Why Grow Herbs from Cuttings?
But you can’t grow all herbs from cuttings. Later on in this article I’ll provide a list of those that can be grown in this way.
The really great thing about growing herbs from cuttings is that you can enjoy the exciting and rewarding experience of watching your cuttings turn into healthy herbs.
If you decide you want to grow your own herbs from cuttings, the propagation (the technical term for growing any plant from a cutting) timescales can be very quick. In five or six weeks in the spring and early summer you can easily propagate a herb such as lavender from cuttings. Many herb gardeners have used this method to produce enough small lavender plants to create a flourishing lavender hedge (see photograph).
In fact if you become really good at propagating herbs like lavender, rosemary and sage from cuttings you can sell your potted herbs at country markets and town events or give them as presents to appreciative friends.
Some Easy Steps for Propagating Herbs from Cuttings
It’s not difficult to grow herbs from cuttings, although lots of people will tell you it is. Here are some easy steps for you to follow, but remember that not all herbs can be propagated from cuttings. Check first so that you won’t be disappointed. If you have a copy of my eBook The Secrets of Successful Herb Gardening; it has a list of all the herbs that can be grown using cuttings, but lavender, hyssop, lemon verbena, marjoram, rosemary, sage, tarragon, thyme, winter savory, wormwood and the curry plant are some of the best known.
Required Equipment & Materials
If you are going to grow herbs from cuttings you’ll need:
- A mixture of potting compost and sand (two thirds compost to one third sand)
- Some 3 or 5 inch pots (plastic ones are fine)
- Secateurs or a sharp knife
Choosing Your Cuttings
- Young tender stems of herbs (i.e. softwood cuttings). You’ll see lots of these on your established herb plants in the spring. These new stems have no hardness because they are so young. You can take softwood cuttings in the spring and in the summer after flowering.
- Herb stems that have Just started to harden (i.e. semi-hardwood). Young tender herb plant stems start to turn green-brown as they grow and then harden from Spring to Summer. They can be used as cuttings from mid-summer until the Fall.
- Established herb plant stems that have become woody (i.e. hardwood). You can easily tell these stems. They look woody and don’t bend easily (see picture). These stems can be used for cuttings in the Fall.
Propagation from Cuttings
1. Take Your Herb Cuttings
Use secateurs or your sharp knife to remove the stem from the plant.
- If you are propagating from a softwood cutting choose stems that are 2 to 4 inches long. Avoid the ones that have flower buds on
- If you are propagating from a semi-hardwood stem choose one which is 4 to 6 inches long. Here again, avoid stems with flower buds if possible (not as easy as for softwood cuttings)
- If you are propagating with hardwood cuttings choose stems that are 6 to 15 inches long.
In each case make a nice clean cut with your secateurs or knife just below the leaf nodes (the point where the leaves join the stem). There are more plant cells in this part of the stem, and they will encourage root growth when the cutting is planted.
2. Trim Your Herb Cuttings
Trim your cuttings by removing the leaves which are joined to the stem just above the cut. While you are doing this check to make sure that you made a nice clean cut during the first step (if you need to trim it, don’t trim above the leaf node).
If you are working with hardwood stems also remove the growing tip of the stem at this point.
3. Plant Your Herb Cuttings in Pots
Now fill your pots three-quarters full with moist compost and sand mix and push your stem cuttings firmly into the soil around the edge of the pot. Make sure they are firmly planted, but don’t compress the compost mix and make it hard (the growing roots will need air).
With a 3 inch pot you should be able to plant three cuttings around the edge. You’ll be able to plant five or six cuttings around the edge of the 5 inch pot. The stems should be buried by about a quarter to a third of their length depending on the size of the cutting.
Once your herb cuttings have been planted put three tall sticks (i.e. taller than the cuttings) in each pot and cover the pot with a plastic bag. The sticks keep the bag away from the cuttings and the bag will help to retain moisture.
4. Store Your Pots
Store your pots out of direct sunlight in a warm area. Warmth will encourage the roots to grow. You will need to keep the pots watered (but not too wet). Remove the plastic bag from time to time because excess moisture can cause mold to form.
When your herb stems show signs of growth remove the bags and sticks and water them with a little plant nutrient. Your softwood and semi-hardwood cuttings will have roots within five to six weeks. Your hardwood cuttings will take a little longer.
Once your newly propagated herbs are established, you can replant each of them in its own pot or in your herb garden.
Grow Herbs from Cuttings – Now Try a Big Project!
It’s not difficult to achieve a high degree of success (i.e. greater than 75%) if you choose to grow herbs from cuttings.
Once you have completed your first project to grow herbs from cuttings you might like to use your new skills by embarking on some bigger garden projects using herb cuttings such as planning and planting hedges of lavender or rosemary. Or you could do what I do and grow herbs from cuttings and sell them and give them as gifts.
Happy herb gardening,