Propagate Your Rosemary to Get Free Herbs
There aren't very many things in this world that you can cut up and tear apart, only to have it grow into something new. That's the magic of plants. Through propagation, we can turn one plant into a couple plants, turn those plants into more plants, and eventually end up with hundreds.
I fell in love with rosemary long before I ever even gardened. I was in grad school and not in a very great place emotionally. There was a huge rosemary bush on campus, and one day, I accidentally bumped into it on my way to class. The smell instantly comforted me. I started impulsively grabbing branches from the plant as I was moving between classes and carrying them with me.
Now, I know that clinical studies have linked the smell of rosemary to relieving anxiety and even helping with depression.
Little wonder that rosemary was the first thing I planted in my garden in Virginia and that I've grown it in every garden since.
The Step by Step to Propagating Rosemary Herbs
When it comes to propagating rosemary, you can either keep your cuttings in some fresh water until they develop roots or plant them directly in some sand. Rooting a cutting in water typically produces roots faster, while planting cuttings in sand often results in stronger plants when they're transferred to soil. You choose the method that best works for you.
A list of supplies needed to propagate rosemary:
clean pruners or sharp scissors
small cup of fresh water (or clean spice shaker) to propagate in water
small pot filled with carpenter sand
pencil or dibber
Step one to propagate rosemary
gather your cuttings
You can either buy organic sprigs of rosemary from the grocery store or take cuttings from an existing plant.
To harvest your own cuttings, it's important to know that there are two types of wood on rosemary plants: soft and hard.
The tips of each branch are soft, meaning you could bend each tip without it breaking. The hard wood is older and down at the bottom of the branch, and if you tried to bend those stems, they'd snap.
For propagation, you'll need a soft cutting about 4 to 6 inches long. If you're harvesting from a plant, look for the place where the stem transitions from soft to hard wood.
Step two to propagate rosemary
prepare your cuttings
Take your clean pair of pruners or sharp scissors and cut the bottom of the stem at a 45 degree angle. This opens up the capillaries so that the plant can better absorb water and grow new roots.
Strip the leaves from the bottom third of the pruned stems all the way down to the end of the trimming so that there are a couple of inches of bare rosemary stem. Take the leaves you’ve stripped and either dry them or use them right away in your kitchen.
Step three to propagate rosemary
You can now put your rosemary cuttings in a small cup or in a pot filled with sand.
If you're going to keep your cuttings in water until roots form, make sure that the cup is small enough to keep the cuttings upright and that only the stem, not the leaves, touches water. I like to clean out an old spice shaker with large holes in the cap that can hold the cuttings in place. Fill your container with fresh water.
If you're planting your cuttings straight away, make sure that your pot has good drainage holes. I like to use terra cotta pots. Fill the pot with carpenter sand (not play sand), which is available at any hardware store. Sand is a great medium for rooting herbs because it holds moisture.
While you don't need to use rooting hormone for herbs, it's a great idea to dip the angled tips of your cuttings in some cinnamon to prevent the stem from rotting as it's trying to form roots.
Moisten your sand and make a little hole in the middle with the end of a pencil or a dibber, if you have one.
Place the cutting into the hole, being careful not to bend the tip. All of the leaves should be above the sand. Support the cutting with sand to keep it upright as it starts to produce roots.
You can plant several cuttings in the same container.
Step four to propagate rosemary
If your cuttings are in water, pour out the old water and fill with fresh water every couple of days. Keep your container in a semi-shaded place.
If your cuttings are potted up, make sure the sand stays moist but not soaking wet. Put your cuttings in a spot where they'll receive bright but indirect light.
The water method should start to produce roots within a couple of weeks. Transfer your cuttings to a small pot filled with soil and compost once roots have formed. Again, use a pencil or dibber to make a big enough hole that the roots of the cutting aren't disturbed when planting.
Though it does take longer, a potted cutting should form really healthy roots within four to six weeks. Once you see new growth, you can transfer your plants to their own individual pots filled with soil or your kitchen garden.
Make sure you let the soil of your rosemary plant dry out before you come back and water again. Rosemary doesn't like to be overwatered.
It's amazing to watch tiny cuttings grow and flourish into brand new rosemary plants. You can literally grow rosemary year after year and never run out by continuously propagating your plants. You can even gift rosemary babies to your friends and neighbors for the holidays. If they keep their rosemary in a sunny window for the winter, they'll have a mature plant by the spring.
Thanks for helping me bring back the kitchen garden, one rosemary plant at a time.
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