How to Propagate Rosemary

Rosemary is a popular member of the herb garden. It is also a reliable addition to container gardens and vegetable patches. As well as its culinary uses, this Mediterranean herb retains its interest all year round.

Learning how to propagate rosemary will allow you to easily increase your number of plants. This enables you to plant in swathers, or fill bare spaces in bed and borders. When planted here the foliage and distinctive aroma of the plant will fill a space, attracting bees and pollinators amongst its admirers.

1 A perennial plant Rosemary reliably fills spaces with color and fragranceA perennial plant rosemary reliably fills spaces with color and fragrance. A popular culinary ingredient, as well as attracting pollinators, these plants are also useful companion plants when grown in vegetable patches or flower beds.

This plant is a perennial herb in USDA zones 8 and warmer. In these areas learning how to propagate rosemary enables you to cheaply and easily fill beds and herb spirals with this attractive, aromatic plant.

Fully grown, and left unchecked, the plant has a spread of around 4ft. It will also reach around 4ft in height.

Gardeners in cooler climates may be better off growing the plant in containers. Container grown plants can then be covered or moved inside when the first frosts of the year arrive. In cooler climates learning how to propagate rosemary enables you to bring fragrance and year round interest to a container garden or a windowsill herb box.

The Benefits of Learning How to Propagate Rosemary Cuttings

There are a number of benefits of learning how to propagate rosemary cuttings.

Firstly, this process enables you to enjoy an earlier harvest. Seeds take a long time to reach maturity. Successful germination also relies on you providing the correct conditions. This can sometimes be difficult. In contrast, if you learn how to propagate rosemary cuttings, with the correct care rooted cuttings will reach a usable size within a couple of months.

If you learn how to propagate rosemary you will be able to successfully replicate the appearance and taste of the mother plant. Plants grown from cuttings also enjoy the same disease resistance and display the same growth habits as the parent plant.

2 Great as part of a flower bed or a herb spiralGreat as part of a flower bed or a herb spiral, learning how to propagate rosemary will enable you to easily, and cheaply, fill your garden with the plant.

Another reason is that this is a great way to get more plants for little expense. Purchasing a number of plants can be costly, especially if you also need to repot them into new containers.

Learning how to propagate rosemary is a great way to quickly increase the number of plants in your collection whilst keeping costs to a minimum.

Finally, learning how to propagate rosemary is also a transferable skill. Once mastered you can replicate the process on other herbs or plants. This enables you to increase your plant or herb collection for very little expense.

How to Propagate Rosemary

Before explaining how to propagate rosemary there are a few items you will need. The most important is an established rosemary plant. Ideally the plant will have just finished flowering.

3 Once you know how to propagate rosemary you can attempt the process at any time of year
Once you know how to propagate rosemary you can attempt the process at any time of year. However you should avoid taking cuttings when the plant is in flower. Many gardeners prefer to take cuttings in the weeks after flowering has finished. 

You will also need:

  • A pair of scissors
  • A sharp knife
  • Terracotta pots, these should be clean and have drainage holes in the bottom. Alternatively you can root the cuttings in modular seed trays.
  • Hormone rooting powder
  • Compost, a mix of equal parts perlite, vermiculite or horticultural grit and potting compost is ideal
  • General purpose compost such as John Innes No2 for potting on

Before taking the cuttings fill the terracotta pots with the gritty compost mix.

How to Propagate Rosemary Cuttings

With the scissors take some new growth cuttings from the plant. New growth cuttings are young shoots, these will be green and bend easily. Don’t take cuttings from brown or woody older stems. Your chosen stems should also be healthy in appearance.

Each cutting should be about 6 inches in length. Remove the lower leaves from each cutting, exposing roughly the lower 2 inches of stem. A bare stem, when placed in the soil, will help the cutting to retain moisture.

4 Your cuttings should be healthy in appearance and at least 5 inches long

Your cuttings should be healthy in appearance and at least 5 inches long. Only ever take cuttings from fresh, softwood. These are more likely to succeed than older, brown or hardwood cuttings. Source: https://pixabay.com/photos/rosemary-set-collection-natural-1661525/  

With the knife cut away the base of the stem just below the lowest leaf node. Dip the exposed end in hormone rooting powder. Dipping cuttings into hormone rooting powder helps to speed up the rooting process. However it is not necessary for successful propagation.

Insert the cuttings around the edge of the container. If you are using a modular seed tray place one cutting in each module.

Caring for Your Cuttings

Water well and place the cuttings in a cold frame or greenhouse. This should be located in a sheltered, shaded area. You can also place the cuttings in an indoor propagator or a plastic bag. Protecting the cuttings in this way shelters them from extreme temperature changes. It also helps the soil mix to retain moisture.

