Home Made Plant Rooting Hormone – Willow Water


Weeping Willow (Salix babylonica)


Willows are an amazing tree that have captivated humanity since time immemorial. They appear in the ancient legends, tales, folklore and customs of the Chinese, Egyptians, Greeks, Brits, Celts and American Indians. They even feature in three of William Shakespeare’s plays, Hamlet, Othello and Twelfth Night.

Some folklore associated with willows is fascinating – my two favourites are are that it is bad luck to tell a secret while standing under a willow, as the wind that blows through the leaves will reveal the secret to everyone, and that striking an animal or a child with a willow twig will stunt their growth! They did have some strange ideas way back  in Medieval Europe!

Surely, there is something “magical” about these trees, for them to capture our attention so strongly.They have some interesting and unique properties, as we’ll explore in this article!



Willows – A Brief Introduction

Willows are fast growing, deciduous trees that are mainly found found in the the Northern Hemisphere, in cold arctic and north temperate zones, in regions with moist soils. The Weeping Willow appears to be a native of extra-tropical Asia, from Japan and China to Armenia and the banks of the Euphrates, and of Egypt and North Africa.

One of the most popular and familiar willows is the Weeping willow (Salix babylonica), it has exceptional form and beauty. When mature it exhibits graceful, wide-spreading, pendulous weeping branches, with a short trunk, and a broad rounded crown. Its leaves are thin and narrow, sometimes with whitened or silky undersides. It is fast growing, and adaptable to almost any soil conditions.


Willows are an incredibly useful tree, they have many useful functions:

  1. Source of Medicine – The use of willow bark dates back thousands of years, to the time of Hippocrates (400 BC) when patients were advised to chew on the bark to reduce fever and inflammation. Willow bark has been used throughout the centuries in China and Europe, and continues to be used today for the treatment of pain (particularly low back pain and osteoarthritis), headache, and inflammatory conditions such as bursitis and tendinitis. The bark of white willow contains salicin, which is a chemical similar to aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid). It is thought to be responsible for the pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory effects of the herb. In fact, in the 1800s, salicin was used to develop aspirin. White willow appears to be slower than aspirin to bring pain relief, but its effects may last longer. (Ref: University of Maryland  Medical Centre, Medical Reference – Complementary Medicine – Willow Bark)
  2. Source of Material for Construction and Manufacturing – Willow wood is used to make furniture, tool handles, wood veneers, and toys. It is used in wood turning as it is easily worked, and is also used to make cricket bats. Willows are a source of wicker for basketry (weaving of wicker baskets) and for making fish traps. The wood can also be used as a source of fibre for making rope, string and paper. Charcoal used by artists is exclusively made from willow.
  3. Source of Energy – Willow is grown for biomass, a renewable energy source which reduces the need for fossil fuels and petroleum products. Willow can be converted into a variety of sustainable environmentally-friendly resources, including: 1. heat and electricity by direct combustion, co-firing with coal, and gasification; 2. biodegradable plastics and other polymers; 3. biofuels.
    Willows are an ideal source of biomass because 1. Willows are easily propagated from unrooted cuttings; 2. High yields can be obtained in a few years, 3. Willow’s genetic diversity and short breeding cycle can be utilized to produce improved varieties; 4. Willows vigorously re-sprout after each harvest; 5. The amount of heat in a dry ton of willow is similar to other hardwoods.
    Large scale projects to support willow as an energy crop are already at commercial scale in Sweden, and in other countries there are being developed through initiatives such as the Willow Biomass Project in the US and the Energy Coppice Project in the UK. (Ref: College of Environmental Science and Forestry – The Willow Biomass Project)
  4. Ecological/Environmental Uses – Willows have many beneficial environmental uses. They can be used in the following areas:
    Riparian buffers – Natural barriers that prevent chemicals from entering streams, ponds, and lakes.
    Phytoremediation – Willows clean up toxins from contaminated sites. 
    Wastewater management (biofiltration) – Willows filter contaminants from wastewater, and can be used in ecological wastewater treatment systems.
    Environmental protection and preservation – Willows are often used for land reclamation, streambank stabilisation (bioengineering), slope stabilisation, soil erosion control, shelterbelt and  windbreak construction, soil building, and soil reclamation.
    Environmental reconstruction – Willows are used for constructing wetlands and wildlife habitat.
    Gardening – Willows are used for in the construction of hedges, “living fences” and other living garden structures and general landscaping
    Living snowfences – Strategically planted willows trap drifting snow.
    Farming – Willows can used by farmers as an animal forage to feed their stock.
  5. Horticultural Uses – Willow bark contains natural plant growth hormones which can be used for rooting new cuttings. This is the area that we’ll be looking at in this article! 

    One of the most amazing properties of willows is their growth! Coppicing a willow (that is cutting it back to ground level) will result in numerous rods growing from the base that will grow at an amazing rate of 1.2-3.0m in a single season. A broken willow branch left in water will grow roots. Willows successfully root from very thick pieces of stem, this method is known as taking “trunk cuttings”, and a stem as thick as a human thigh will take root of put into damp ground. Willow cuttings can even grow if put in upside-down (but please do the right thing and put them in the right way up)! This property of willows is due to the naturally occurring plant rooting hormones that they contain. We can take advantage of this naturally occurring hormone, and make extracts that we can use to induce rooting on cuttings of other plants.



“Willow Water” – How it Works

“Willow Water” is a homebrew plant rooting hormone that is easily made and can be used to increase the strike rate (growth of roots) of cuttings that you’re trying to propagate.

