Making your own DIY plant rooting gel


Cloning is a very common technique used by a large variety of plant growers. When growing plants from seeds there is an important unpredictability factor in what you might get so cloning ensures that you get a clear genetic copy of the parent and therefore removes a lot of the variability inherent to the growing process when starting from seed. To perform the cloning process most growers use the aid of rooting hormones which are usually sold in the form of a gel at high prices. Today we are going to learn how to make our own DIY plant rooting gel using ingredients that can be easily bought online for a fraction of the cost.

Rooting gels have basically four ingredients. A rooting hormone (active ingredient), a gelling agent (usually an acrylic acid polymer), a base (needed to increase the viscosity given by the gelling agent) and a preservative (because fungi eat anything). Today we are going to talk about making a rooting gel without any preservative – which is simpler – so don’t make very large quantities because it can spoil after some time (probably will last for a month or so). To make this you will need the following:

  • Distilled or RO water
  • Indole-3-butyric acid (you can get it here)  0.69 USD/g
  • Carbopol 940 (you can get it here) 0.09 USD/g
  • Potassium hydroxide (you can get it here) 0.02 USD/g
  • Two containers for mixing (one around 60% of the volume you want to make, the other around 120%)
  • A scale that can weight with enough precision according to the amount you want to prepare (for 1L you will need a +/- 0.1g scale).

Warning: Potassium hydroxide is a very strong base. Handle with a lot of care wearing protective eye wear and nitrile or PVC gloves. Do not agitate it before opening it since KOH powder is very caustic.

Once you get these ingredients the process is quite simple. For a one liter preparation add 500 mL of water to one container (we will call this one A) and 500mL to another container (which we will call B). Add 3.0g of the Indole-3-butyric acid to the A container along with 0.6g of potassium hydroxide and mix until both are dissolved. Heat the water in container B to 120-140F (48-60°C), stop heating and add 9.0g of Carbopol 940. Mix the water in container B thoroughly, the Carbopol 940 might take a long time to get hydrated and get into solution, stir it until there are no visible clumps (this can take around 15-60 minutes).

Once this process is done wait for B to cool to ambient temperature, then mix A and B slowly (in whichever has the largest container). When you do this the viscosity of the mixture will start to increase exponentially and you will have your rooting gel preparation. The amount of money it takes to prepare 1L is around 3 USD while the most popular rooting gel products online are charging you around 16 USD for 100mL of basically the same thing. This means that you will be saving 98% of your rooting gel costs if you make your own.

There are some other additives – including preservatives and biostimulants – that we could add to make a better product, but that’s a topic for another blog post.



  • July 17, 2017 @ 9:55 pm

    Wow, many thanks again Dr. Fernandez for this wonderful topic.

  • July 30, 2017 @ 2:40 am

    Hello. Nice to see, another DIY post.
    Can I use another geling agent, or carbopol only. Thanks.

    • admin
      July 31, 2017 @ 8:28 am

      I have only tried poly-acrylic acids like carbopol. Other gelling agents might cause problems with the plant – they might be pythotoxic or might attract fungi – or interact with the rooting hormone in unwanted ways. I therefore recommend only using carbopol for this.

  • December 9, 2017 @ 9:56 pm

    What would be a good preservitive to use with this recipe

    • admin
      December 10, 2017 @ 5:01 am

      If you want to learn more about making a rooting gel with adequate preservatives please book an hour of consulting time. Thanks for posting!

  • March 31, 2018 @ 10:04 am

    Hi, great article! Can coloring be added to this mixture? What percentage is the iba at? also how can I add NAA to it and how? Thank you.

  • killer
    October 11, 2020 @ 8:54 am

    hi, is it possible to know the ish shel life of DIY gel without preservative inside?
    could it last more in powdery formulation?

    regards and thankyou for sharing

    • admin
      October 11, 2020 @ 9:02 am

      It depends on the environmental conditions but it likely will last less than a month without preservatives. Keeping it cool (in a fridge) might help increase this time, but certainly not for longer than 2-3 months. All the separate powdered components have much longer shelf-lives but they won’t work well for rooting unless they are in a proper formulation (like a gel). Thanks for commenting!

      • Killer
        October 11, 2020 @ 7:50 pm

        Thanx a lot for your fast and clear answer.
        It would be great to see an improve recipe with something like a 2:1 of IBA:NAA and some efficacy preservative.
        Many thanx again.

  • Stephane
    August 11, 2021 @ 1:02 pm

    Thanks for this very interesting article.
    Personally I had poor experience in the past with commercial rooting gel due to root rot issues.
    Many rooting powder sellers claim that rooting gels set up favorable conditions for root rot (but of course there is some potential conflict of interest in their articles) :
    On the other hand some patents are providing evidences concerning the superiority of carbopol matrix gels vs. powder :
    So, what is the conclusion ? Should cloning gel be only used in sterile environments, and rooting powder preferred when the substrate or cuts are potentially contaminated ?
    Concerning preservatives, benzoates and sorbates are known to inhibit root growth at the concentrations which are required for killing most pathogens :
    Do you think that hydrogen peroxide (at concentrations around 0.5%) could be used instead of benzoate as a non-phytotoxic preservative ?
    If the sterility of the substrate and cuts cannot be managed, would the addition of soil bacteria such as Bacillus subtilis be a good approach for preventing root rot ?

    • admin
      August 17, 2021 @ 10:44 am

      Thanks for writing Stephane!

      About your points. Root gels can lead to better results than powders if they are properly formulated and cuttings are properly cleaned before application. Including an anti-fungal agent in a rooting gel is common practice and although they can inhibit root growth on their own, they do not do so in the presence of large quantities of rooting hormones (as is the case here). Hydrogen peroxide is not an adequate preservative, as it will destroy the rooting hormones. Benzoates and sorbates are also not going to work great here due to the fact that these gels are most often at relatively close to neutral pH values (6-7) and these preservatives require acidic pH to work well. An adequate preservative for neutral pH needs to be used. Adding bacteria to a rooting gel is likely not a good idea.

      In the end, the choice between a gel and a powder depends on what is practical and economical. Although in a lab under ideal conditions, rooting gels will give better overall results, the practical aspects of using powders Vs gels make them a better choice under many commercial settings. Many greenhouses prefer powders due to ease of use and cheaper costs.

      Thanks again for writing!

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