How to Propagate Rosemary from Cuttings
Step-by-step instructions for how to propagate rosemary from cuttings. Includes when and how to take cuttings, encouraging root growth, and aftercare. Use these tips to create dozens of new rosemary plants for free.
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If you have an established rosemary plant, you can use it to propagate dozens of new plants for practically nothing. Propagating is taking a piece of a parent plant, and encouraging it to grow its own roots and become a separate plant. The new plant will essentially be a clone of the parent plant. Rosemary is one of those herbs that roots fairly easily so if you try this method, you should have loads of new plants within a couple of months. You can also use the same technique to propagate lavender.
Though rosemary can grow from seeds, it can take a very long time. Choosing to propagate rosemary from cuttings is a shortcut and the most common way to multiply your plants. The best time of the year to do it is in late spring to early summer when your rosemary has new growth at the tips. By the end of summer, you’ll have baby plants to over-winter and plant out the following spring.
How to Propagate Rosemary from Cuttings
You don’t need very much gardening experience or skill to propagate rosemary from cuttings. Often, you can place cut rosemary in glasses of water and they’ll begin to grow roots! Pieces of rosemary want to grow and will more readily take in moist yet free-draining potting mix. In it, they not only have the moisture that stimulates rooting but also a growing medium to spread their roots into. Within weeks of planting your cuttings, you could have dozens of rosemary plants that cost practically nothing.
Materials Needed to Propagate Rosemary
- Rosemary cuttings
- Rooting Hormone Powder (optional)
- Terracotta pots
- Perlite, grit, or vermiculite (your choice)
- Peat-free multipurpose potting mix
- Plastic ziplock bag
Step 1: Source Rosemary Cuttings
You begin the process by taking a decent-sized cutting from the parent plant. It should be a healthy stem that’s grown in the current year and should be a good length as well — mine below is about 18″. If you don’t have a plant already, ask for a few cuttings from a friend who has one. I suspect that someone will eventually ask whether cut rosemary from the shop will grow. I’ve never tried it but if it’s fresh enough, I don’t see why not. If you propagate rosemary this way, please let me know as a comment.
Step 2: Potting Mixture for Propagating Rosemary
The best potting mixture to use when propagating rosemary is one with good drainage. It doesn’t even need to be rich in nutrients either. The plants won’t need it until after the roots develop fully and you’ll re-pot them on at that time. To create good drainage I create my own mix using one part perlite (or grit or vermiculite) and one-to-two parts multi-purpose potting mix. Technically you could root them in pure perlite or sand though.
In case you’re wondering, some plant cuttings can be planted into ordinary soil and they’ll take root. Propagating outdoors this way is fine, but it’s not a good solution for propagating in the house or a greenhouse. Using soil in these environments heightens the chance of losing cuttings to rot, fungus, and pests.
Step 3: Prepare the Rosemary Cuttings
What we do next is cut that single rosemary stem into pieces — each one has the potential to grow into its own plant. Starting from the bottom, trim the original cut up to a fresh leaf node. A leaf node is where leaves are growing out of the stem. Discard that end piece you’ve just cut off. Then cut the first segment using a sharp knife. It should be a minimum of 4″ long but far better to be 5-6 inches. Keep cutting until the original piece is segmented into as many cuttings as you can get.
Keep note of which end of each cutting was lower down on the original stem. This is the end that needs to be planted and if you get the ends mixed up, your cuttings won’t grow. You don’t want to plant them upside down. Now strip the leaves from the bottom of each cutting, leaving the last bunch of leaves growing at the top. The stripped area should be about 2-3 inches long, depending on your cutting’s length. The leaved part that you leave sticking up from the potting mix should be 1.5-2″ long.
Step 4: Stimulate Rooting
Rosemary cuttings can develop roots all on their own but if you want to start that action more successfully, use rooting hormone powder. It stimulates the cuttings to make roots fairly quickly, but this ingredient is purely optional. Most rosemary cuttings will form roots without it.
Assemble your cuttings and have your terracotta pots filled with the potting mix. Next, dip the end of each cutting into the powder and then gently slide them into the pot along the outer edge. Leave about an inch and a half between cuttings. The more professional way to slide cuttings into the pot is by making a hole with a dibber (or pencil) and then putting the cutting in that way. It’s a gentler way but I never do it that way but haven’t had any issues.
Some might question placing the cuttings around the outer edge and not in the middle. This is because they prefer a drier environment than established plants. Terracotta is a material that breathes and your cuttings will be appreciative of the extra drainage.
Step 5: Propagate Rosemary
After the cuttings are arranged in the pots, give them a good drink of water and let the water drain out fully. Then place a plastic bag over the pot to make it into a mini greenhouse.
The cuttings will form good root systems within 4 to 8 weeks and during that time you need to keep the potting mix moist. Not sopping wet but just moist enough that you can feel it with your finger. You’ll know that your cuttings have rooted when you can see roots coming out of the drainage hole at the bottom of the pot.