The way that it works can be attributed to two substances that can be found within the Salix (Willow) species, namely, indolebutyric acid (IBA) and Salicylic acid (SA).

Indolebutyric acid (IBA) is a plant hormone that stimulates root growth. It is present in high concentrations in the growing tips of willow branches. By using the actively growing parts of a willow branch, cutting them, and soaking them in water, you can get significant quantities of IBA to leach out into the water.

Salicylic acid (SA) (which is a chemical similar to the headache medicine Aspirin) is a plant hormone which is involved in signalling a plant’s defences, it is involved in the process of “systemic acquired resistance” (SAR) – where an attack on one part of the plant induces a resistance response to pathogens (triggers the plant’s internal defences) in other parts of the plant. It can also trigger a defence response in nearby plants by converting the salicylic acid into a volatile chemical form.

When you make willow water, both salicylic acid and IBA leach into the water, and both have a beneficial effect when used for the propagation of cuttings. One of the biggest threats to newly propagated cuttings is infection by bacteria and fungi. Salicylic acid helps plants to fight off infection, and can thus give cuttings a better chance of survival. Plants, when attacked by infectious agents, often do not produce salicylic acid quickly enough to defend themselves, so providing the acid in water can be particularly beneficial.

Willow water can be made from cuttings of any tree or shrub of the willow family, a group of plants with the scientific name of Salix. The more cuttings that are used and the longer they are soaked in water, the stronger will be the resulting willow water. Recommendations for the exact method of soaking vary. Cold water can be used, and soaking times of four or more weeks are often quoted. Other gardeners use boiling water to steep the willow twigs and soak the mixture for around 24 hours.



How to Make “Willow Water”

Here is the procedure for making willow water:

  1. Collect young first-year twigs and stems of any of willow (Salix spp.) species, these have green or yellow bark. Don’t use the older growth that has brown or gray bark.
  2. Remove all the leaves, these are not used. Don’t waste good green material though, compost the leaves or throw them in the garden as mulch.
  3. Take the twigs and cut them up into short pieces around 1" (2.5cm) long.
  4. The next step is to add the water. there are several techniques to extract the natural plant rooting hormones:

    a) Place the chopped willow twigs in a container and cover with boiling water, just like making tea, and allow the “tea” to stand overnight.

    b) Place the chopped willow twigs in a container and cover with tap water (unheated), and let it soak for several days.

  5. When finished, separate the liquid from the twigs by carefully pouring out the liquid, or pouring it through a strainer or sieve. The liquid is now ready to use for rooting cuttings. You can keep the liquid for up to two months if you put it in a jar with a tight fitting lid and keep the liquid in the refrigerator. Remember to label the jar so you remember what it is, and write down the date you brewed it up, and to aid the memory, write down the date that it should be used by, which is two months from the date it was made!  
  6. To use, just pour some willow water into a small jar, and place the cuttings in there like flowers in a vase, and leave them there to soak overnight for several hours so that they take up the plant rooting hormone. Then prepare them as you would when propagating any other cuttings.

    The second way to use willow water is to use it to water the propagating medium in which you have placed cuttings. Watering your cuttings twice with willow water should be enough to help them root.



In Summary

As you can see, this is a garden potion that is really easy to brew up, and it keeps in line with the Permaculture principles of avoiding waste and caring for the Earth – no purchased synthetic chemicals, containers, it’s all natural, and best of all, free! So, next time you’re out on a hot summer’s day enjoying the shade and natural cooling provided by a majestic willow, grab a few twigs and take them home to help you in propagating plants for your garden!


128 Responses to Home Made Plant Rooting Hormone – Willow Water

  1. david hicks says:

    What an extraordinary amount of information about the willow, as well as clear instructions on making a potentially very helpful ‘garden potion’. Thank you to the author.

  2. Barbara Nudd says:

    Great article, great sharing. Thanks!

  3. Pingback: Weekly Roundup – Rooting Hormone, Eco House and Leftovers Recipes

  4. terese says:

    sounds great i will give it a try

  5. kimlan says:

    it is a wonderful way of making home made hormone . Could i just leave the rooting in the willow until the roots start to come out as i did with the rooting powder that i bought at the store ? thank you

    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi, I’m sorry I don’t quite understand what the question is. If you mean leaving the cuttings in the willow water until they grow roots, you can only do this with plants that you can normally root in water, any other plant will rot. Just leave the cuttings in the willow water overnight, for a few hours, that will do. To use the rooting powder, you just put the cut end of the plant straight into the powder, and it sticks onto the cut surface, it is used dry (unless the instructions state otherwise), and then you put your cutting into your propagating medium.

      • What about tomato cuttings. I wouldn’t think one should leave them in the liquid overnight. How long should you soak those?

      • Blackthorn says:

        Hi Daniel,

        Since tomatoes are herbaceous, and have soft stems, it would be easier to use the second method I suggest in the article:

        The second way to use willow water is to use it to water the propagating medium in which you have placed cuttings. Watering your cuttings twice with willow water should be enough to help them root.

        Tomato cuttings take quite easily, so adding the willow water to their propagating medium should work very well.


  6. Catherine Dunn says:

    I love your website, learning heaps.

    Would the willow water also help young seedlings get established in the garden? At present I seem to lose about 25% of my seedlings.

