honey as a rooting agent.

Each plant has its own set of requirements. Cactus, for example, are fleshy and hold a lot of moisture. This abundance of moisture causes many cactus rootings to rot during the rooting process. For most cactus, this rotting can be avoided by allowing the severed area to dry and become 'corky' before placing the cutting in a rooting medium.

This does not hold true for woody cuttings such as those taken from the rose. It takes only a brief interruption of moisture uptake to cause the cuttings to be useless for rooting. For this reason, container, rooting medium and anything else needed for successful rooting, should be prepared before cuttings are taken from the parent plant. The cuttings should be inserted into the medium immediately after being collected.

I successfully root hundreds of cuttings a year. I do not use a rooting agent of any type. Most all plant cuttings have the ability to form roots without rooting agents, and will do so if proper conditions are met. On the other hand, these plants will fail to root if these proper conditions are not met, whether you use a rooting agent or not.

There is a place for rooting hormones. A few plants can be very difficult to root and benefit from the use of hormones. In the past, I have rooted many rhododendrons. I was most successful when using the air layer method and dusted the wound with rooting hormones prior to wrapping the wound in dampened sphagnum moss and then plastic.

I urge anyone wanting to root cuttings to familiarize themselves with the needs of any given plant. They do vary. Several plants such as the iris aren't particular. While you can't root a cutting from iris, you can root a rhizome. A small chunk of rhizome severed from the parent rhizome can be thrown on top of the soil and forgotten about. In most cases, it will form roots.

When it comes to plants such as roses, much more attention is required. There must be a balance between the root system and the above ground stem and leaves.

When the cutting is still attached to the parent plant, it receives a constant supply of moisture and nutrients from the plant's root system. Once the cutting is severed from the plant, all supply of moisture is stopped and compensations must be made.

To reduce the need for that moisture the cutting can no longer get from a root system, most all leaves are stripped from the cutting prior to insertion into a medium. Additionally, that moisture inside the cutting can quickly be lost to the atmosphere as there is no replacement moisture coming from a root system. This is why most rootings are attempted in a close atmosphere such as a greenhouse. Individual plants can be given a close atmosphere by covering them with a plastic bag or dome.

While most plant cuttings require a humid atmosphere, that portion under the soil should be only damp, never wet. Wet rooting medium is probably the major reason for cutting failure

Iris rhizomes can form roots while laying on top of hard, dry, red clay. Many orchids can form new roots without any medium at all, providing the atmosphere is humid enough. Somewhere in between is the best medium for most plants

In the past, most propagating was done in a medium of sharp, clean river sand. Now, mediums are usually man made and much lighter. Some are used for their ability to retain moisture while others are used for their ability to shed moisture, again, depending on the cutting's requirements. Good reasons to familiarize yourself with the requirements of a particular plant you want to propagate.

You can purchase rooting mediums or make your own. Soiless mixes do well as mediums as they are high in vermiculite and perlite and often have a base of humus or milled sphagnum. If in doubt as to whether the medium contains pathogens harmful to the cuttings, it's best to heat treat the medium before using.

Most rootings are successful when performed in bright light, but no direct sun light. In some cases, gentle bottom heat will aid in the formation of roots. Timing is important, too. While some plants can be rooted at any time of the year, most plants root best when cuttings are taken during the time of their most active growth, usually in the months of June and July. And again, probably most important of all is that the rooting medium be kept only moderately damp, never wet.

In summation, if you do everything else right when trying to root a cutting, you most likely won't need a rooting agent. If you do everything else wrong, a rooting agent won't help you, anyway.

Picture shows some of my butterfly bush rootings at various stages.

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Root your plants and shrubs by cutting a small piece from your plant. Take a paper napkin or paper towel and fold it to hold a handful of garden soil.

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8 Questions

Ask a QuestionHere are the questions asked by community members. Read on to see the answers provided by the ThriftyFun community or ask a new question.

I know you can make your own rooting hormone dip with willow branches. But can you make it with other rigorous rooting plants such as mulberry bushes by soaking their branches or roots in water for a while? What about kudzu?

