Rosemary holds the top spot among my preferred herbs, serving as an essential element in gardening, culinary arts, and herbal medicine. While cultivating it from seeds may present some challenges, propagating rosemary through cuttings is a remarkably straightforward process.
For those unfamiliar, propagation is akin to cloning a plant. This method creates a biological duplicate that is genetically identical to the original plant.
Our garden makeover has begun, and we’re tackling a challenging spot beneath a peppermint tree. This area faces the full force of salty sea breezes, stays in shade most of the day, and then endures a few intense hours of afternoon sun. Rosemary is the perfect candidate for this environment! My goal is to cultivate a rosemary hedge that’s strong, hardy, and provides protection for nearby plants.
However, we’re working with a limited budget for this project. To adequately fill the space, I estimate we’ll need about 10-12 rosemary plants. While I could buy them from a garden center at roughly $5 per small pot, I can propagate a dozen myself in under thirty minutes – and it won’t cost a thing!
I’m also prepared to wait for them to grow, making rosemary propagation the ideal solution for me.
Propagating rosemary is quite straightforward, but there are some expert tips and tricks that can significantly increase the success rate.
Step by Step Guide on How to Propagate Rosemary from Cuttings
1. Find a Healthy Parent Plants
In my garden, I have several tall rosemary plants that consistently flourish, season after season, in our local climate. By propagating or cloning these rosemary plants, I can be confident that the new plants will inherit the same climate resilience.
Alternatively, you might consider obtaining a cutting from a neighbor’s plant (remember to ask for permission first!) or even using a bunch of rosemary from your local farmers market.
However, avoid using any plant that appears unhealthy, undernourished, or afflicted with disease or pests. Such plants are likely to struggle and may not be worth the effort of trying to propagate.
2. Look for the Hardwood
Select a sturdy woody stem for cutting, ensuring it’s no thicker than a pencil. Avoid the tender, green new growth, as these are unsuitable for cuttings and tend to wilt and collapse quickly.
Make sure to use clean, sharp secateurs for cutting. Snip the stem at an angle, which increases the surface area for root growth.
3. Remove 2/3 of the bottom leaves
Strip off roughly two-thirds of the lower leaves from the cutting, and then plant it in the pot so that the remaining one-third of the top leaves are just above the soil line. This balance is crucial: you need enough leaves for photosynthesis and supporting new root growth, but not so many that they overwhelm the plant’s ability to sustain itself without established roots.
Additionally, remove any flowers or flower buds and trim the top if it appears uneven. This encourages the plant to focus all its energy on developing new roots.
Make sure to plant at least two-thirds of the cutting deep into the potting mix. Planting it too shallowly leads to the development of superficial roots, which might cause the plant to become unstable and fall over.
4. Rooting Hormone
Rooting hormone is readily available at most reputable garden centers. While it’s not mandatory, using it can expedite the rooting process of your cuttings.
Simply dip the fresh cutting into the rooting hormone, ensuring it’s coated up to about 2cm deep, and then shake off any excess before inserting the cutting into the soil.
5. Plant into Friable Soil
Newly forming roots require a soft and nurturing medium to grow into. My simple, two-ingredient seed raising mix is ideal for this purpose and has excellent moisture retention properties.
6. Keep Your Cuttings Moist
I’m fond of using cellulose bags for growing cuttings and seedlings. These bags allow me to easily monitor root development, and when the time comes, I can plant them directly into their final location without worrying about harming the fragile new roots.
Another advantage of these bags is the ease of watering. I can simply place them in a dish of water and let capillary action ensure the roots stay moist, avoiding overhead watering that can lead to rot and fungal issues on the plant.
It’s crucial to keep your cuttings adequately hydrated. Without sufficient water, they can wilt and perish quickly.
7. Fertilize With Worm Wee
After observing root development in the cuttings, I start incorporating diluted worm tea into the watering regimen. This introduces beneficial microbes and nutrients that promote healthy plant growth. It’s important not to overuse it; a diluted concentration, roughly half of what you’d use for mature plants, is adequate. This typically means mixing about 1 part worm tea to 12 parts water.
8. Plant into Your Garden
When you notice roots sprouting through your pot or cellulose bag, it’s time to plant your rosemary! If it’s the peak of summer, you might consider transferring them into a larger pot and keeping them in the greenhouse a bit longer to protect them from the intense heat.
Rosemary plants are a long-term reward, producing modest yet beautiful edible blue flowers that attract bees and other beneficial insects. The sturdy branches, once stripped of leaves, also serve as excellent skewers for barbecuing.
These plants are low-maintenance, requiring minimal water and feeding. Regular trimming helps maintain a neat, compact hedge. Once you’re comfortable with propagating rosemary, try applying the same technique to other herbs like thyme, lavender, sage, scented geraniums, and basil.
I’m curious about your gardening experiences. Do you propagate rosemary or other plants in your garden, or do you prefer buying them from a local garden center? I’d love to hear your thoughts, so please leave a comment below.