    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi Catherine,

      The willow water mainly helps cutting grow new roots. To help young seedlings get established, seawed extract works well, as it’s very rich in minerals, and helps plants develop a good, strong root structure. Also, if you’re losing seedlings, check that they are getting enough water, or conversely, that they’re not being overwatered, and make sure that pests areen’t getting to them!


  7. STEPHANIE says:

    Will this work with other than the Weeping Willow which does not grow in my area?? We have other willows that do and what about the common Pussy Willow?? If none are available and I use Asparin in it’s place what Mg. Aspirin should be used to how much water??

    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi Stephanie,

      As I ,mentioed in the article “Willow water can be made from cuttings of any tree or shrub of the willow family, a group of plants with the scientific name of Salix. ”
      So, yes, any willow can be used!

      The indolebutyric acid (IBA) in willow water is what makes the roots grow.

      The salicylates (which are contained in aspirin) are only involved in signalling a plant’s defences, so when one part of the plant is attecked it triggers the plant’s internal defences in other parts of the plant.

      So, no, aspirin can’t be used as a substutute for willow water as it doesn’t contain the growth hormones.

  8. steve says:

    HI Thanks for all that info – very good. Do you know if willow water can be used to help stimulate the roots of newly planted Bonsai trees? Just a thought tjhat seemed to make sense….

    • Blackthorn says:

      Yes, willow water is root hormone, and will stimulate root production, but remember, the bonsai already have roots, and will grow them well enough on their own, but do need something to assist root production, and for this purpose, seaweed extract works very well. Seaweed extract is packed with a wide range of minerals and helps plants build strong root systems, so this is what I would recommend.

  9. steve says:

    Thanks very much – very kind of you to respond with more info, appreciate it – Have a nice Xmas.

  10. sara2sara says:

    best article on willows ever!!! thanks

  11. homer says:

    Very nicely done.
    Any benefit to crushing or beating the willow pieces to expose more surface to the water while making willow water?

    • Blackthorn says:

      Thanks! I’m guessing that if you crushed the willow branches you should get the plant hormone out a bit quicker! To be honest, I’ve never tried crushing the branches first.

  12. scotto says:

    Is there any way to measure concentration of the solution and a possible dilution rate to extend your brew? Ty

    • Blackthorn says:

      Not that I’m aware of without laboratory equipment! It’s a ‘home brew’ recipe, and seems to be something that people have experimented with over time until they got it to work, and passsed the information on to others.

  13. Jay Wang says:

    If I only have a limited supply of willow cuttings, how do I keep them indefinitely so that I can have a ready supply of willow water? Do I need to plant the rooted willow cuttings in soil?

    I got some cuttings a while back and soaked them in water. Most died and several survived and started to have tiny new twigs and leaves. What should I do to keep them alive and producing more water?

    Thanks for sharing your knowledge with fellow gardeners.

    • Blackthorn says:

      There’s a simple way to keep willow cuttings indefinitely, plant one of the rooted cuttings in a pot of reasonable size, say a pot 50cm wide, and you’ll have a big bonsai willow tree too. Don’t put the cuttings in the soil unless you live on a farm, and wish to grow a very large shade tree, and if you do, don’t put them in a location where the roots will intefere with water pipes, etc.

  14. shashank says:

    thank you v much for marvellous information. shashank, India

  15. Jennifer says:

    I recently received this information from an old friend and really wasn’t sure he knew what he was talking about. So I got online to research and found your website. I am believer now…wish me luck. Thanks for the article.

  16. George Maurer says:

    I was given a large bunch of young willow branches with the pollen still attached…young growth. Any reasonn why I can’t use these brances with the pollen, minus leaves, for your first method of making willow water (Pour on boiling water and leave for overnight)?
    I have about 200+ grape cuttings now in pots which are in the process of rooting and wish to use the willow water to aid their rooting.



    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi, the young growth is good for making willow water, just remove the pollen, that doesn’t need to be there.


  17. Theresa says:

    I’m wondering if you can use pussy willow for this?

    • Blackthorn says:

      Yes, you can, any of the salix genus (willow family) will work. If the cuttings take root very easily, then they’re a variety that’s filled with the plant hormone you need for willow water!

  18. Nomar says:

    There’s salicylic acid in some acne medication creams you can get at wal-mart & other stores. Can you use these creams to intensify the root-hormone brew?

    • Blackthorn says:

      The short answer is no. Salicylic acid is also present in apririn and many other medications. These medications contain many other things not conducive to rooting cuttings, and remember, it’s the plant hormone IBA that induces rooting of the cuttings, which is not found in any human medication.

  19. Great article. Many thanks. I would like more specific info about the proportion of willow to the water it soaks in to make the willow water. Also, when I soak cuttings in the willow water, can I reuse the willow water for other cuttings at a later time? Or will the cuttings have made it unfit for reuse? I understand that willows have been seen growing under black walnut trees. I would like to grow my own willow tree from a cutting that I recently took, and the best place by far, given the small size of the area where I can grow things and the space constraints, is under a black walnut tree. It is in a sunny place where another black walnut used to stand next to the one on the land we steward, but that tree was cut down recently.

    • Blackthorn says:

      No specific proportions are required, this isn’t an exact science, plant hormones are chemical messengers that will stimulate the plant to respond in a certain way, the recipe supplied will provide sufficient active ingredients for the task. Ypu should be able to get several uses out of the same batch of willow water before the active ingredients are depleted or are rendered inactive.

