There are many ways to propagate plants, which can be broadly divided into sexual and asexual. Taking cuttings is an asexual method, as your new plants will be clones of the mother. The method is simply to cut a new shoot from an existing plant and encourage it to take root itself.
Natural rooting hormone
Many plants need a little help to grow roots, although some species can be planted straight into the ground. One of these is willow (salix spp.), and an effective way of capturing the rooting hormone present in willow for use on other plants is to make willow water.
- Fresh willow branches – use the very ends of the branches where growth is newest
- Sharp scissors
- Large bowl or container (preferably not plastic)
- Funnel (optional)
- Bottle for storage (again, preferably not plastic)
Step 1: find a willow tree, and harvest the shoots
You are only looking for the very tips on the branches, where the growth is newest. I cut about 10cm from the end of the branches. Cut all the leaves off the branches so that you are left with just the thin, springy shoots. Once I had stripped the shoots of leaves, I then chopped them up into a bowl ready to be weighed. So here is my recommendation for a willow water recipe: for every 100g of willow, add 500ml of water.
Step 2: chop up the branches
Now that you just have the branches left, chop them up very small and place them in a large bowl or container. Ideally the smaller the pieces of branch the better. I left mine a couple of cms long.
Step 3: watering the willow
Now fill the container with water, so that all of your chopped-up bits of willow are completely covered. Place a lid of some kind on top of the container, and leave it to stand for about 2 nights, to allow all of the rooting hormone to soak out of the bits of willow and into the water.
If you are using a plastic container to soak the willow in, it is possible that some of the plastic will leach out and become present in the rooting hormone. However, this does not necessarily mean that the rooting hormone will not be effective.
Step 4: decant the potion
Once it has been left for a couple of days, separate the water from the branches using a sieve. Do not be alarmed if the resulting potion smells a little unpleasant; this is for plants to drink, not you, so there’s no need to worry.
Now the willow water is ready for use and you can put it into a bottle using the funnel. Again, the concerns about plastic are relevant here.
Once you have the willow water in a suitable container, it can be kept for some weeks in a dry dark place, and up to two months if kept in a refrigerator.
Using your potion for propagation
Now the willow water is ready for its purpose: to use as a natural rooting hormone, to help cuttings to take root. This is a simple process, which I think you will find success with too if you follow more or less the same steps as me.