Rooting Hormone; please help!

Stafford, VA(Zone 7a)

Hi, OK; I was all ready to try out propagating from stems for the first time: I took a long stem from one of my hydrangeas, cut it in exactly the right places to insert into my already-made potting medium, went to open up my bottle of rooting hormone and noticed the warnings on the side of the bottle. If you inhale it, you should call 911? If you get it on your skin you need to wash for 30 min. and call a poison control center?? Geesh! Well, I was so intimidated by the warnings on this stuff, I just went ahead and planted my hydrangea cuttings without using it and they all subsequently dried up and died :( Anyway, could someone please hold my hand through this process, and let me know how I can use this rooting hormone safely, or if there is another way to sucessfully root without the hormone?

Thanks for any feedback!

Long Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

I've never read the warnings on rooting hormone, but if they do indeed say those things, then by all means follow what they say.

The best and safest way to use the RH is to:
1.) Use it where you have good air circulation, and it probably wouldn't hurt to use of one those disposable painters masks.

2.) Wear gloves and possibly even clear protective eyewear.

3. ) Depending on what your're rooting, you can pretty much leave it in the jar or envelope pkging, it comes in.

You don't need a lot of it to root your cuttings.
Premoisten the soil in the container and make a hole with a pencil or something the same size or slightly larger than the diameter of the cutting.

Take the cutting a gently roll it in the RH so it evenly coats at least 2 nodes of the cutting. (Your cuttings do not need to be will stick to the stems)

You only need to coat the part of the cutting that will be in the soil...not all the way up to the foliage.

Gently tap the cutting to dislodge any excess. It will then have a fine dusting on the stem.

Take the cutting and very carefully place it in the premade hole in the soil, and try not to dislodge the RH. Then take your fingers and gently firm the soil around the remaining space around the cutting to close up the opening.

Depending on what you're rooting, you can cover the top of the cutting with a jar to increase humidity, or just leave it be.

DO NOT water the cutting after you've done this, or it will wash the RH off the stem.

You don't need a lot of top growth on the cutting. The less, the better...maybe one set of leaves...and NO flower buds. You want the energy of the plant to develop roots before foliage.

Too many leaves on the cutting will wilt very fast and zap the strength of the cutting. Again, depending on what you're rooting, covering it with a jar or a glass will increase the humidity and act like a mini greenhouse.

For hydrangeas, put the cutting in partial shade, not full sun.

If you lift the jar or glass once a day it will allow fresh air in there. Just lift it up and then put it down again.

You;ll have to watch the coloration of the soil to know when to water again...but remember, there are no roots yet, so the soil isn't going to dry out overnight.

Different plants develop roots faster than others.

Periodically, check to see if roots are coming out the drainage hole.
Depending on what you're growing, you may not see any top growth for a few weeks or even months.

The top growth of the new cutting may or may not wilt...just depends on what it is. If it falls off, it's probably still ok, as new growth will emerge (hopefully) from where the old foliage was...OR it may sprout from the base.

I've never had any kind of physical ill effects from using RH.
It doesn't have a scent, so there's really no need for it to come into close contact with your eyes, nose, or mouth...but it doesn't hurt to be cautious.

I wouldn't let it come into contact with any skin breaks, so gloves are probably a good idea.

They probably just printed all that on the label because of the ubiquitous law suit possibility.

Just use common sense while working with it and you should be fine.

Unless you're doing this 8 hrs. a day, 5 days a week, I doubt you're in any "danger". I've used it for years and never had a problem.

This message was edited Aug 14, 2008 9:55 PM

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Spunkster, everything JasperDale has give as help is exactly right, I also have used rooting powder and gels for many years and NEVER seen any warnings like you have described, are you positive it is rooting hormone you have read the directions from, if you are really worried about inhaling the powder, next time search for a gel or liquid type as this should halt any of those concerns you have had. starting plants from cuttings is fun, a less costly way of increasing your plant stock and is also a good way to learn about plants and their needs, so enjoy, experiment with different types of plants and as FarmerDale has rightly said, always make sure you use any type of garden product with safety and common sense in mind.
You could go to the book store to read up on books about propagation to help you further learn about all different ways to do this, hard wood cuttings are a bit different from soft wood cuttings, but there is root cuttings and layer cuttings which are all easy ways of increasing your plants and it is fun to do. Good luck, have lots or healthy plants for next year and just enjoy. WeeNel.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

No, rooting hormones do have that sort of warning on them over here, the UK probably has different rules about labels so maybe your warnings don't sound as bad. The warnings often make something sound worse than it really is though, it's really not that hard to avoid inhaling it or getting it on your skin so most people who are careful when using it won't have any trouble at all.