      Now, with growing a willow under a black walnut, we’re talking some seriously big trees here! The willow will grow 35-50 feet high, with a spread of around 35 feet, while a black walnut will grow around 70-90 feet tall and roughly just as wide! You mention “given the small size of the area where I can grow things and the space constraints” – hope you have the space, these are full size forest trees! Black walnuts are allelopathic, that is, they exude a chemical, juglone (5-hydroxy-alphanapthaquinone), which suppress the growth of almost every plant around them, so if you can get a willow growing in that space, that will be quite good.

      There is a good article entitled “How to Plant Willows Next to Black Walnuts” – http://homeguides.sfgate.com/plant-willows-next-black-walnuts-23006.html

      They state that some trees, such as willow, are more tolerant of juglone, and emphasise planting the willow tree outside of the area that will be the black walnut’s drip line when it matures, which is about 60 feet from the black walnut. This is because the juglone is released when rain washes over the leaves, and it is exuded from the roots which reach up to the drip line of the tree canopy. Also mentioned is the importance of keeping the area around the willow free from any debris from the black walnut, such as fallen branches, nuts and hulls, to prevent the juglone leaching into the soil.

  20. Nomar says:

    I’ve heard you could substitute willow water with asprin

  21. Blackthorn says:

    As per my previous comment, no, apririn is not a substitute. Salicylic acid is present in apririn, and in willows, and this is the source of the confusion.

    Salicylic acid only signals a plant’s defences in the whole plant when one part of the plant is attacked.

    Indolebutyric acid (IBA) is the plant hormone in willow water that induces rooting of the cuttings, which is not found in aspirin.

  22. gaiamethod says:

    Living in Upper Egypt makes things a little more ‘interesting’ as I have to make everything!!! i want to take cuttings from my husbands’ fig and apple trees and discovered this willow hormone rooting only yesterday! Thankfully we can get willow here so I will get some and plant them on our farm which we are building towards now. Many thanks for this really good information!!!

  23. Kady Strouse says:

    will this work if i water my veggie garden and flowers with the willow water?

    • Blackthorn says:

      There would be no point to that, they already have roots! Better using the liquid from a worm farm to help them grow, compost tea, liquid fertiliser made out of weeds/comfrey leaves etc.

      • gaiamethod says:

        Compost tea? Here in Luxor we tea like it is going out of fashion but it is powder tea!!! There is always a lot of it and i have been putting it on my compost heap with all the stuff my chickens can’t eat. But I’m not sure if it is going to work that way? They burn everything here in the food oven even dried donkey manure so trying to get a compost heap going effectively is a challenge!!! Tea compost would be a bonus!!

      • Blackthorn says:

        Yes compost tea, it’s tea for plants, not people! Perhaps I should write up an article on how to make up this amazing brew for your garden!

      • gaiamethod says:

        Good idea! I would be interested to read it!

  24. It was too late in the season as the blueberrys had already budded. I am impatient, so I cut some blueberry sprigs about 3 inches long, dipped them in my homade willow hormone, and watered them a few times with hormone and also water. They did not wilt. I shall keep a daily eye on them and hopefully get four more medium blueberry bushes.

  25. L-Jay says:

    I know you said that the leaves are not used, but if you make willow water with the leaves as well as the stems, will that work too?

  26. Blackthorn says:

    If you add the leaves, you’ll just be adding a whole lot more unecessary compounds that are not known to assist root production in cuttings. The willow leaves will just leach out flavonoids, salicylates, reducing sugars, amino acids, phenolic compounds, and tannins into your willow water. With all this extra stuff in there, chances are the willow water probably won’t keep that well! Not sure if all these chemicals will react with the IBA and whether they will affect how well it would work either. Best to just remove the leaves.

  27. cathy rowe says:

    I come from uncountable generations of farmers, & have hort degree. while studying hort. at u of del., I set out to debunk the old farmers “wives tales” I grew up with, mainly my grandmothers trick of rooting her cuttings in willow water. Ha! boy was I sutprised! Dispite 4 yrs of formal hort. education, I’ve gone “back to my roots” & grow exclusivly organic. morale of the story…. never underestimate granny!

    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi Cathy,
      There’s a lot of tried and proven wisdom there if we are clever enough to seek it from those who have already gained these skills in the older generations.

      Dr Vandana Shiva who was in the film “The Economics of Happiness” talks about the importance of “Grandmother’s Universities” as an important way of transferring skills from one generation to the next.

      From Dr Vandana Shiva’s web site:

      “The Grandmothers’ University … is aimed at both celebrating and validating the wisdom of our grandmothers, as well as transmitting this to future generations to arrest the rapid erosion of skills, knowledge and values which women had evolved over millenia to live sustainably. Through the Grandmothers’ University also hopes to nurture the trans-generational responsibility, both of grandmother to transmit the Traditional Knowledge and our future generation to seek, receive and honour the accumulated wisdom of earlier generations.”

  28. Misako says:

    Six years ago, we added a twig of curly willow to a flower arrangement to add interest to the display, and you guessed it, it rooted. When I told my plant-savvy friend, she told me about how its rooting hormone helps other plants to take root, and it’s done wonders streamlining that process for me on various kinds of cuttings. My husband planted it outside in our small yard next to the house, hoping that it would be a small ornamental tree, but unfortunately, (in just six years), it is now as tall as our three story house, and has to come down. I hate losing my beautiful curly willow – there’s no help for that, but I also hate losing my source of rooting hormone. Is there a way to prepare the willow tips – perhaps dry them – to preserve the hormone long-term? Maybe freezing very concentrated tea?

