Rosemary would have to be my favourite herb. It is indispensable in the garden, the kitchen and the apothecary. It can be tricky to grow from seed, but it is so easy to propagate rosemary from cuttings.
Just in case you didn’t know, propagation is cloning a plant. Essentially, you’re making a biological copy that will be identical to the parent.
We have started our garden renovations and we have a tricky spot. It is under the peppermint tree, with the full salty blast of a sea breeze, full days shade ending with a few hours of the blazing afternoon sun. Rosemary is up for the job! Ideally, I want to create a rosemary hedge that will grow to be robust, resilient and offer some shelter to surrounding plants.
But the budget is tight for this renovation. And I figure I am going to need 10-12 rosemary plants to fill the space. Sure, I could purchase them at any garden centre for about $5 each small pot, but for less than half an hours worth of effort, I could have a dozen propagated for free!
I am also willing to be patient and wait for them to grow, so propagating rosemary is my preferred choice.
Propagating rosemary isn’t difficult at all, but as with all things, there are a few insider tricks you can do to ensure a greater rate of success.
How to Propagate Rosemary From Cuttings
Find a Healthy Parent Plants
I already have a few tall rosemary plants in my garden. Season after season they not only survive but thrive in my climate. Propagating or cloning these rosemary’s will ensure I know that the new plants will have that same climate adaptation.
But, you could always try a cutting from a neighbours plant (ask politely first!), or even with a bunch of rosemary purchased from your local farmers market.
Any plant that is unhealthy, undernourished or suffering from any kind of disease or infestation, leave it be. It’s going to struggle and likely a waste of your good time.
Look for the Hardwood
Look for a good woody stem to cut, no thicker than a pencil. The soft green new growth is no good for cuttings, they’ll wilt and fall over in days.
Cut on the Diagonal
Using clean, sharp secateurs, cut the stem on the diagonal, this gives the plant more surface area to grow roots.
Remove 2/3 of the bottom leaves
Remove about 2/3 of the bottom leaves, and plant into the pot with the 1/3 top leaves just above the soil. It can be a tricky balance. You want enough leaves to ensure the plant can photosynthesise and support new roots, but not so many leaves that you have to support a nutrient demand the plant can’t support without roots.
Also, remove any flowers or flower buds and trim the top if it is a bit uneven. You want the plant to put all its energy into creating new roots.
Be sure to bury at least 2/3 of the cutting into the potting mix. Shallow cuttings develop shallow roots that can cause the plant to topple.
Rooting hormone can be found at every good garden centre and while not essential, it will encourage the cutting to root faster. Just dip your fresh cutting into the rooting hormone up to 2cm deep and shake off any excess before pushing the cutting into the soil.
I don’t use rooting hormone, simply because I just don’t seem to need it with rosemary.
Plant into Friable Soil
Emerging roots need to have a gentle medium to grow into. My Two-Ingredient Seed Raising Mix is perfect for the job, and holds it’s moisture well.
Keep Your Cuttings Moist
I love to grow cuttings and seedlings in these cellulose bags. I can easily see the development of the roots and when they are ready, they can be planted directly into their surroundings without me concerned about damaging the newly developed roots.
Plus, I can water them by placing them in a dish of water and allow capillary-action to do the job of keeping the roots damp, without watering from overhead which encourages rot and fungus on the plant.
Do not let your cuttings dry out! They can quickly wilt and die without enough water.
Fertilize With Worm Wee
Once I can see that roots have formed, I introduce diluted worm wee to the watering to encourage good microbes and nutrients to help encourage healthy plant growth. Don’t overdo it! A dose at half of what you would otherwise use on established plants is sufficient. (About 1 part worm wee to 12 parts water)
Plant into Your Garden!
Once you see roots forming through your pot or cellulose bag, your rosemary’s are ready to plant! If you are in the heat of summer, maybe transplant them into a larger pot and nurture them a little longer in the greenhouse away from the heat.
Rosemary’s will reward you for years with modest, but beautiful edible blue flowers that are popular with bees and beneficial insects. Their long sticks stripped of their leaves make fantastic skewers for the barbeque.
They don’t ask for much water or feeding and regular trimming will make a beautiful compact hedge. Once you can propagate rosemary with confidence, give some other similar herbs a try using the same method. Thyme, lavender, sage, scented geraniums and basil all work well the same way.
Do you propagate rosemary or many of your plants in your garden? Or do you prefer to purchase them from your local garden centre? I would love to hear from you, please leave a message below.