Regularly mist the cuttings. Don’t let the soil dry out.

After a couple of weeks check the cuttings for signs of root development. This can be done by either gently pulling the cuttings, feeling for resistance or carefully pulling away the sides of the container near the cutting and looking for any signs of root development.

As soon as roots have formed apply a diluted, general purpose fertilizer solution. Gritty cutting compost mixtures contain few, if any, nutrients. Applying a diluted dose helps to encourage healthy growth.

Once a healthy root system has been established, gently remove each cutting from the container. Pot the cuttings into their own pots. This can be filled with a loam based or general purpose compost. John Innes No 2 is an ideal choice.

Continue to keep the young plants well watered. As the cuttings continue to grow into and their root systems fill the container, pot them on into larger containers.

Come next spring your cuttings should be large enough to plant outside in a herb or container garden. Remember to harden off your plants as the last local frost date approaches. Then, as the soil and temperature warms up, transplant into their final position.

How to Propagate Rosemary Cuttings in Water

Propagating in water is just as easy and reliable as placing your cuttings into the soil. However if you place the cuttings in a clear vase or glass you will be able to watch the roots emerge. This is a great way to interest children in gardening.

Take and prepare the cuttings as above.

Place the prepared cuttings in a jar of fresh water. The water should be room temperature. Put the jar in a warm location, away from direct sunlight.

Regularly check the cuttings. You will also need to change the water every other day. Providing fresh water helps to dissolve oxygen, this prevents the cuttings from rotting.

After a couple of weeks you will notice roots emerging from the cuttings. This may take longer if the cuttings are situated in a cooler location. Within 4-8 weeks you will be able to gauge whether the cuttings are successful. Failed cuttings will turn brown and shed their needles. Healthy cuttings will be green and may have roots emerging.

5 The needle like foliage of the cuttings will remain green and healthy if your cuttings are thriving
The needle like foliage of the cuttings will remain green and healthy if your cuttings are thriving. As the plants grow more foliage will emerge, branching off from the central stem. Cuttings that are failing will turn brown and drop their needles. 

Once a healthy root system has emerged pot the cuttings in 4 inch containers filled with a sandy soil mix. A cactus potting soil can also be used. Place the containers somewhere where the cuttings can receive lots of indirect light. Slowly expose the plants to direct light. Regularly water the cuttings, keeping the soil moist.

Allow the young plants to grow on until they are large enough to transplant into their permanent positions.

How to Care for Rosemary Plants

If your attempt at propagating plants is successful you will now have a collection of healthy, young plants. Caring for these correctly will help to ensure that they will grow into robust plants.

In general caring for these plants is the same as caring for any Mediterranean herb. Like other Mediteranean herbs, these plants thrive in full sun. Aim to place them somewhere where they will receive 6-8 hours of direct sunlight each day during the summer months.

Regularly water your plants. Established plants like the soil slightly dry. Wait until the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. Then water the container until water drips from the drainage holes at the bottom of the pot.

Repot the plants regularly as they fill their containers. This helps the plants to continue growing and remain healthy.

Prune regularly. The more these plants are pruned the bushier their growth habit becomes. Pruning after flowering will help the plant to maintain a compact shape.

Tips for Overwintering Plants Indoors

A hardy evergreen if temperatures remain over 55 ℉, gardeners in cooler USDA zones will need to shelter the plants during the winter months. If you take garden plants into your home in the fall remember to keep them away from houseplants. This prevents pests and diseases from spreading to more delicate plants.

Place the plants in a light location such as a south facing windowsill. You can also place them under grow lights. Remember to water the soil regularly. Misting will help to keep the soil evenly moist while also maintaining humidity levels. Finally these plants like slightly cooler temperatures during the winter months, 60-65 ℉ is ideal.

6 Attractive and aromatic learning how to propagate rosemary enables you to fill your garden with this popular plantAttractive and aromatic, learning how to propagate rosemary enables you to fill your garden with this popular plant. Doing so will not only benefit other plants in your garden, it is a reliable companion plant, but it will also attract pollinators while providing you with hours of aromatic and attractive pleasure. 

Now that you know how to propagate rosemary you will be able to fill containers, beds or herb spirals with this attractive plant. Remember that as well as its culinary uses, fragrant aroma and attractive foliage rosemary is also a reliable companion plant. For all these reasons learning how to propagate rosemary is a great way to spend an afternoon. It is also a great way to start a herb garden. With a little practice you will be able to fill your garden with this aromatic little plant.

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