    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi Misako,

      You do realise that you can bonsai most trees to keep them the size that you want, whether they are in pots or in the ground. If you cut down the willow at ground level, it will regrow, and a small sapling will grow up from the stump. Prune it to the height where you would like it to start branching, and keep the branches short by frequent pruning. If that sounds too tricky, take a willow cutting and put it in water till it roots, then grow the tree in a pot or container. Prune it for willow tips when needed, and then cut the branches back short when it loses all its leaves in winter, it regrows more branches in spring – this is what I do, as I don’t have the space for a full sized willow, so I grow it in a 40cm (16″) wide pot and I prune the tree to keep it about 1.5m (5′) high.


  29. Charlie Little says:

    I wonder if this will also work in plant tissue culture propagation as the media liquid in the agar or gelatin preparation? Boiling water is mentioned so I’m guessing it doesn’t affect the hormone efficacy.

    • Blackthorn says:

      I’m not really sure if the willow water might affect the sterility of the agar medium, or if the other constituents of the willow water will affect the in-vitro cell replication. I don’t have any experience propagating plants using tissue culture. IBA has a melting point of 125 °C so it survives boiling in water at atmospheric temperature. Might be a worthwhile experiment? Mind you, there are research papers on the use of IBA (chemically pure laboratory grade) in tissue culture systems, and only the absence or extremely low levels of IBA or other hormones during the initiation stage favoured shoot growth, this stage is far better without it. In the transplantation and multiplication stages, IBA assisted new shoot production and shoot growth rate. I think willow water may be too crude a mix for such a delicate and sensitive process to be honest with you.

  30. Sarah Othman says:

    Cool beans….!

  31. lloyd says:

    Apparently it also works for grafting – I will try it this southern spring an let you know how it goes.
    Cheers Lloyd

  32. Lisa Stringer says:

    My mother in law’s weeping willow tree died and fell over and yesterday was cut up by my husband and son. Can the wood or bark be used in any way, either medicinally or for willow water purposes? I hate the thought of this going to waste.

  33. Carmela Martini says:

    So glad to have come upon your blog! I’m new at this and was wondering if it’s too late in the season to try to propagate some plants now. I would love to get them ready for planting in my yard by spring. Thanks!

    • Blackthorn says:

      Depends which side of the planet you’re on, it’s spring down here in the southern hemisphere! I’m assuming you’re in the northern hemisphere – if they have just lost their leaves or about to, you’re best to wait until late winter, and take cuttings while the willow tree is dormant. When the weather warms up, and leaves emerge, they will grow roots very quickly. The cuttings can go into the ground fairly quicly if you jsut keep their soil moist.

  34. lloyd says:

    Well I can report that willow water works very well for grafting.

    The best results were from the following method – 1 make the whip graft cut in the wood you want to graft on – 2 soak this in willow water for about 5 mins – 3 make the second cut on the tree you want to graft onto – 4 make the join and bind with grafting tape etc. good luck

    • Angelo (admin) says:

      Yes, that’s correct, from my understanding, the IBA in the willow water actually assists the formation of callus tissue, and that will form whatever cells the plant requires.

      With cuttings, it will form roots, while with grafts it will form new cambium cells (the green layer under the bark which you need to line up to join the graft).

  35. s. wendel says:

    saeweed is good to add to the willow tea, however… seaweed has a small amount of nitrogen, which almost completely stops root growth. if you can get ahold of some 100% organic marine algae- it contains no nitrogen. the algae i use is 0-4-4. ive even heard of leonardite working well also or extracs of leonardite, such as humic acid. not sure, however, if it contains N.

  36. Rachel says:

    Great Info! This really helped me out with my school project on weeping willows. Thanks!

  37. Twilla Logan says:

    I have read of willow water in a book by William Cullina and also in a book by Michael Dirr.

    Michael Dirr says you can keep willow water in the refrigerator for 6 years. Mr. Cullina makes a more general statement, saying that willow water can be stored in the refrigerator for several years.

    Michael Dirr: THE REFERENCE MANUAL OF WOODY PLANT PROPAGATION, 2nd edition, Page 33.

    William Cullina: NATIVE TREES, SHRUBS, & VINES, Pages 272-273

  38. Mikkel says:

    Im going to use root hormone for some rare seeds that have short viability, but since it is winter and my willow has dropped its leaves long ago, can I still use it for willow water? Yesterday I did an experiment: I chopped a 1-2 year twig and put it in water and placed infront of the fireplace. The twig looked dead and collorless both on the outside and inside, but after one hour the twig was filled with small white dots all over. (I guess they are roots forming? ).

    Anyway, my question is, are there any significant seasonal variation in the presence of hormones in willow? Can I use it all year round?

    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi Mikkel, root hormone is only for rooting cuttings, not germinating seeds.

      Since you would only root cuttings during their growing season, you would therefore only use willow only when it is growing , not when it is dormant.

      The small white dots that appeared after you soaked the dormant willow branches in water in front of the fire are just air bubbles emerging from the plant tissue, no plant can show growth of root tissue within an hour. Not even willow grows that fast!

      If your rare seeds are meant to be germinated in spring or summer, then it is best to wait until then as often plant growth is not only regulated by temperature but daylight length too. Techniques such as using heating mats to apply bottom heat to seedling trays works well for many seeds, but I recommend that you check what the requirements are for the rare seeds in terms of light, temperature, humidity, sowing depth, etc.

