You do not need seeds in order to start your own herb garden. All you need are some healthy plants! Instead of spending money at a nursery, you can take cuttings from woody-stemmed perennial herbs, put them in water, and have a whole new plant in a few short weeks. Read on to find out how simple propagating herbs can be!
Choose Your Herb
You can grow many herbs from cuttings, but it doesn’t work for all herbs. You want to look for perennial herbs with woody stems.
Annual herbs do not grow well from cuttings because they bolt and turn to seed more quickly, and their stems are soft. Avoid parsley, cilantro, and dill, which are all in the same family.
Perennial herbs with woody stems will work best. They may flower, but they’re like evergreens. They just keep growing back again and again, and that’s why they work really well as cuttings.
If you’re new to growing herbs from cuttings, rosemary is a great starter plant. Oregano, sage, thyme, lavender, and mint are also excellent options! Mint especially grows anywhere. It grows wild.
Basil is an annual and has a softer stem, but it is fabulous to grow from cuttings. You just have to make sure you change out the water very regularly because of that soft stem.
Source a “Mother” Plant
The best time to take your cuttings is in early spring, when perennials are waking up and sending out new growth. Make sure to take your cuttings from healthy, high-quality plants. However you source them, we recommend using organic plants that haven’t been treated with pesticides and chemical fertilizers.Organic plants tend to be healthier and thrive as cuttings!
Of course, you can take cuttings from your own plants. Using your own plants is an excellent way to add to your existing herb garden. You can also share the garden love by growing herbs from cuttings and gifting them to friends and family.
Garden friends are always a great resource. Maybe your friend has some beautiful herbs growing in their garden, and you cut a little bit. Not only will you have a new plant, but you’ll also think of your friend every time you harvest it!
You can buy plants from local growers, farmer’s markets, nurseries, and garden stores. While you do have to pay for the “mother” plant, you can harvest cuttings from this plant for years. As long as the plant you buy is healthy and has several stems, you can take a cutting from it as soon as you purchase it.
Harvest Your Cutting
Once you’ve found a healthy plant, take your cutting from a stem with new growth. Look for stems that are soft and green towards the tip.
Cut a 3-4 inch piece of new growth below the leaf node. The leaf node is where the leaves are coming out of the stem.
You want to put your cutting in water (see below) soon after you harvest it. If you’re harvesting from a friend’s plant, ask them for a little jar of water to take home or a wet paper towel to wrap the stem in.
Not all cuttings will take root, and that’s okay! Take an extra cutting or two just in case. Especially if you’re using your own plant, you can do this in batches. If you end up with more plants than you need, that’s the perfect opportunity to share.
Encourage Root Growth
Once you have your cutting, your main goal is to encourage it to grow roots. Clean water is vital here, so it’s best to put your cuttings somewhere in your daily path. That way, you can easily watch them take root, and you can notice when the water needs changing.
Follow these simple steps to help your cutting develop roots:
- Before you put it in water, make sure the lower portion of the stem is clear from plant material. Plant material in the water can invite mold and bad bacteria, and we don’t want that! Choose a small jar and remove the lower leaves so there aren’t any leaves in the water.
- Fill your jar or cup with water, and place the stem in the water. Prop up the stem if you need to. Be sure to clear away any plant material that falls into the water as well.
- Place your jar and cutting in a sunny window.
- Every couple days, change out this water, especially if you see particles floating in it.
Your cutting will grow roots within a few weeks!
Plant Your New Herb
After the roots have grown, plant them into some potting mix. We recommend transferring your new plant potting mix before you plant it in garden soil because soil is heavier, and all the new roots might end up glommed together. Potting mix is looser, so your roots can spread out and get a little bit sturdier before they go into a planting bed.
When you put your plant into the potting mix, clear off a little of plant material from the bottom, especially if those lower leaves look droopy. Plant all the way up to the first set of healthy leaves so that all of the roots and most of the stem are under the potting mix.
You may choose to skip the potting mix and transplant directly outside if you have loamy soil rich in organic matter. Your plant may experience “transplant shock” and look a little sad for a few days. Just give your new plant its best chance, and keep an eye on it!
Growing your own by taking clippings is a rewarding, empowering way to add herbs to your garden. Not only can you save money on quality herbs, but you can make connections by taking clippings from garden friends and sharing the herbs you grow with others. And it’s so fun to watch them grow! Kids especially enjoy this activity and love checking for new root growth.
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