, Salem, MA


March 28, 2014

North Shore Gardener: A natural root growth stimulant

Q: I think I read in your column last year something about being able to stimulate root in water that pussy willows have been standing in — I tried it, and it probably worked about as well as any rooting hormone I’ve used — and is certainly cheap! I saved the clipping, but now I’ve lost it — help, please!

A: Sure! Willow water not only can be used to start rooting new plants from settings but also stimulate root growth of older plants — and you can do both. The name of the natural hormone substance that makes a plant root better is auxin.

To make the willow water, cut fresh branches — not fallen ones — less than a half-inch in diameter into two-inch pieces and soak them overnight. Drain; send the sticks to the compost. Store the remaining willow water in tightly closed bottles. Dip cutting ends into willow water for an hour or two and plant. I think you’ll see the difference in root growth. Pour any extra willow water onto plants where it will also promote root growth.

Q: My boyfriend gave me two big pink cyclamen for Valentine’s Day. One has finished blooming, and the other is in bloom now. Is it possible to plant them outside in the spring? If so, is there anything I have to do now to prepare them? I’ve never had one before, and I don’t know what to do with it.

A: What a lovely gift! I assume you have the large cyclamen persicum, a houseplant also known as the florist’s cyclamen. It’s not easy to get them to rebloom, but it’s worth the effort.

Florist cyclamens cannot survive outdoors all winter in our climate. They are native to the warmer Mediterranean areas where nights are cool but not below 50 degrees. There, they bloom during the cool spring months and go dormant during the heat, which is what your florist-bought plants will do.

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