  39. Mikkel says:

    Thanks for your quick response!

    I already made the willow water anyway.

    The seeds are Banisteriopsis Caapi (Ayahuasca), and they only come in late autumn and have a viability only for a month or two, so it couldnt wait any longer. Im groing them under LED lights, so hopefully it will work out.

    I have done tissue culture before and know that stuff like BAP and Kinetin are great for germinating seeds in sterile envirenment, so I figured that difficult seeds under normal conditions could benefit from root hormone as well, but I dont know.

    I soaked half of them in the willow water for 4 hours now, and half of them in honey water, so at least lets call it an experiment.

  40. Trudi says:

    Excellent information. Growing up in Europe, I have always known of the many uses of willows (including their use for carpet beaters – rather painful when used for corporal punishment), but I have never heard of willow water. As I am a compulsive propagator of plant material (I had over 400 rooted lavender cuttings last year), I have been using mainly honey because of its antiseptic qualities, but now I am keen to try willow water. As we are now heading into late summer in Australia, is it too late to take new branches to make willow water?

    Also, what kind of willow do you have growing in a pot as I want to do likewise. My garden is too small and I don’t think that the ACT government would appreciate it if I planted a willow on their land.

    Can you also advise how well willow water works with Australian natives, such as Callistemon and Grevilleas?

    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi, Im growing weeping willow (Salix babylonica) in a pot.

      The brnches are still growing in summer so they should work for making plant rooting hormone.

      Cuttings of Australian natives are normally treated with rooting hormone so the willow water will work when propagating them.

      • Trudi says:

        Hi again and thanks for the advice.

        Since then I have gone out and picked some weeping willow branches, made willow water and also placed a bundle of sticks into water. I now have some 25 rooted willow cuttings.

        So if there is someone in Canberra who would like to grow their own weeping willow in a pot, I gladly share the cuttings.

  41. LIKUNSE LIFUA says:

    Very useful article, thanks for sharing.

  42. Hrishi says:

    i’m trying to root coffee plant cutting.Is it even possible to root a coffee cutting ? The tropical here is hot humid with no cold.Can you suggest any tropical tree that i can use to extract natural rooting hormone ?

    • Blackthorn says:

      You can root coffee Coffea arabica cuttings, but they do take a long time to root, about 8 weeks or longer I believe, they are not easy cuttings to propagate. Best to use semi-woody or woody cuttings with rooting hormone. They can also be propagated by air layering apparently.

      Willows don’t grow in the tropics, I’m unaware of any tropical plant that contains natural rooting hormones that can be extracted. If anyone has any idea, many people would like to know!

  43. Tony says:

    Many thanks for sharing your in-depth knowledge it is much appreciated, especially the bit about the tips having the highest concentration of active ingredients.

  44. Tina says:

    For those who have no willow growing, can willow tips be harvested when fresh and then dried for use in places willow does not grow? General question–can dried willow be used as effectively as long as it was harvested correctly?

    • Blackthorn says:

      From the references I can find on the chemical properties of IBA, it is meant to be stable at room temperatures, it melts at 125 degrees celcius and decomposes before it reaches boiling point, so that would suggest that it should keep as a dried product, but I’m only speculating here, the only way to know is to try dried willow twigs to see if they work!

  45. Robert says:

    Great information! Only I do not find a clear suggestion as to the ratio which is most effective. That is, about what total length of small willow branches, cut into pieces, in what quantity of water? Can it be made too weak or too strong??

  46. Blackthorn says:

    The beauty of this technique is that you don’t need exact proportions, that’s a modern preoccupation of exactness which isn’t something we need to be too concerned with, mainly because it’s a completely unnatural state of affairs. Unlike the artificial systems which humans create which aim for unrealistic uniformity, Nature thrives on variation – there is biological variation in all living organisms, and as a result, the percentage of IBA will vary (within a certain range) from one willow to another, and from month to month and from one year. Herbal medicines vary similarly, and they’ve worked for centuries across all cultures.

    Most commercial rooting hormones available contain the rooting hormone IBA in a talc dry base in concentrations from 0.1% to 0.8% active ingredient for use with the dry dip method. Liquid applications range from as low as 20ppm to 10000 ppm active ingredient (0.02%-1.0%). Only a tiny amount is used, that’s all that’s needed. In living organisms, hormones are chemical messengers that regulate biochemical processes over longer periods of time, they triggering sustained changes, they are not needed in huge quantities.

    It’s also important to understand the physical properties of the chemical IBA. IBA is not very soluble in water, so only a tiny amount will dissolve into your willow water solution anyway. If we look at the physical properties of IBA, in particular solubility, we see that it is possible to dissolve 34 times more IBA in an acetone than can be dissolved in water.

    IBA Solubility – In water at 20 degrees C (mg /L): 14,700
    IBA Solubility – In organic solvents at 20 degrees C (mg /L): 500,000 (In Acetone)

    With your willow water, put in as much twigs as you can into the container, then cover them with water in either of the two methods described. Only so much IBA can possibly dissolve in water, and that amount works to stimulate root growth.

  47. richard hiew says:

    “Willows don’t grow in the tropics” :your words on Feb 2, 2013. Some people say otherwise. Please reconfirm as I live in a tropical country.

    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi Richard,
      I’m not in a tropical climate, so I’m only going by what reference material I can find!
      I know willows grow in sub-tropics of China, but but if you have any information you can share for our readers in the tropical climates, please let us know.
      Much appreciated


  48. richard says:

    Hi blackthorn,
    I have included below two pic of the same tree taken this morning near where I live ie, Borneo. I know very little about trees, but this one looks like a willow. Is it a willow tree? can I make rooting water from it?

