Would you like to grow plants for free?
When I was young, it was common for my mother to send me to the neighbors for a cutting of this or a clipping of that. Stems or other bits of plants taken from neighbors plants were carefully pruned, passed off to me and I would run them home where they would typically get their start in a glass of water.
We’d change the water once a day and eventually roots would grow and the plant would be moved out to the garden or find a new home in a planter near the windowsill.
Many plants can be grown this way, though some better than others. I’ve discovered that plants aren’t so different from people: we’re all looking for ways to grow, we each have our own set of likes and dislikes and we can each flourish with even the smallest amount of nurturing.
Learn how to grow rosemary from cuttings and then use this same method to grow other plants — all virtually for free. I still grow some plants from cuttings in a glass of water such as perennial vines, water loving plants and herbs. However, I’ve found not every plant grows well with this method and stronger, healthier plants can often be grown when they root in a soil-less mixture like the one I use here.
Steps for Growing Rosemary and Other Perennials From Cuttings:
1. Clip the first 6 inches of stem measuring from the tip toward the base. Measurements don’t have to be exact, you just want enough stem so that some of it is submerged for rooting and plenty is left above ground to catch light and air.
2. When pruning, take a clean cut directly above or below a point where the leaves attach to the stem. If you remember from How to Harvest Basil, the branching and leaf points on a plant are made up of tissue that, in biology, is termed meristematic tissue. It holds highly equipped cells responsible for new growth. This is where new stems, leaves, flowers and even roots originate. If you were to cut in the center between branching or leaf points, the tissue is different and only designed to make more of itself (it’s called somatic tissue). In rosemary, the leaf points are close together so it’s hard to get it wrong but take more care with taking cuttings from other plants.
3. Prepare a 50/50 mixture of vermiculite and perlite. Stir together and add water until thoroughly wet. The beauty of this mixture is that it holds moisture incredibly well while allowing for drainage. It’s also sterile, which means you don’t have to worry about your cutting becoming damaged or infected with bacteria or fungi. You can also try using my seed starting mix recipe and place the container with cutting in a pan of water, so it wicks water up from the bottom and stays evenly moist. Then again, some plants propagate perfectly well in compost or garden soil (such as when layering), so experiment depending on what you’re growing.
4. Next, remove the leaves from the bottom half of the stem. With rosemary, they come away easily simply by running your fingers down the stem. You may want to clip or pinch off leaves of other varieties of perennials. Once leaves are removed, it’s an option to dip the leafless portion of the stem in rooting hormone such as liquid seaweed.
5. Place the stem in your mixture, submerging just up to where the leaves are still attached.
6. Grow your cutting out of direct sunlight but in a warm environment.
7. Make a mini greenhouse to maintain humidity and warmth by covering your cutting with a plastic bag, half a plastic water bottle or a mason jar. Just remember, circulation is as important as warmth, so leave room for air to move. Prop up a plastic bag with chop sticks or pencils and consider removing coverings during the day when temperatures are higher than night time temperatures. As a note, I often don’t cover my cuttings except in winter and simply let them grow. It may take them longer for them to take root, but that’s okay.
8. Maintain soil moisture. It’s easy with this 50/50 blend of vermiculite and perlite, simply water it once a week or so depending on air temperatures. (I usually water mine less often.) If it’s still moist, there’s no need to water. Check the medium with a finger before watering to be sure it needs it.
9. Give your cutting the tug test after about 3 to 4 weeks. If the plant resists and feels secure, roots have grown. If it feels like it will slip and come free, let it continue to grow and work its magic.
10. Repot or move your cutting out to the garden once it roots. I like to wait a few days before placing in full sun to reduce stress on new transplants. If you’re worried or it’s especially hot, cover with a shade cloth or even a towel during the hottest hours of the day until it’s acclimated.
Grow one cutting or many at once. The effort of one is nearly the same as many and then you have gifts for friends or an entire hedge of rosemary.
Try this same method with other perennials such as lavender, oregano, thyme, sages or lemon verbena. In fact, try it with nearly any plant, experiment and see what happens!
Grow what you love and pass it on. 😉
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