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How Do I Take Rosemary Cuttings?

By C. Mitchell
Updated May 16, 2024
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The best thing to do when taking rosemary cuttings is to snip a section of new growth off of an already well-established plant. Rosemary cuttings are the easiest way to propagate new rosemary plants, but it is very important to start with a parent plant that is hearty in its own right. Immediately after making your cuts, soak your sprigs in rooting hormone, then plant them in a shallow dish of vitamin-rich soil, such as peat, until they root.

Rosemary is an herb in the mint family. In the wild, rosemary reproduces primarily through the spread of seed and the outgrowth of root networks underneath the soil. Most rosemary used in cooking and sold as a commercially-packaged herb does not come from wild growths. Cultivated rosemary plants — the kind sold in nurseries and raised on herb farms — are generally clones. This means that they produce asexually through layering and cutting.

Starting a rosemary plant from a cutting is a far simpler way to start a new growth than waiting for seeds to germinate. With the right fertilizers, light, and soil compositions, a rosemary cutting can propagate a new plant in as little as a few weeks. Propagating rosemary by taking cuttings is not a foolproof endeavor, however. It is usually a good idea to start a few cuttings at a time, in hopes that one will take root.

The first thing you should do is to look for a healthy outgrowth on an existing plant. Aim to take approximately 2 inches (about 5 cm), so look for a sprig with at least double that length in healthy growth. New, light green growth is usually the best. Try to avoid older sprigs with thick, wood-like stalks. The more established an individual sprig already is, the harder it will be for it to adapt to a new growing environment.

Once you have made your rosemary cuttings, carefully trim the leaves from the bottom 1 inch (about 2.5 cm) of the stalks. This is the part of the stalk that will be under ground. Prepare your soil, but before you plant your rosemary cuttings, dip each one in a rooting hormone solution. Rooting hormone is readily available at most gardening centers and essentially works as an extra “boost” to help your cutting start growing roots of its own.

It is important that you plant your rosemary cuttings in a porous, vitamin-rich soil to start. If your soil is too dense or too dry, the cutting’s new roots might have a hard time breaking through. Porous soil is not usually the best soil in which to grow a complete rosemary plant, but it is preferable for getting new cuttings to take hold. Once the roots are established, transfer the cutting to a larger container with ordinary potting soil.

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Discussion Comments
By Ana1234 — On Sep 22, 2014

You don't have to use store bought rooting hormones. There are plenty of natural alternatives with recipes available online. The best is probably willow tea, made with willow twigs, but if you don't have access to those, you can use honey or even (apparently) human saliva to help in propagating rosemary.

By clintflint — On Sep 21, 2014

@Fa5t3r - You also might not have enough sunshine for growing rosemary. They really like a lot of direct sunshine and warm weather, although once they are established they tend to be quite hardy anywhere that doesn't get severe frosts.

It's not difficult to get rosemary cuttings if you know anyone in the area with established plants. They don't need to cut off much to make a cutting and I've noticed that rosemary in fact tends to grow wild in a lot of places as well, so you could also get it from abandoned lots or even the side of the road.

By Fa5t3r — On Sep 20, 2014

Make sure you know how to grow rosemary plants in general before you try growing some cuttings of them. For some reason they can be extremely hardy or extremely picky about where and when they will grow. I guess it's because they are a plant that will only thrive in the right conditions.

I suspect the reason it kept dying on me was because I watered it too much and they like having somewhat dry soil, but it took me a while to figure that out and if you only have a limited supply of cuttings available then you'll not want to waste them.

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