  49. Ray Gremillion says:

    Dude! This is fabulous. I live in SE Louisiana and this area has willows growing abundantly everywhere along our waterways. Would you mind if I share this info on other gardening websites and link them here?

    • Blackthorn says:

      Hi Ray, you can describe the article and provide a link back to it, I hope that’s what you mean! Thanks

  50. katehallberg says:

    Please be careful with non-natives, especially if they’re invasive! I live in the Front Range of Colorado and have battled Crack Willows for years. They grow fast, break easily and root from anything. As a friend recently said, “you can Never get rid of them!” That’s almost completely true. Nasty buggers.

  51. Karen says:

    Fantastic article! I am sooo excited to try this with blueberry cuttings. I live in NC and my bushes have a bunch of new growth this year that is just starting to harden up a bit. Do you think I could use this willow water to start cuttings?

    • Blackthorn says:

      You can definitely use willow water for blueberry cuttings!

      Blueberries can be propagated from softwood cuttings (4″-5″ inches long) in late spring from the tips of the current season’s growth, or from hardwood cuttings (5″-6″ inches long) when they are dormant and in the middle of winter (to ensure sufficient chilling, usually late Jan through Feb in the US) from strong shoots or “whips” that grew the previous summer.

  52. Vera DiblikovA says:

    I have Salix erythrobotrioides for more than 30 years, by hard prunning we kept it 2,5 m high, but our friends with only one sapling from ours tree and pair pergolas in 5 years covers their little garden completely. Thanks for wery useful and perfect article.

  53. The water to willow ratio was not addressed. How much water and how much wood? How do you suggest we make gel from this? Can I use a willow mulch to make the tea? Last but not least, can I give the tea to my plants before i cut clones from them?

    • Blackthorn says:

      To answer your three questions:

      1. Think of it as making tea, the traditional way without a teabag! There are no standardised measurements here. As long as the hormone in the willow dissolves in the water, it will work.

      2.You don’t need to make it a gel, you soak the cuttings in the liquid, and it soaks into them, which is better than a gel that sits on the surface.

      3. If your plants already have roots, then there’s no point giving them rooting hormone. Once you take cuttings from your plants, you want to induce the cuttings to grow roots.

  54. Robert says:

    The article at top of this thread is very nice — detailed and informative. I have produced a jar of willow water using the procedure from the article, and new growth from a neighbors tree.

    I do wish to have one bit of clarification!

    The article at top says the willow water can be used up to two months, IF refrigerated in a tight sealed container. However I find statements in other forums such as “keeping a container of ww on my greenhouse workbench”. That would certainly NOT be refrigerated!

    Does the ww quickly loose effectiveness if not cooled? Realistically, how soon is the product no longer useable? Does a willow tree produce new growth throughout the summer, allowing more ww to be produced?

    Thanks for comments………. Robert

    • Blackthorn says:

      Thanks! If you want to keep the willow water for several weeks, it’s best to refrigerate it to slow down the breakdown, it will eventually start breaking down and lose its active constituents as would a glass of herbal tea left outside for a really long time. Typically you’d use it all in a few days if you propagate large batches of cuttings.

      A willow tree is growing through spring and summer, and therefore will have green wood that contains IBA hormone that you can use..

  55. Jamie says:

    Is it ok to boil with the leaves on bark ?

  56. Julie says:

    Can you freeze willow water? Living in the Finger Lakes region of NYS I often find myself with idle time in the grey months, and experimenting with plants. I think ww would come in handy….

    • Blackthorn says:

      Looking up the chemical handling information for indolebutyric acid (IBA), the active component in willow water, we find that we are instructed to “keep from freezing”, so, the answer is no, you definitely cannot freeze willow water, but you can keep it cool in the refrigerator to make it last longer.

  57. Donna says:

    I am hoping to propagate some Leyland cypress cuttings with willow water. Once I soak the cutting in willow water do I have to plant it in dirt or can I just keep it in water until it roots?

    • Rita says:

      I found fascinating your article about the willow tree and it is true that soaking a thick branch from this tree, it grows root easily and it sure. Did mine :0). I have 3 willow small branches that grew new roots and leaves from the cuttings in a simple tap water in a vase .

  58. william says:

    I wonder if willow water can be used to grow seedles grapes out of store useing vine part.

  59. Hilda Rivera says:

    I have a weeping willow tree and it’s huge. Thank you so much for all that information on making Willow Water for rooting plants. Love your videos and will continue to see them and tell people about this unique website. Greatly appreciated : )

  60. Andrea Frtalich says:

    Hi! I enjoy your article! I love weeping willow tree. There is one growing wild with other trees & such. I broke off 5 branches&put them in water& left outside. It’s mid~summer when I did this&the clippings first turned brown & looked dead but then they sprouted leaves&roots&still in water. I’m getting ready to put them in rich soil&keep them outside until it gets cool.I’m in Michigan&&the winters are mild so I think they be okay.After last frost I will plant them outside.Wish me luck!

  61. mahesh says:

    Is there any other plant which is an alternative in semi arid tropics?

    • Angelo (admin) says:

      Not really sure, I’ve checked for research papers on other plant that contain IBA, and it appears that Indole-3-butyric acid (IBA) was identified as an endogenous compound in leaves and kernels of maize or corn (Zea mays). It has also been found in tobacco and cypress leaves. I can’t say what levels of IBA these contain, or how you would extract them. Then there is the question whether any of these grow in semi arid tropics? You would know what grows in your climate better than me!

