About a month ago, I wrote a guest post for Apartment Therapy/Re-Nest on propagating herbs by cuttings. This is how I quickly double my basil harvest every summer at no extra cost. Basil grows easily from seed too, but stem cuttings are fast and easy — they’ll produce roots in water in about a week or two! By mid-summer my collection of scented geraniums (Pelargoniums) are huge! Why not take a few cuttings and share the wealth with friends?
On the Re-Nest site someone asked a question about taking cuttings from bolting plants. I have not been able to post a comment so I am adding a reply here.
SoRad: We grow basil like an annual in colder climates, but in tropical conditions the plant is a perennial. There are also varieties of basil that are reproduced by cuttings only… they don’t produce seed. Some basil varieties bolt quickly and constantly, while others only do-so when the weather gets really hot.
Bolting when it comes to basil is more about the conditions a particular variety prefers rather than “age.” It is better to take cuttings from plants that aren’t under heat-stress, but I have found that it can be done successfully — your best bet is to move the rooting cuttings to a cooler spot.
Just last week a friend and I visited a large greenhouse to stock up on last-minute herbs for the growing season. As we walked the aisles, I felt more than a little guilty, if not mischievous, about the number of times I whispered to put a plant back since I already had it and would happily give her a cutting. When you’re stocking a garden for the growing season, every $3 and $4 savings really adds up quickly!
Plants such as basil, mint, and oregano are incredibly easy to reproduce from cuttings — and a heck of a lot faster than growing from seed. So easy in fact, that it is practically criminal how quickly you can stock your entire garden from one small plant. I save time and money every season multiplying my basil crop in this way.
Allow new plants to grow for a few weeks to a month. When they’ve doubled in size, cut a few stems about 4 or 5 inches long just above or below a node (the juncture on the stem where leaves are attached).
Pluck off one or two sets of leaves, and remove any flower or buds that have formed. The goal here is to keep the plant focused on growing roots and leaves; flowers (a different form of reproduction) are a big energy drain.
Stick the stems in a small cup or jar of water and place in a sunny but protected spot. Add more water as it evaporates; at least one node should always be submerged in water since this is where the roots will form.
ThatÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s it. You should see roots in less than a week.
Once healthy roots have formed, pot up or plant the new plants in-ground and you’re done. You can add a little vermicompost to the hole if you want and of course water them in well to get things going.
Rooting Cuttings From Woody Stems
Plants with woodier stems, including rosemary, scented geraniums (aka pelargoniums), and lemon verbena tend to have a little trouble producing roots in water, but will work just as easily in a soil-like medium. Follow the directions for growing in water, but push the cutting into a small plastic pot or tray filled with well-draining potting soil, coir, or a mix of 1 part vermiculite and 1 part perlite. Keep the soil moist, but not sopping wet. I have had especially good luck allowing geranium cuttings to scab over for a day or two before potting them up.
Herbs to Start in Water:
- Broadleaf Thyme/Cuban Oregano
Herbs to Start in Potting Soil/Coir:
- Broadleaf Thyme/Cuban Oregano
- Lemon Verbena
- Savory (Summer and Winter)
- Scented Geraniums
p.s. The herbs I used in these photos are Purple ‘Tulsi’ aka ‘Holy’ basil and ‘Robber’s Lemon Rose’ geranium.
And one trick I did not include in the post is that I let the geranium cutting callus or “heal over” for a few hours and up to a day before planting in soil. My friend Barry taught me this trick and it works like a charm!