Have you heard the latest gossip that seems to be rife on gardening blog sites?
It would seem that honey is being used as a substitute for rooting powder.
This is interesting as an idea and worth of some thought and reflection.
Firstly most softwood cuttings in my opinion root very well, if taken in the morning when the parent material will be flu of water, and inserted into a very open compost mix in a new clean pot.
To ensure success the root zone should be warmer than the air around the shoot to prevent buds growing before the roots and a plastic bag or shower cap placed over the pot will prevent the cutting from drying out by increasing humidity.
Rooting powder can be useful on plants that are slightly less enthusiastic about rooting, however it must be fresh, (that means from a recently delivered batch at the garden centre and not left over from last seasons cuttings.)
I am also concerned that dipping the cutting in water then into the rooting powder can lead to a claggy layer of rooting powder which can increase the chance of rotting.
To get round this I prefer to use a rooting liquid, which the cutting absorbs and so we can be sure that the active ingredient gets into the plant. I am never convinced that the active ingredient in rooting hormone actually gets into the plant to have an effect.
So what could honey add as an extra that rooting powder and rooting liquid lack.
The people who argue for honey say that it contains enzymes that aid rooting, and that it has a natural anti bacterial effect.
Well I can see that a Manuka based honey would have a natural protective role, however I have not been able to find out which enzymes are said to be in honey and what role they are thought to have in root development and so I cannot comment on an positive or negative effect these might have.
Some people claim the honey should be diluted 1tsp to 250 ml water for the plant to take up, while others just pop the cutting in neat honey.
I am concerned about the latter as this will leave a layer of highly concentrated sugar around the tip of the cutting. While I do not see this having a negative impact on callus formation the young roots produced will have to experience a world with a high sugar concentration outside, which could draw posture out of the cutting and so lead to scorch and root death.
The diluted honey could potentially be beneficial not just due to its protectant role, but the honey absorbed with the water will act in topping up the carbohydrate in the cutting and so help to provide energy for rooting.
Of course the only way to be sure is to carry out a trial (and I intend to do just that in the spring), until there is more research carried out and published in peer review journals I would advise caution.
My gut feeling is it better spread on toast than used for rooting cuttings, but only time will tell.