There are a lot of reasons a gardener may want to keep a plant or herb going in the garden or even bring it indoors. It saves seeds and reduces the need for new plantings every year, for one, and it can allow for year-round gardening with most types of herbs – even annuals.
Taking stem cuttings is a good way to accomplish this.
Herbs That Propagate From Stem Cuttings
Popular herbs such as basil, oregano, lavender, rosemary, thyme, and sage root will do well as cuttings for new starts. Others like salvia, curry, myrtle, lemon verbena, marjoram, and tarragon can also be cut for propagating and will thrive.
How to Propagate Stems From Plants
Stem cuttings are the most common and easiest method of taking cuttings for propagation. These can be taken in the spring or later in the year after flowering and before dying off from the winter hardening that eventually will take hold.
Using a sharp knife or pruning sheers, take 2- to 4-inch cuttings at the stem “root” (where it attaches to the stalk) for late year cuttings. For early spring cuttings, cut off new shoots right below the new leaves. Remove the lower leaves on late cuttings and then place in moist media – soil mix, vermiculite or perlite. Keep in a humid, sunny location.
Covering the new plant with plastic is common. Keep the plastic off of the leaves by either creating a frame or using plastic that is naturally domed (such as half of a soda container). The covering keeps the relatively humidity high for the plant and decreases the number of times you’ll need to water daily.
Using rooting powder (plant hormones) can also help. Try to get about 1/3 of the intended root-end covered with powder and then buried in the medium.
New cuttings should not be exposed to direct sunlight as this might dry them out and cause “burn.”
If the cutting is to be from a wooded (hard-stemmed) plant, wait until fall when the plant has gone dormant, then take a cutting of 6 to 12 inches. Follow the above procedures to root the cutting.
Herb Propagating Tips
Other methods of propagation that are common include dividing and using root cuttings. Dividing is literally digging up the plant and cutting it in half so that half of the foliage and root are on each new plant. Then, replant and let them recover. This works very well and is nearly foolproof, but only works on plants that can be completely dug up (i.e. smaller herbs like chives, oregano, mints, etc).
Root cuttings can be used on some herbs like comfrey or horeseradish, but is used less often. Dig down to the roots of the plant and cut sections from it. Bury these in potting medium and moisten often until shoots appear. This process often kills the mother plant, however, so it is most often done in the fall after harvest.
Want to learn more about propagating herbs?
See these resources:
Propagate Herbs Now For Yearlong Enjoyment from Purdue University Consumer Horticulture
Growing Herbs from Alabama Cooperative Extension
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