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Growing Herbs From Cuttings

Growing herbs from cuttings is a cost-effective alternative to buying new plants, is typically faster than growing from seeds, and allows you to replicate plants with particular characteristics you love.

Herb cuttings prepared for planting.

Many herbs can be successfully grown from cuttings. It simply involves cutting off a piece of stem and encouraging it to develop roots, to create a new, independent plant.

Softwood vs semi-hardwood cuttings

Herbs are generally grown from either softwood or semi-hardwood (semi-ripe) cuttings , and some herbs can be grown from either.

Softwood cuttings are taken from new, soft growth in spring or early summer.

At this stage cuttings wilt easily and need to be kept in a controlled environment.

Semi-hardwood cuttings are taken from partially mature wood in late summer or early fall.

They are less delicate than softwood cuttings and so a carefully controlled environment is less important.

Which herbs can be grown from cuttings

HerbSoftwoodSemi hardwoodNotes
BasilEasily roots in water
MintEasily roots in water
OreganoQuick to root
RosemarySemi-hardwood often preferred
SageSemi-hardwood cuttings more successful
ThymeBoth methods effective
Lemon balmRoots easily
SteviaBest taken in spring
LavenderSemi-hardwood cuttings most successful
Bay laurelSlow to root, requires patience
TarragonFrench tarragon only propagated by cuttings

Growing herbs from cuttings

1. Preparing the growing medium

  • Fill small with cutting mix, or a 1:1 mix of peat and horticultural grit of perlite.
  • Water the medium thoroughly and allow excess to drain. The mix should be evenly moist but not sodden.

2. Selecting and preparing the cutting

  • Choose healthy, disease-free plants
  • For softwood cut stems from new growth
  • For semi-hardwood cut stems from partially mature growth that is becoming firm at the base but still soft at the top
  • Cut 3-4 inch/ 8-10cm stems
  • Remove lower leaves, keeping 2-3 sets at the top
  • Cut just below a leaf node at a 45-degree angle

3. Planting the cutting

  • Make a hole in the cutting mix with a pencil or stick.
  • Optional: Dip the cut end in rooting hormone (especially helpful for semi-hardwood)
  • Insert the cutting up to its leaves, but ensuring the remaining leaves don’t touch the soil.
  • Gently press the cutting mix around the stem
  • Water the cutting lightly using a watering can with a fine rose to avoid disturbing the soil.

4. Care and maintenance

  • For softwood: Cover with a clear plastic bag to maintain humidity. If required use wire hoops to prevent the bag touching the leaves.
  • For semi-hardwood: Humidity cover optional, but beneficial.
  • Place in a warm place (65F/ 18C) with bright, indirect light
  • Water when necessary to keep the soil damp but not saturated
  • If using a cover, remove it for a few hours daily to prevent mold

5. Transplanting

Once the tips start growing rapidly you can be fairly sure that the cuttings have taken root (4-6 weeks for softwood, 6-8 weeks for semi-hardwood).

Once roots are established:

  • Transplant the cuttings into pots with a lightweight potting mix.
  • Water thoroughly and provide appropriate care for the specific herb
  • When well established, transplant to larger pots or garden beds

Growing softwood herb cuttings in water

Growing herb cuttings n water.

Some herbs, particularly those with soft stems like basil, mint, and lemon balm, can be easily rooted in water.

This benefit of this is that it allows you to observe root development, reduces the risk of damaging delicate roots during transplanting, and eliminates the need for a special rooting medium.

To root herbs in water:

  • Select and prepare the cuttings as above.
  • Place cuttings in a glass of clean water, ensuring the leaves remain above the water line.
  • Change the water every few days to prevent stagnation.
  • Once roots are 1-2 inches long, typically after 2-3 weeks, carefully transplant the cuttings into pots of potting mix. Be gentle during this process, as water-grown roots can be more fragile than soil-grown ones.
  • Gradually acclimate the new plants to their environment to ensure successful establishment.