How to Grow New Herbs from Cuttings

, written by Benedict Vanheems gb flag

Purple sage in a herb garden

It's really easy to take semi-ripe cuttings from some of the most popular herbs, so you can grow new plants for free! Who doesn't love getting something for nothing??

Late summer is the perfect time of year to take ‘semi-ripe’ cuttings of herbs such as lavender, rosemary, sage and thyme. Semi-ripe cuttings are taken from this season’s growth, from stems that are beginning to harden up, or ripen, before winter. The base of the cuttings should be slightly woody, while the tip of the cuttings will still be soft and pliable.

How to Take Semi-Ripe Cuttings

Take cuttings from healthy, undamaged, pest- and disease-free, non-flowering stems. Cut them in the morning, when temperatures are cooler and the cuttings are less likely to wilt. Use a sharp pair of clean pruners. Place the cuttings into a plastic bag to stop them drying out. If you can’t prepare the cuttings immediately, keep them in the refrigerator for up to 12 hours until you’re ready to do so.

Most cuttings should be about four to six inches (10-15cm) long. Trim your cuttings to this length by making a clean cut just below a leaf joint. Cut or pull off the lowest leaves so only about three or four remain. Dip the end of the cuttings into organic hormone rooting powder or gel to improve the chances of success.

Dipping herb cuttings in organic hormone rooting powder

Rooting Your Herb Cuttings

Cuttings need very free-draining potting soil, so mix potting soil with equal parts sharp sand. Or try a mix consisting of one-third sterilized topsoil, one-third leafmold, and one-third sharp sand.

Fill plastic pots with your cuttings mix. Now carefully insert the cuttings up to the first set of leaves, and firm them in. Label the pot, water well and leave to drain. You can place about three cuttings into a 4-inch (10cm) pot, or insert one cutting per cell of a plug tray.

Planting herb cuttings in pots

Cuttings will root quicker in a warm, humid place. A greenhouse or cold frame is ideal. Shade them from hot sun and keep the cuttings mix moist. Ensure good ventilation in hot weather.

If you don’t have a greenhouse or cold frame you can cover pots with clear plastic bags, secured in place with rubber bands, to help raise the humidity. Place pots on a bright windowsill, but out of direct sunlight to prevent them from overheating.

Cuttings may root within about six to eight weeks, but can take up to four months.

Benedict Vanheems with his potted-up sage cuttings

Growing Your Cuttings On

Unless they suddenly put on lots of growth, leave the cuttings where they are until spring. The rooted cuttings may then be potted on.

To pot your cuttings on, remove them from their pot then carefully tease them apart, keeping as much of the root system intact as possible. Plant them up into individual pots of fresh potting soil. They’ll be ready to plant outside a few weeks later.

With very little effort, you'll quickly be able to produce many new herb plants - ideal for borders, containers and for fresh tastes in the kitchen. And all for free!

Taking cuttings and successfully growing them into mature plants is deeply satisfying. If you’ve taken cuttings like this before, let us know how you got on by dropping us a comment below.

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Show Comments


"Hi, About 2 weeks ago I took some cuttings of Rosemary and Sage (length etc as per your suggestions) and simply placed the stems in small jars half filled with water and positioned them on my office windowsill. I changed the water when it became a little cloudy (every 3 or 4 days). Roots are now appearing on the stems (they all still look very healthy). I will leave them until the roots have grown a little more and then transfer them into pots of a mixture of compost and sharp sand. This tip was given to me by a friend who has been successfully raising herbs for many years. Has any one else tried this and if so how did they get on? "
David Craig on Monday 26 September 2016
"Rosemary makes an amazing look along country road sides. I just take a straight stalk off an established plant and bury it in the ground about 4 inches or more (but only when soil is moist in the spring) It attracts bees, and looks fantastic. The tourists used to steal it when passing by which made me laugh. “chefs choice” has smaller petals/ leaves and is more delicate to grow. "
Ian on Sunday 20 October 2019
"Thanks for that Ian. Rosemary really is a stunning herb for attracting the bees isn't it."
Ben Vanheems on Monday 28 October 2019

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