Vitamin B-1?

Long Beach, CA

Hello all,
I have been reading about Vitamin B-1. Some sites say it is a great tool. Other sites say it holds no benefit with a plant. Yet is seems to be in many thing. Anyone have a thought on this product?


This message was edited Aug 26, 2012 8:16 PM

(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

This page has good information written by DG's own tapla (Al). Look a few posts down from the top, for the green heading of "SuperThrive or SuperJive".

A kind DG person sent me a bottle of it that remained unopened for a few years. This year I started using it, and based on the results, I will never again be without it. We now have two more containers of it.

Long Beach, CA

thought I would bring that write up over to this page.

Superthrive or Superjive

The question regarding the value of Superthrive as a miracle tonic for plants is often bandied about in horticultural circles. Over the years, I had read claims that ranged from, "I put it on my plant, which had never bloomed, and it was in full bloom the next day." to, "It was dead - I put Superthrive on it and the next day it was alive and beautiful, growing better than it ever had before." I decided to find out for myself.

If you look for information on the net, you will probably only find the manufacturer’s claims and anecdotal observations, both so in want of anything that resembles a control. Though my experiments were far from purely scientific, I tried to keep some loose controls in place so that I could make a fair judgment of its value, based my own observations. Here is what I did, what I found, and the conclusions I made about any value the product Superthrive might hold for me.

On four separate occasions, I took multiple cuttings of plants in four different genera. In each case the group of cuttings were taken from the same individual plant to reduce genetic variance. The plant materials I used were: Ficus benjamina, (a tropical weeping fig) Luna apiculata (Peruvian myrtle), Chaenorrhinum minus (a dwarf snapdragon), and an unknown variety of Coleus. In each instance, I prepared cuttings from the same plant and inserted them in a very fast, sterile soil. The containers containing half of the cuttings were immersed/soaked in a Superthrive solution of approximately 1/2 tsp per gallon of water to the upper soil line. The other half of the cuttings were watered in with water only. In subsequent waterings, I would water the "Superthrive batch" of cuttings with a solution of 10 drops per gallon and the others with only water. The same fertilizer regimen was followed on both groups of cuttings. In all four instances, the cuttings that I used Superthrive on rooted and showed new growth first. For this reason, it follows that they would naturally exhibit better development, though I could see no difference in overall vitality, once rooted. I can also say that a slightly higher percentage of cuttings rooted that were treated with the Superthrive treatment at the outset. I suspect that is directly related to the effects of the auxin in Superthrive hastening initiation of root primordia before potential vascular connections were destroyed by rot causing organisms.

In particular, something I looked for because of my affinity for a compact form in plants was branch (stem) extension. (The writer is a bonsai practitioner.) Though the cuttings treated with Superthrive rooted sooner, they exhibited the same amount of branch extension. In other words, internode length was approximately equal and no difference in leaf size was noted.

As a second part to each of my "experiments", I divided the group of cuttings that had not been treated with Superthrive into two groups. One of the groups remained on the water/fertilizer only program, while the other group was treated to an additional 10 drops of Superthrive in each gallon of fertilizer solution. Again, the fertilizer regimen was the same for both groups. By summer’s end, I could detect no difference in bio-mass or vitality between the two groups of plants.

Since I replicated the above experiment in four different trials, using four different plant materials, I am quite comfortable in drawing some conclusions as they apply to me and my growing habits or abilities. First, and based on my observations, I have concluded that Superthrive does hold value for me as a rooting aid, or stimulant if you prefer. I regularly soak the soil, usually overnight, of my newly root-pruned and often bare-rooted repots in a solution of 1/2 tsp Superthrive per gallon of water. Second, and also based on my observations, I no longer bother with its use at any time other than at repotting. No evidence was accumulated through the 4 trials to convince me that Superthrive was of any value as a "tonic" for plants with roots that were beyond the initiation or recovery stage.

Interestingly, the first ingredient listed as being beneficial to plants on the Superthrive label is vitamin B-1 (or thiamine). Growing plants are able to synthesize their own vitamin B-1 as do many of the fungi and bacteria having relationships with plant roots, so it's extremely doubtful that vitamin B-1 could be deficient in soils or that a growing plant could exhibit a vitamin B-1 deficiency.

Some will note that I used more of the product than suggested on the container. I wanted to see if any unwanted effects surfaced as well as trying to be sure there was ample opportunity for clear delineation between the groups. I suspect that if a more dilute solution was used, the difference between groups would have been even less clear.