Chillicothe, OH

I am a compulsive label reader and use both kinds of rooting hormone. While I do recall warnings about getting it on your hands I don't recall ever reading anything like the rest, though it does make sense to keep such stuff out of your eyes and that any hormone should be handled with respect.

ecrane: If our lables on anything were ever more stringent than any comparable label in the UK, I'd be inclined to think it would have to be some kind of a first.

Spunkster: are you using powdered or liquid rooting hormone? Could you give me the name of the product? After all this talk I should like to read the label myself.

Also, were you working with hard, semihard, or soft wood cuttings?

Powdered is stronger than liquid rooting hormone, and meant for hardwood cuttings. Well, sometimes with the liquids it depends on what formula you follow, stronger for hardwood, less strong for soft wood cuttings. If you can bend it it's considered a soft wood cutting.

Hardwood cuttings are normally done in winter or late fall. You
certainly should use it where there's no chance of it getting airborn.
But with good technique you shouldn't ever be in a situation where it
GETS airborn. Here's how it goes: strip off all but the top set or two
of leaves (if they're big leaves you can cut them in half. The less
strain on the plant the better and keeping huge leaves alive while
growing new leaves is a burden to the plant.) prune the cutting so
only a single node where leaves used to be is left on the bottom of
the cutting. Have the pot with the rooting medium in it ready with the
appropriate numbers of holes for the cuttings already pushed into the medium with a dibber, a fat sharpie marker, pencil or similar. Cut right below, but not into the area where the last leaves
were. Wet the leafless end of the cutting and give it a shake so you don't drip excess water into the powdered rooting hormone. Open the jar, (shouldn't be doing it outside ifthere's any wind) dip the damp end where the leaves used to be intothe powder. See to it the node(s) where the leaves used to be is/are coated. Now tap the cutting around the neck of the bottle so the excess powder is knocked back off into the jar. Then slip the cutting into the hole you made in the rooting medium and use a finger to press it close around the cutting. You should sit this in 'bright shade', or where the direct sun won't blare down on it, but where there's plenty of bright light. I like to use my north-facing porch. I sit the cuttings in a tray that I can add water to as needed, This avoids what the one person said about watering the new cuttings.

If you decide you're way too scared to use the rooting hormones, you can still propagate from cuttings. If you do all these steps except the dip into the water and rooting hormone, you will have some success. The hormones will simply up your percentage of success. Some of your cuttings will still take off. It helps if you can put a jar or an aquarium over your cuttings to maintain a nice balanced humidity. Some put their cuttings in little baggies with some slightly dampened rooting medium, and put it in the shade. This one's really good if it drives you crazy wondering if any roots are forming because you can actually see if they are through the bag.


Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

It's also going to depend on the concentration--some rooting hormones are more concentrated than others. I have Dip n Grow which is concentrated and you dilute it yourself when you use it, and the warnings on it are very similar to what Spunkster lists above (although the thing about calling 911 if someone inhales it is only if they're not breathing, otherwise you are just supposed to move them to fresh air...and I personally suspect you'd have to inhale a lot of it before you'd stop breathing). But if you have one that's ready to use without further mixing, then the concentration is lower so the warnings may sound a little friendlier.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

I think it is a warning to all that no mater what we are using, plant food, hormone rooting stuff etc, we should always wash our hands afterwards, well thats the theory anyway, I never remember to always do this even though I would tell my grand-kids to always do it, we are our own worst enemy at times eh, I am so engrossed on moving to the next job to hand what I am oblivious to this kind of safety advice, but if I was working with strong chemicals etc, (which I avoid like the plague) I would always wear gloves, a bit like closing the stable door after the horse has bolted, we should all take head of the warnings EVERY time we do these tasks, good luck. Saint WeeNel.

