By: Becca Badgett, Co-author of How to Grow an EMERGENCY Garden
Succulents attract a diverse group of growers. For many ofthem, growing succulents is their first experience with growing any plant. Consequently,some tips and tricks have emerged that other gardeners may not be familiarwith, like using honey as a succulent rooting aid. What results have they seenfrom using this unconventional trick? Let’s look and see.
As you’ve likely heard, honey has healing properties and isused to help with some medical conditions, but it’s also been used as a rooting hormone for plants too. Honey contains antiseptic and anti-fungal elementswhich may help keep bacteria and fungi away from succulent leaves and stemsyou’re trying to propagate. Some growers say they dip succulent propagationpieces in honey to encourage roots and new leaves on stems.
If you decide to try this as a rooting aid, use pure (raw)honey. Many products have sugar added and appear more like syrup. Those thathave gone through the pasteurization process have likely lost the valuableelements. Read the ingredients list before you use it. It does not have to beexpensive, just pure.
Some growers advise watering the honey down, putting twotablespoons into a cup of warm water. Others dip right into plain honey andplant.
A few trials for the use of honey as a rooting aid forsucculent leaves are detailed online, none of them claiming to be professionalor conclusive. Most were attempted using a control group (no additions), agroup using regular rooting hormone and a group with the leaves dipped in the honey or honeymixture. The leaves all came from the same plant and were located side by sidein identical conditions.
Little difference was noted, although one found a leaf thatgrew a baby instead of sprouting roots first, with the use of honey. This aloneis plenty of reason to give it a try. We’d all like to get to that point morequickly when propagating succulents from leaves. This might’ve been a fluke, though, as there was nofollow-up to see how well the baby grew and of it reached adulthood.
If you’re intrigued by propagating succulents with honey,give it a try. Keep in mind that results will likely vary. Give your succulentpropagations the best conditions, because in the long run, we just want a happyresult.
Here are some tips to get started:
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Read more about General Cactus Care
Make propagating plants from cuttings easier by using honey as rooting hormone before planting. It’s the best natural “one-ingredient” rooting hormone. It may contain the enzymes that promote root growth, but most importantly the antibacterial, antiseptic, and antifungal properties in honey save the cuttings from rot and infection.
According to a study published in the University of Hawaii Extension, a series of experiments were conducted to find out the efficacy of honey as a rooting hormone as compare to commercial rooting hormones available in the market.
It concluded, “Honey did demonstrate an ability to root plant species, but it is not as successful as synthetic rooting hormones.” It means you can use honey as an alternative to market products. Read more here !
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The results were inconclusive.
You can see that there’s been little progress – even after 54 days. Succulent propagations take a long time to reach maturity, it’s true. However, they usually get started pretty fast. There’s a dead leaf, and a couple that are on their way out. That’s normal. Propagation is hardly a guaranteed thing.
This is the control. It’s our baseline because it is a natural propagation with no additives.
And it seems to be about what you would expect. 4/5 leaves have got some roots. Slow growth, but normal.
Let’s check out cinnamon next.
This one is pretty interesting. You can see that there are less roots than in the control. However, this group has 2 small plantlets on the right two leaves. That’s more important than roots, I’d say. Almost every leaf prop will grow roots, but not all of them manage to get leaves going.
Right off the bat it’s easy to see that this group has significantly more developed roots than the other groups! It also has two small plantlets, but that last leaf is dead. One can only wonder if it would have been fruitful, had it not withered. Alas, cruel fate.
Interesting. It has, by far, the least roots of any group. It does have the most developed plantlet though! I’m inclined to believe that is a fluke – that leaf was particularly plucky the honey had little do with it. Of course, we can’t really say for sure because we didn’t test enough leaves.
Unfortunately, the results were not so clear that we can immediately decide which substance best helps your propagations succeed. The results were a mixed bag.
It was pretty clear that rooting hormone powder promoted healthy, well-developed roots. Honey seemed to slow the process, actually. When compared to the control, the difference is stark. The jury is still out on cinnamon though!
To improve this experiment (and every experiment), we could have gathered more data. We’d need more plants than just one, though. That would loosen our control, so we’d need even more data to make up for the discrepancy. See where I’m going with this? That’s why real research is expensive and time-consuming. However, these simple home experiments work great for informing our own opinion.
For some tasty irony, check this out:
What you see there is the mother plant, post-plucking.
I actually plucked more than the 20 leaves used in this experiment. I pulled about 30. The ones I decided didn’t look as healthy, or I didn’t get a clean break, I just threw back in the pot with their mom.
But look at that! Those plantlets are CLEARLY much better developed. It’s hard to distinguish the roots from the other junk in the pot, but the ones you can see are really nice.
What does this mean? Is it better to propagate them with other plants? Do they prefer the same soil as their mother? Is natural sun better? Do they really thrive off neglect, growing just to spite me? Who knows, that’s a whooole ‘nother experiment.
Maybe we should just let nature do its thing, huh?
I enjoyed this experiment so much (and you all did too!), that I decided to run it again with a different plant! It’s currently in progress, but here’s a sneak peak!
Just a college kid sharing everything he learns on the path to transcendence via succulents.