Step 6: Caring for the New Rosemary Plants
When you spot roots, it’s time to separate the plants and put them into their own pots to grow on. First water the cuttings and then tap the cuttings and potting mix out. Gently tease the plants apart with your fingers and plant them up using one-part drainage material (perlite, grit, or vermiculite) to two (to three) parts multi-purpose potting mix. Water them again and let them grow on for at least another month before planting them outside.
Step 7: Harden Off the Rosemary Plants
Remember to always harden the rosemary plants off before moving them from an indoor to an outdoor location. If you skip this step, you could shock their systems and they can be permanently affected. Plants that don’t get hardened off can die, not grow, or just fail to thrive.
You harden plants, and rosemary plants, off by setting them out on warm sunny days and bringing them back in at night. After a week of this, they should be ready to be planted outdoors. If the weather is poor, then don’t put the unhardened plants outside. You want to gently introduce them to the world rather than give them a rude awakening.
Step 8: Caring for Rosemary
Rosemary is a hardy plant that requires very little to thrive. They’ll grow in large pots and containers as well as the ground and can eventually become as large as small trees in the right conditions. Check your own gardening zone and recommendations for caring for rosemary in your region. If you have freezing cold winters, rosemary might not survive outdoors. Planting into pots that can be taken into a sheltered place like a greenhouse or polytunnel will be your best way of keeping them alive over the winter. For more tips on how to grow rosemary head over here.
It sounds like you plant the cuttings, put a clear bag over the pot & plant and keep it indoors; but what do you do for sunlight if it’s not available/adequate through, in my case, the windows in my workshop? Grow light? Nothing? Thanks for your article and assistance!
Hi John, I would try to find a better place for them, with good indirect light and at room temperature.
hi. thanks for the detailed explanation. i live in the south of spain and i see a lot of rosemary growing semi wild. i would like to introduce it to my land as a kind of hedge. im wondering how much water it would need and if any at all after its settled?
Probably very little water, once it has established Sonny. If you’re in a drought and it’s looking a little sorry, then an inch of compost as mulch on the ground and watering will help.
Hello! Thank you so much for this detailed step-by-step tutorial on growing NEW Rosemary plants from cuttings. My mom has a well-established Rosemary plant and she just gave me a cutting. I have followed all of your instructions and I am very excited to see what she does. This would mean so much to me as I am a true lover of all PLANTS! I have taken many of moms seeds and have also propagated many of her original plants so I can enjoy moms flowers and plants for many years to come and my daughter who now
LOVES plants as well long after she and I are gone. I appreciate all the information and wish you a fantastic summer growing season and good health always!!!
How long do you leave the plastic baggie on the plant?
A good couple of weeks and/or until you spot roots growing out of the drainage holes.
I have an old rosemary plant that is mostly wood with exposed roots where it looks like soil has washed away. Should I cover the roots with fresh soil? I want to take cuttings to try and propagate new plants, but the sprigs that are there aren’t very long or healthy looking and I’m wondering what time of year is best for taking the cuttings? I live in Germany and fall is just around the corner.
Hi Barb, it sounds as if you have a leggy rosemary bush that’s also suffering from soil erosion. It’s leggy probably because the soil is probably too rich and moist for its liking. They prefer more of a Mediterranean soil — less rich and with lots of drainage. You can recreate this in your German garden by digging in lots of grit and fine gravel. Personally I’d replant it now, before any cold does damage to those exposed roots. It’s still early enough for the woodier parts to begin growing roots too. So when you replant it, bury the plant’s woody stems too. I know it sounds counter intuitive but some woody shrubs can handle it including rosemary and lavender. Just make sure that you add that grit to the soil before hand. Wet soil can rot the woody parts of the stem.
Have been looking for rosemary herb plant to grow or pot. I just saw some imported rosemary bundle and bought some to try and grow. I’m excited but not sure if they will eventually have roots. Please tell me is it going to grow or not?
I’m not sure what an imported rosemary bundle is so can’t give an answer. Are you talking about cut herbs from the supermarket?
I LOVE how well you explain everything and don’t assume that we all know what a leaf node is. Although I started propagating from cuttings last year, I still didn’t know exactly where I was supposed to be cutting because nothing I read explained it well enough. I also love that you give options and state that there are other ways to do things; when I’m learning new things I don’t really consider other methods (or that even are other methods) other than whichever method I learned about that was the fist to be successful. Can’t wait to look around the rest of your site. I’ll let you know how my rosemary goes! ( I know it’s supposed to be easy, but apparently that pertains to everyone but me, I kill every rosemary plant I get, I’m hoping to give myself more of a chance at rosemary success with multiple plants :)
great thanks! but I never could get adult plants alive directly in the soil. I can propagate in pots but I will love to have a permanent plant in my garden. I was shocked when I saw in Las Vegas Nevada the plant growing wild is such a heat. Means might be a plant with not attention in the southeast.