Who doesn’t love getting something for nothing? By propagating herbs from cuttings that’s exactly what you’ll get – strong, healthy plants…for free! Read on or watch our short video to discover how easy it is to take semi-ripe cuttings from some of the most popular herbs, so you can grow new plants with confidence.
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 secateurs. 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.
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 sterilised topsoil, one-third leafmould, 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 module tray.
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.
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.