Can rooting hormone be used on orchids? Is a question I have seen asked in gardening forums on more than one occasion.
And I guess that makes sense as the roots of orchids are delicate and important parts of the plant.
On top of that, there are numerous root-promoting products on the market and they are obviously there for a reason.
So let’s take a closer look at this question and see if rooting hormone works on orchids.
Can Rooting Hormone Be Used On Orchids?
There are many benefits of using rooting hormones on orchids. Many consider it necessary for orchid propagation and it can make a huge difference to an orchid directly after repotting by helping it adapt to changes in its environment. Often using rooting hormone leads to faster growth and a happier and healthier orchid.
The Benefits of Using Rooting Hormones on Orchids
It Encourages the Growth of New Roots
The clue is in the name here.
Now of course orchids can grow roots on their own just fine, but using rooting hormone speeds up the process.
Simply apply it to the roots or the lower end of shrub cuttings, and it will make more roots grow or make cuttings grow roots.
It Helps Maintain Healthy Roots
Mixing a liquid-based rooting hormone with water and applying it regularly (usually either monthly or weekly) gives your orchids a supplement nutrient boost.
You can use it just mixed with water or add it to water and orchid fertilizer to give your plant even more of a helping hand.
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Your best bet is to try it once a month initially and then observe how they react and decide if you want to scale it to once a week.
Either way, you won’t see a difference overnight, but over time you will see healthier and stronger roots.
It Propagates New Orchids
Rooting hormones are optional for propagating orchids from stem cuttings, but in my opinion their use does make the process easier and more likely to succeed.
Before a shoot starts to grow a small bump, known as a node will develop. Each node will produce a new orchid.
Peel back the thin layer of tissue at several of the nodes and apply a small amount of rooting hormone to the area. This will encourage good growth.
You can use a specialized rooting hormone in this instance, usually called keiki paste. A ‘keiki’ is the name for a baby orchid that grows from a node on the original orchid.
It Can Save Orchids That Have Lost Roots
If root rot has beset your orchid, then before you give up on it completely try applying some rooting hormone.
Mix a liquid root hormone with water and then either spray it onto the underside of your orchid’s leaves or soak your orchid’s roots in the solution each week.
It Can Help Orchids After They Have Been Repotted
Repotting is one of the most stressful times for orchids.
Not only will the plant be adapting to a change of potting media and environment, but there will usually also have been some pruning of leaves and roots.
One of the best ways to support your orchid through these changes is by using rooting hormones.
If used correctly you should see a boom of new growth, as the rooting hormone accelerates the metabolism of your orchid.
How Do Rooting Hormones Work?
Rooting hormones are widely used to propagate plants and increase the chance of cuttings taking root.
They do this by stimulating growth using a synthetic version of auxins, which in turn encourages the production of cytokinins, two plant hormones that work together throughout plants to regulate how it grows.
Auxin promotes the growth of new roots and the branching of existing roots. This growth then stimulates the production of cytokinin. Cytokinin causes cell division in plants and thus more plant growth.
But let’s explore the science of this in a bit more depth, to understand the real work root hormones do.
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Auxins are usually made in the shoot tips of the plant, known as the shoot apical meristems (SAMs). Cytokinins by contrast are made in the root tips, called root apical meristems (RAMs).
Auxins move down the plant and head in the direction of the roots, the cytokinins move up the plant towards the shoots.
The two hormones are particularly useful for botanists who can take tissue samples anywhere on the plant to establish the auxin to cytokinin ratio to help them establish the development that is likely to happen.
What this means is, if a plant is in the wild and an animal comes along and chews off a number of leaves and stems, the level of auxin will drop as there are fewer SAMs.
However there will still be the same amount of cytokinin, so the hormone ratio is disturbed.
What happens then is the plant senses this change to the hormone level and that something has happened to the original SAM.
As a result, it creates a new stem from the next bud.
Along the same lines, say on a different plant a mole comes along and chews on some roots?
The SAMs here are unaffected, but some RAMs have been lost.
So in contrast, on this occasion, the level of cytokinin decreases whilst the level of auxin doesn’t change.
Now the roots have an unbalanced hormone ratio, with higher auxin concentration.
Again the plant can sense this, and initiates new roots and the creation of new RAMs to rebalance the hormone ratio.
So when you use root hormone on cuttings or roots, you are artificially adding auxins to a plant and increasing the hormone ratio higher.
As in the wild, the plant senses this and starts root initiation.
Hope this makes sense!
Popular Rooting Hormone Products
Products that promote root growth fall into two categories:
- Synthetic rooting hormones in the form of liquid or powder
- Natural rooting hormone (auxin) that is extracted from seaweed or kelp
Some popular brands include KelpMax, SuperThrive and KLN. Every rooting hormone has a slightly different formula, but they all aim to do the same job.
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It is best to research them individually before deciding which is best for your orchid.
Rooting hormone powder is also available, however, I would recommend you stay away from that for two main reasons:
- Rooting hormone powder is much more concentrated and as such is too strong for orchids and may actually inhibit their root growth.
- It washes off in water – so every time you water the roots of your orchid it would be removed and you would have to reapply it
As you can see there are most definitely a number of benefits to using rooting hormone on orchids.
It can give you happier, healthier and more attractive orchids.
That isn’t to say you need to use rooting hormones on your orchids. Given the right care and attention, they can do just fine without it.
However, there are certain times it really can benefit the plant, mainly when propagating new orchids and after repotting an orchid.
It definitely can play a role in growing orchids successfully, and whilst many gardeners don’t use it, there are just as many that swear by it.