      • mahesh says:

        Thank you. we got maize, tobaco and some varieties of cypress. Can’t we apply same procedure to these plant parts? And we got plenty of cotyledon type succulents, country borage (karpooravalli) and money plants which are known for their fast rooting property. Is there any possibility of using them in this regard?
        COUNTRY BORAGE (karpooravalli) link : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plectranthus_amboinicus

    • Angelo (admin) says:

      Hi Mahesh, why not try, it can’t hurt to set up some tests and see what results you get! Use several cuttings for each test, one test will be the control group, no plant rooting hormones, then a similar amount of cuttings for each separate treatment, it would be a very simple side-by-side comparison.

  62. Frank Mosher says:

    I would like to follow your advice, but wish to add some of the results to small cubes, with a fairly firm gel consistency . Firm enough to have the cuttings stand erect. Can you suggest a clear gelling substance? Gelatin, agar,agar, etc. Thank you

  63. Nikos says:

    Thank you for the article.
    Could I collect the stems and make any other time the willow tea or i must cut fresh stems every time i want to make the tea?
    I ‘m sorry if the answer exists allready in the comments, I do not understand english very well so it is hard for me to read all the comments.
    I ‘d really appreciate your answer.

  64. Darren says:


    He said it might work but has not tested it, Give it a try.

  65. Daniel says:

    Made some willow water,it fermented and foamed like beer or something when I opened it ,should it be fine to use,it was in a jar for two days(Friday night-sunday night)

  66. Yasir Farooq says:

    I read your article today. Luckily I have several willow trees in my office (Pakistan, Islamabad, telecom company named PTCL) & told my office boy to bring me a willow branch. The branch is now on my office table. it is 1.5 feet long with leaves & its 2 mm thick but not very juicy. Will it works for rooting water?

    • Angelo (admin) says:

      Please see the first step in the instructions:

      1.Collect young first-year twigs and stems of any of willow (Salix spp.) species, these have green or yellow bark. Don’t use the older growth that has brown or gray bark.

      If it doesn’t match this description it’s not suitable for making willow water.

  67. Great article! Many thanks!

  68. marc says:

    Thanks for the good info, will try it this spring. So much to learn, so little time…..
    We recently had a dam built on our property and are looking at ways to stabilize the soil. I understand that it is possible to dig a shallow trench and lay a long willow branch into it lengthwise. This will then allow multiple tree’s to start growing from that one branch. This method was tested by our local conservation team and it worked well.

  69. This has been very helpful! I don’t have a willow tree so I drove around till I saw one and asked the owners for a clipping. I’m making the tea right now! Question: What do I do after I soak the roots? Do I put the cutting in water, dirt, or air? If dirt, how wet should I keep it? Should I water it with water, or more willow tea? Also, can I do this with raspberry clippings?

  70. watchitgrow says:

    lol..GREAT POST, THANK YOU FOR THE INFO!!! Im about to try this on some cuttings.
    But, after reading some of the responces, I’ve concluded “willow water” is worse than lead poisoning. hahaha..Did anyone see the coment about the acne cream at walmart??? haaaaaaaaaa!!! priceless!!!

  71. Victor says:

    I buy willow barkmfrom Good Earth in Broad Ripple Indiana. Can I make willow water out of that? They sell it as an asprin alternative. Do you think that product has IBA in it?

    • Angelo (admin) says:

      Willow bark is sold as a herbal preparation that contains salicylates, hence its use as an aspirin alternative, actually to put that in the correct historical context, willow bark was the original, the synthetic ‘aspirin’ is a copy of the natural medicine! It doesn’t contain IBA. As I’ve mentioned in the first step of the instructions, “1.Collect young first-year twigs and stems of any of willow (Salix spp.) species, these have green or yellow bark. Don’t use the older growth that has brown or gray bark.” Hope this helps.

  72. Bren says:

    Wish this was linked up for Pinterest…

  73. tera says:

    Great article! I want to make growth plant regulator too. There’s no willow here in my country. I heard that corn leaf contain IBA too. Is that true? And do you have any idea how to extract IBA from corn leaf? really need help, thanks!

  74. Ramon Riz says:

    are there any natural plant substitutes for making rooting hormone apart from willow tree?

  75. Trenton says:

    Great appreciation! Now I can start my goal of planting 200 trees quickly!

  76. solarbeez says:

    Does this work on transplants? My wife doesn’t think so, but I’d like to try it on some pea transplants if it makes the roots grow well.
    Am headed out to the willow tree now:)

    Can you comment on honeybees visiting moss in the shallow pond under the willow tree? Would there be any connection with bees’ needs and willow water?
    Here is my post of still photos and a short video…


    • Angelo (admin) says:

      Transplanted seedlings already have roots, so I don’t think that willow water would help, in the horticulture industry when we transplant seedling we water them in with seaweed extract (such as ‘Seasol’ Seaweed Extract) as this is rich in minerals and plant growth factors, and stimulates healthy root growth (on plants that already have roots, not cuttings of course).

      I suspect that the bees are visiting the moss in the shallow pond near the willow to get water, but looking at your photographs they appear to congregate there in large numbers so perhaps there is something else that is attracting them also, perhaps the moist moss is cool, not really sure but thanks for the amazing pictures!

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