How to propagate Rosemary
A rooted rosemary plant from a cutting will mature quicker than a plant started from seed. The plant will reach a usable size in just a few months so you will be able to harvest rosemary sooner to use in cooking. The rosemary plant you will grow from cuttings will be an exact clone of the mother plant and have the same flavor, disease resistance, growth and other traits. A single plant can provide numerous cuttings without risking the health of the plant. So you can line your kitchen windowsill with several plants that will smell wonderful when you brush your hand against them.
Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis) is perennial herb in USDA Hardiness Zones 8 and warmer where it can be planted in the garden and can grow 4 feet tall and spreads bout 4 feet wide depending on the variety. For those of us gardening in colder zones, growing rosemary in containers allows us to bring it in during the winter.
My rosemary plant is going on three years old this year. I have it planted in a raised bed that is devoted to herbs. Whether you live in a warmer zone like I do and can leave your plant outside or you have to bring your plant in during the winter, the plants will send forth new shoots in the spring. When the plant starts to put on new growth, it is a perfect time to take cuttings to make new plants. Those fresh and green stems are what you want for cuttings.
How to propagate Rosemary:
- Select new shoots from the “mother” plant.
Choose the healthiest stems with the fresh green growth. The newer stems will have the young and flexible growth needed for making new plants.
- Take cuttings:
Using sharp scissors, snip the rosemary stem about 5-6 inches back from the fresh growing tip. Take multiple cuts to ensure that you have extras in case some do not make it.
- Strip the lower leaves.
Using your fingers, gently strip off the lower 2 inches of leaves/needles from the rosemary cutting.
- Place cuttings in water.
Stick the stems in a jar of water and locate them in a warm place away from direct sunlight. Change the water every couple of days, replacing with room temperature water. The fresh water provides dissolved oxygen and prevents the cuttings from rotting. The rosemary stem cuttings should grow roots in a few weeks depending on the temperature. It can take longer in colder temperatures. After 4 to 8 weeks it should be apparent if the rosemary cuttings have survived. The cuttings hat do not survive will be brown and have shed their leaves.
- Pot up the stem cuttings once roots develop.
Use a sandy soil mix that drains well. Mix equal parts all-purpose potting soil and sharp sand. Or use cactus potting soil. Fill a 4 inch or larger pot with moist potting soil for each of the cuttings. You want to make sure that the potting soil is moist but not overly wet. Simply squeeze the soil in the palm of your hand and if it clumps into a ball without pouring out water, then it is perfect. Use your finger to make a hole in the soil and place the cutting into the soil gently to avoid damaging the roots. Cover gently and water it in thoroughly. Keep out of direct sun until the roots are able to take hold.
After the plants are established in their new pots, keep them moist by watering when the soil starts to feel dry. At this point they can be put into their permanent location that receives 6-8 hours of sun per day.
- Caring for your new rosemary plant.
Allow the new plants to put on some growth before harvesting. Once the plant is 6-inches tall, harvest by cutting stems as needed. New growth will continue forming on the stem. Rosemary grows slowly so don’t harvest too much at one time.
A rosemary plant that grows in a container can reach up to 3 feet tall. As the plant grows, continue to transplant the plant when its roots fill the pot. You can create a more bushy plant with regular pruning once the plant is established.
I really hope this encourages you to grow some of your own Rosemary in your backyard garden. The ability to propagate a herb like Rosemary can save you a ton of time and money.