La Vergne, TN

Everything stated is correct. The LD value which determines basically the hazard value is very high for inhalation, meaning it wouldn't take a lot to breath in to get sick, but let's face it no one puts their faces in the container. A well ventilated area is fine. The ld value for getting it on your skin, ingesting it or getting it in your eyes is really really high. Meaning not a great chance of anything happening to you. Wash your hands after using. Look for a RH that contains a fungicide, thats my only recommendation. Don't let the warning scare you from having fun. In the US we are required to have warning labels (caution, warning, danger) attached to chemicals sold. I've used it for years propagating. Check for when the best time to propagate for your plant is and on your way you go. It just sounds harder than it is.

Long Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

I've never seen "gel" type RH as WeeNel mentioned. Maybe we don't have it in the USA ???

La Vergne, TN

I've never seen it either. In college all we had were different strenghts of RH.

Long Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

Same was in big plastic gallon containers and numbered 1,2, and 3...I don't even remember which one was used for what type of cuttings.

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

On one of Spunkster's other threads someone from the US mentioned a gel based RH too so I guess there may be one over here. I've seen things that are blocks of gel that have RH in them already and you stick your cuttings in the block of gel to root them, but that's not quite the same.

Long Beach, CA(Zone 10a)

There's a grower near me who uses that Oasis floral foam soaked in some sort of rooting hormone for hydrangeas, azaleas and other blooming greenhouse plants. I asked one of the workers what the RH was and of course, he had no clue.

Big Lake, MN(Zone 4a)

They do sell the gel in the US. Here is one place on line that has it They sell a lot of seed starting equipment. I learned of the site here in DG but don't remember what thread it was under.

(Laura) Olympia, WA(Zone 8a)

Is there anything common you can use to cuttings root?

This message was edited Aug 17, 2008 8:30 PM

Hillsborough, NC(Zone 7b)

It is the talc and the silica in the mixture that likely has stimulated the inhalation warnings. Both are irritants to the resp tract (cough/wheezing - that sort of issue). With chronic exposure (prob many (many) years) the silica can cause a pneumoconosis - sort of a scarred/stiff/small/inflammed lung or can be carcinogenic. I don't think (not 100 percent sure) that is true for the talc component.

The talc in an open wound can cause a nodule or granuloma - so that is why the skin precaution is there.
There should be a MSDS available for the product.

Chillicothe, OH

Zhinu--I think you asked was there anything 'common' you could use to root cuttings? I mentioned you can use nothing at all besides rooting medium. If you're seeking *free* things to use to root things, you can try sticking them in water.

Willow cuttings generate a natural rooting hormone.

I could easily write a book on all the different ways you could attempt to root things. What you want is the PROPAGATION forum for more information. Tell them what you want to propagate so they can best help you.


Stafford, VA(Zone 7a)

You all are great, thanks for your responses. As I mentioned in another post, I am somewhat of a 'chemophobe' (just w/products with these kind of warnings, not like with windex or something, although I try to chose green cleaning products) and so when I saw the warnings on this, I was pretty taken aback. Jasperdale, thanks for the detailed info, even if I don't use the powder, you've really helped me out w/the step-by-step seeing that I am a newbie gardener. WeeNel, here is the info on the product, I picked it up at Lowe's:

Green Light Rooting Hormone

Caution: causes eye irritation, Harmful if inhaled or absorbed through the skin. Avid contact with skin, eyes or clothing. Avoid beathing dust. Wash thoroughly with soap and water after handling. Remove contamiated clothing and wash clothing before reuse.

First aid: ...If on skin or clothing: Take off contaminated clothing. Rinse skin with plenty of water for 15-20 min. Call a poison control center or doctor for treatment advice. If inhaled, move person to fresh air. If person is not breathing call 911 or an ambulance then give artifical respiration.