Hardiness Zone: 6b

By PHILLIP WOLF from Michigan City, IN


October 22, 20102 found this helpful

I prefer to use honey as a rooting hormone, and it helps to keep rot from setting in also.

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October 23, 20100 found this helpful

Robyn, do you mix the honey with water first, or use it undiluted? Thanks, Nica

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October 24, 20101 found this helpful

I dip the tip of my cuttings into honey. This works as well as any purchased rooting hormone. jjs w palm fla.

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October 29, 20100 found this helpful

bsvgs - dip the ends of the cuttings in honey (no water)

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October 20, 20160 found this helpful

Honey are sometimes adulterated. How do I identify quality honey

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Has anyone ever used water crystals? Can it be used for rooting plant cuttings? I'd like to try it with rose cutting. Has anyone ever tried it, did it work?

Hardiness Zone: 7a

Gina from Ozone Park, NY


May 29, 20080 found this helpful

They have worked very well for me. I found out that they need to be deep in the dirt, because one tiny crystal swells into a walnut-size blob of gel, and they popped up out of the dirt and landed on my deck from the hanging basket. I do recommend them even if expensive. BTW, if you get a good deal on those tie-on bandannas that you are supposed to soak in water, then open it up and use the crystals in that, they are the same. My bandanna was damp long enough to grow mold, so I opened it up and used the crystals in a pot in the garden.

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By (Guest Post)
May 30, 20080 found this helpful

But what if I just want to use the crystals in a case without dirt. Do you think the cuttings will still root?

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May 30, 20080 found this helpful

I was wondering if they could be used in a vase alone w/o dirt. Would the cuttings still grow

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By Nolasandy (Guest Post)
May 30, 20080 found this helpful

Using this "Without" dirt is the whole purpose of using water crystals. They are for looks and are supposed to look pretty.

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By docnsure (Guest Post)
June 1, 20080 found this helpful

I just this year bought the water crystals to make the neck tie-ons and bought extra to put in my veggie garden. I mixed it right in the soil, this was suggested by the company that sales it and says to water the garden normally for a about a week so the crystals will swell up. Than you can cut back on watering. I also have a some crystals in a vase and am trying to root another plant. I hope this works.

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I am putting my home place on the market. I have several plants and flowers that I would like to root. Gardenia, snowball bush, sweet shrub, Camilla's and butterfly bush. Any idea on how to do this?

Hardiness Zone: 8a


June 13, 20070 found this helpful

I think you can root these plants in pots by using Rootone. It's a powder that you dip the cut end in before you put the plant in the dirt. I feel sure you can find it at Lowe's or Home Depot. Also, strip almost all the leaves off the stem before planting. I have rooted several woody plants this way, altho I put them directly into the ground. I don't see why it wouldn't work for pots, tho. Good luck on selling your house and moving the plants. God bless you!

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June 13, 20070 found this helpful

I forgot to mention that I live in South Georgia! Ha!

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June 14, 20070 found this helpful

For the snowball bush, just dig out some shoots. they'll already have some roots, and hydrengeas should be divided occasionally anyway.

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By Amy (Guest Post)
June 14, 20070 found this helpful

If you can't dig up a shoot, try this. Bend a healthy branch down to the ground. Scrape a bit of bark off the branch where it touches the ground. Cover with soil and put a rock or brick on top to hold it down. The branch should sprout roots, at which time you would cut the branch from the tree. Pull it out of the ground and replant wherever.

Happy planting!

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By Dawn (Guest Post)
June 15, 20070 found this helpful

You can go to , a marvelous website by Mike McGroarty. This is all the man does is root bushes and trees. I found it the most helpful website for learning to root plants..good luck!

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January 18, 2017

Honey is a great natural alternative to chemical rooting based rooting hormones. This is a page about using honey to root cuttings.

A jar of honey.

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December 12, 2016

This is a page about growing Mexican Heather (Cuphea). This sturdy plant often has purple flowers and can grow in many zones.

Flowering Mexican heather.

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ThriftyFun is one of the longest running frugal living communities on the Internet. These are archives of older discussions.

July 27, 2010

Prepare cuttings in the usual manner, however dip the ends of the cuttings in honey instead of rooting powder and you will have a high success rate.

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