It might be worth noting that since the product contains the growth regulator (hormone) auxin, its overuse can cause defoliation, at least in dicots. The broad-leaf weed killer Weed-B-Gone and the infamous "Agent Orange", a defoliant that saw widespread use in Viet Nam, are little more than synthetic auxin.


Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

The following is by Linda Chalker-Scott, PhD, who is widely known for her debunking of horticultural myths. This was written some time after my offering immediately above, but it's apparent we're on the same page re Superthrive and similar claims about products that tout the value of vitamin B-1 and or synthetic auxins as "tonics" that have value when used on a regular basis.

"Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Extension Horticulturist and Associate Professor,
Puyallup Research and Extension Center, Washington State University

The Myth of Vitamin Stimulants:

"Vitamin B-1 reduces transplant shock by stimulating new root growth"

The Myth
Ever seen this advertisement? “[Product X, which contains vitamin B-1] stimulates the quick formation
of new root hairs and revitalizes the delicate feeder roots that are often damaged in transplanting. [Product
X] is especially designed to hasten the development of bareroot roses, shrubs, shade trees and bedding
plants that have been moved to new locations. It helps plants become established quickly and ensures
vigorous growth.” Another adds a little scientific terminology to convince you: “Vitamin B-1 (plus minor
elements and chelating agents) is great for root growth and helps reduce transplant shock.” Or how about
this one? “The combination of Vitamin B-1 with essential micro nutrients forms a highly effective
mixture...and lessens the chances of transplant shock and plant stress.”

Aren’t you convinced that if you don’t use products with Vitamin B-1 your transplants will suffer?
Apparently administrators at one large university are. Under their “Typical Tree Protection and
Relocation Specifications” is the following: “48 hours prior to cutting, an application of vitamin B-1
shall be administered to the rootball of the tree.” If a university requires this practice, it must be
legitimate, right?

The Reality
Applying vitamin B-1, or thiamine, to root systems of whole plants does not stimulate root growth. This
is a myth that refuses to die, though it has been repeatedly refuted in the scientific literature. To
understand why, it helps to think about this in a historical perspective.

Many decades ago the plant growth regulators called auxins were isolated and characterized. Auxins
were found to stimulate cell elongation in both root and shoot tissues. Commercial preparations were
developed that contained auxin and vitamin B-1 among other ingredients. Research in 1949 found
improved root development in plants treated with one of these preparations (Transplantone, which
contains both auxin and thiamine), but noted the importance of auxins in this response. Further research
throughout the last half of the 20th century investigating the application of auxins to root systems
suggested that auxins may stimulate root growth, but that vitamin B-1 on its own does not.

So what does work for stimulating root growth and reducing transplant shock? A review of the historical
and current literature suggests the following:

Indole butyric acid (IBA) is one of the most common auxin formulations especially in tissue culture. In
cuttings, it has been found to increase the number of roots, to increase rooting percentage, to increase
both parameters, or to do neither. IBA has had some success in root regeneration in transplanted trees; it
may help redirect resources to the roots by suppressing crown growth.

Naphthylacetic acid (NAA) is also a commonly used auxin and often the active ingredient in commercial
preparations. NAA tends to be toxic to seedling root development, as it inhibits primary root growth and
enhances lateral root growth. This latter activity may account for NAA’s success in regenerating roots of
transplanted and root-pruned trees. Like IBA, NAA apparently suppresses crown growth, which also may
redirect resources to the roots.

Paclobutrazol (PBZ) is another plant growth regulator that seems to stimulate root growth in
containerized as well as established tree species. Like the auxins, PBZ reduces crown growth which may
assist with root resources.

Fungicides may increase root growth, but overall this is not beneficial to the plant. Fungicides kill
beneficial mycorrhizal species, and the lack of mycorrhizal colonization means that plants must put more
resources into root growth than they would if mycorrhizae were present. Furthermore, there are
beneficial fungi and bacteria that control pathogenic microbes and roots colonized by beneficial microbes
have been shown to grow more than those without.

Nitrogen supplements can improve root growth, and conversely the absence of nitrogen will depress root
growth. Uptake competition from bacteria, fungi, and other plants can be intense and so nitrogen is often

Vitamin B-1 (thiamine) is an important component of tissue culture media, in which isolated plant tissues
can be propagated. Its use for stimulating root growth in whole plants is not supported in the literature
and one study reported that root growth was greater in the control treatment (water) than with thiamine.
Plants in the field manufacture their own source of thiamine and it is therefore unnecessary to add any
additional levels. Many fungi and bacteria associated with plant roots also produce thiamine, so it’s
likely that healthy soils will contain adequate levels of this vitamin without amendment.