See, this is not good news for a chemophobe, especially the 'if person is not breathing' part :)

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

I guess any form of fine talc type powders are dangerous IF inhaled, I know for many years new parents are warned not to use the famous baby talc on babies as it has been recorded in several countries that babied were developing lung problems, it is so fine, when babies breath it in the air as mum shakes the canister, the baby gets it into their lungs, it sticks to the linings of their lungs as when new born, the lungs are not fully developed (tell that to a new mum who has heard baby crying for hours eh) now they are told IF they use it, to dab it on with cotton balls, very sparingly.
I know I use lots of the hormone powders, but the container sits away from me and I just dip the tip of the cutting into it, shake the excess off by tapping the container and pop the cutting into the already made hole, soon as I am finished, the top goes back onto the container and it is then stored away high up and safe, but maybe there are always some people who will stick there nose where it shouldn't be, precautions are always best observed.
Please dont let all this chat put anyone off using the powder, it is good for striking cuttings, but always use common sense. WeeNel.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Spunkster, you are so right to be warey of all these things, and so right to ask and check things out, I hope you didn't think I was taking your question lightly, please let me say sorry if you thought that of me. I come on this site to encourage people to try gardening, not to poke fun or put them off. I think you have already made us realise that we should all read the warnings and use things with care when there is any form of danger, caution is best. good luck. WeeNel.

Stafford, VA(Zone 7a)

Thanks also for the gel link, I'm going to check that out now. - ecrane, where do you find the dip -n- grow? Although, you say it has the same warnings so I may not want to use it, however, if it is in liquid form at least it will not plume up into a toxic cloud....

I have a new Willow in my yard newly planted this Spring. What do you use of the willow? The compound which is made into aspirin comes from the bark, is it an aqueous extract of the bark which is used for rooting? Not sure I want to take bark as of yet though since it is still just a baby tree, but will keep this in mind for the future. Melis, I think you mentioned in another post that aspirin may work just as well? I'm going to go do some research on this. :)

Dublin, CA(Zone 9a)

I got the Dip n Grow online somewhere, can't remember where unfortunately since it was a long time ago. If you google it you should find sources though, or else any place that sells a lot of other propagation supplies likely has it. I shop most often at Charley's Greenhouse and Gardeners' Supply, so it wouldn't surprise me if it was one of those places I got it from. It is a liquid.

For the willow, I think what most people do is just take some willow branches and stick them in water, then stick the cutting they want to root in the water too. Chemically aspirin is very similar to a compound found in willow, so it may work instead, although I don't think either aspirin or willow water will work as well as rooting hormone for cuttings that are a bit hard to root.

Stafford, VA(Zone 7a)

WeeNel, no, not at all! Thank you for your response. I completely understand that many people such as you have used these products for ages with no recourse. I'm just one of those people who is admittedly overly cautious about using anything potentially toxic! Dirt though, is good, bugs (unless they crawl up my leg, eek!), fungus, manure I'm all happy with.... I will figure this out. I'll first try to propagate once again, taking all of the kind advice everyone has given me, but perhaps without using the rooting hormone for now until I find a liquid or gel like ecrane suggested. People have said in these posts that hydrangea is easy to propagate...we'll see! I will update everyone on my second (!) attempt at rooting cuttings!

Jacksonville, NC(Zone 8b)

Try to google in "start new plants from cuttings" I just happened on it one day and it shows a video on this. I'm a visual learner, so it helped me to see her do it. Good luck.

Ayrshire Scotland, United Kingdom

Hi Spunkster, not all plants need or like the rooting hormones, I know for me things like summer bedding Geraniums dont come good for me if I use it, but without it, dont have a problem, Hydrangea cuttings will root without it as will Willow, willow more or less just needs to touch the soil and it takes root, We have an old picture of my Great Grandmother sitting on her lawn in a willow basket chair and as it sat outdoors all winter, one of the legs took root, For Hydrangea's, use cuttings about 6/8 inches, remove any flower buds and most of the foliage, the part you are going to poke into the soil, cut this at a slant so that more of the cut part is exposed to the soil, stick them around the edge of the pot and within about 6 weeks most till have rooted, I only leave the top 2 leaves on the cuttings and if these are really large leaves, I then cut the leaves in half as this causes less stress to the cuttings as you want them to grow roots instead. Some folks then put the pot into a Polly bag to keep moisture in, but I dont even bother with that, just place them in a light but shady place either indoors or outside, but you need to water them in a bowl of water so the soil gets moisture instead of the leaves, good luck, you will get there in the end finding a method that suites you and then the fun really begins,

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