Why does the mystique of vitamin B-1 transplant tonics still persist after decades of scientific debunking?

The Bottom Line

• Vitamin B-1, aka thiamine, does not reduce transplant shock or stimulate new root growth on
plants outside the laboratory
• A nitrogen fertilizer is adequate for transplanting landscape plants; avoid use of “transplant
fertilizers” that contain phosphate
• Healthy plants will synthesize their own thiamine supply
• Healthy soils contain beneficial microbes that synthesize thiamine as well
• Difficult-to-transplant species may be aided by application of auxin-containing products in
addition to nitrogen, but read the label and don’t add unnecessary and potentially harmful
chemicals (this includes organics!)
• Adequate soil moisture is crucial for new root growth; be sure to irrigate new transplants
frequently and use mulch to reduce evaporation"


(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Al - do you use SuperThrive?

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I've used it in years past because I think it might be helpful in promoting new root formation in my bonsai repots, because as noted, it makes a difference in promoting roots on cuttings; at least that's what the very loosely controlled experimenting I did showed. I didn't use it this year on my repots, for no particular reason, and I can't say I noticed a difference in how quickly they reestablished, but I still think it's one-time use on repots could be helpful. I just don't have any faith in its efficacy as a 'tonic or vitamin supplement' for extended use, based on the 4 (again, loosely controlled) experiments I tried. I'd say I'm less cynical than Dr Scott about it because I did find it useful for stimulating new roots on cuttings, but will admit that my feeling that it might be useful for stimulating root growth on repots could easily be an unfounded projection.

On a regular basis, I talk to a lot of people in the horticultural community that grow for a living or are just highly skilled and knowledgeable growers (greenhouse/nursery owners, employees of botanic gardens/arboretums, owners/CEO's of fertilizer companies .....), many of them with degrees related to the growing sciences. From time to time, I hear/see the topic of yes or no regarding Superthrive broached. Most often, I'll witness a rolling of the eyes or a little smile that says, "Let's not go there so I don't have to say anything disparaging", but not always. Some growers feel it works wonders, but usually not the pros. I guess I'm mostly of the opinion that if you concentrate on getting the basics right & on improving your ability to eliminate limiting factors, you shouldn't really need to employ the fringe factors as a way of compensating for something missing in the o/a scheme of things. As always, YMMV. If you like it - use it - just don't over-use it.


(Arlene) Southold, NY(Zone 7a)

Thanks, Al. Well explained, as always.

I was certain plants grew better but it just might be my imagination. We did have wide swings in temperatures this spring and things were normal for maybe a week or two in June and then the heat waves (four of them) probably influenced growth. Now that things are actually normal and I see how well the plants are doing, it just might have been weather related. I might try it on indoor coleus cuttings taken from the same mother plants to see if I notice a difference.

Bay City, MI(Zone 6a)

I think the value of Superthrive is often a very sensitive topic, because among the more experienced growers, the general consensus seems to be that sales thrive primarily on the power of suggestion. Once that is brought into a conversation as a consideration, feelings start getting hurt. When grower A says it's more likely grower B is influenced by the power of suggestion than actual observations, the wheels usually come off the buggy & not much agreeing gets done. I've been involved in enough conversations about the product to know there are often miracles attributed to it that couldn't possibly have been a result of its use, but the growers sometimes hold so strongly to their belief that they can't be shaken, and debate is futile.

Whether you like it or not probably isn't the important consideration. I think what's important is that growers resist placing an inordinate amount of hope on the product; that would be hope commensurate with the hype of the manufacturer. The best thing I can say to a grower is, there are no magic elixirs out there that can make up for the grower not having the basics covered. You can't make up for poor soils, inappropriate light, poor nutrition, over-watering, too hot/too cold with a magic formula. Those things always need to be right for a plant to grow well. IMO, if you concentrate on making sure your plants aren't being limited by the basics, you'll soon forget about all the promises of the fringe products, content in the results you are able to achieve by way of your control of the basics.

Growing in containers is really very easy, if we allow it to be. Our plants are already programmed to become perfect genetic specimens, if only we can learn how to get out of their way via an understanding what is limiting them and eliminating the limitations to the greatest degree to which we're capable.


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