Growing Rosemary From Cuttings: Tips for Propagating Rosemary

Rosemary Sprig in a Bottle of Water

Today we’ll look at everything involved with growing rosemary from cuttings.

The rosemary plant is a perennial with woody stems that produce robust and flavorful needle-like leaves.

You’ve likely used this herb while cooking before, or at least ate a dish that included rosemary. It’s often used in common dishes like soups, casseroles and salad. Around Thanksgiving its often used with turkey, chicken and other seasonal meats.

Like many other herbs, rosemary can easily be grown in many growing zones in the United States and throughout the world! Rosemary is a great addition to any herb garden, with a beautiful green (rosemary green!) color and the reward of fresh rosemary for your kitchen!

Rosemary Sprigs Around Poultry Meat

But how do you start?

While growing rosemary from seed is certainly an option, growing rosemary from cuttings can be an interesting experience and doesn’t even require you to own a rosemary plant!

Can rosemary be grown from cuttings?

Yes, rosemary can be grown cuttings, also known as propagating rosemary. Propagating is simply means producing a plant that is identical (genetically speaking) to its parent by means of dividing, taking cuttings, etc.

Some plants are more difficult to propagate than others, but with rosemary, a little patience and plant care will result in your very own little rosemary bush!

Today, we’ll discuss how to grow rosemary from cuttings.

How to grow rosemary from cuttings

To grow rosemary from cuttings, you’ll need:

  • A small pot (3″ is good with good drainage) or growing area with some potting soil
  • Water
  • Rooting hormone (optional)

Before we get into the specific steps, it should be noted that growing rosemary from cuttings is a lengthy process. Depending on the strategy taken, it could take as long as a year until you can harvest and eat from your new rosemary plant.

Step-by-step on how to propagate rosemary

Here’s a rundown of everything involved with growing rosemary from cuttings.

1. Get a hold of some rosemary!

To start, you’ll need some rosemary cuttings, of course.

If you are growing your own rosemary, simply cutting off some healthy, non-flowering sprigs of rosemary will do. No need to cut off full branches — sprigs that are 4-6″ long will be great!

You can take cuttings any time throughout the growing season, but the best time is when it is getting colder and the stems are becoming slightly woody on the end.

If you aren’t currently growing rosemary and don’t know of anyone who is willing to share theirs, most grocery stores or farmers markets sell packs or bunches of fresh rosemary. While its certainly more preferable to cut sprigs straight from a plant, some fresh sprigs of rosemary that is purchased should be fine to get started.

So, when is the best time to plant? While the answer will vary depending on where you are growing, generally early fall is optimimal.

This is because the plants’ stems become more sturdy (even woody at their base), which make your cutting more sturdy for propagating!

Rosemary Sprigs Up Close

2. Strip leaves off bottom 2″ of the rosemary sprig

Once you have a rosemary sprig, strip off the leaves on the lower end of the stem — you’ll want about 2″ of bare stem, which will serve as the base for future roots!

If you are ready to propagate the sprig right away, cut the tip of the sprig at a 45-degree angle. This will ensure some fresh exposure to the center of the sprig.

If you aren’t ready to propagate, you can store the sprigs in your fridge, wrapped in a plastic bag.

3. [Optional] Dip the stem into a growth hormone

At this point, you have the option of dipping the sprig’s bare stem into a rooting hormone.

Using a growth hormone is optional, especially when it comes to rosemary, which you’ll likely be consuming down the road. In some cases, it may be necessary for healthier roots, but in many cases, you can get by without it.

If you do want to use a growth hormone for a faster and healthier root system, you can purchase either the powder or gel form at your local garden center. Then, simply dip your stem into some water and and tip into the growth hormone.

When propagating rosemary with a rooting hormone, keep in mind that most hormones (whether in powder or gel form) will require you waiting until a full year before consuming any part of the plant.

4. Start the root structure

If you chose to start the plant with a growth hormone, you can plant the stem in a potting soil mix to ensure that is has good draining. Since these are just little sprigs at this point, planting them in a small pack or pot is preferable. This will allow you to move the plant around, if needed.

If you aren’t using a growth hormone, you’ll want to establish a root structure before planting in soil. To do this, you can place your rosemary plant in a glass of water, with the 2″ of bare stem fully submerged. After a 3-4 weeks you should start seeing roots sprouting out of the stem!

Once you have some mature roots, the plant is ready to planted in potting soil! Make sure the sprig’s stem has good contact with the soil so that the root system can grow immediately into the soil.

Do this when soil temperature is between 60-70 degrees Ferineheit. If you plant too early the sprigs may not take root and planting too late may result in a plant that struggles to take off due to the heat (rosemary is a cooler weather loving herb).

Rosemary Sprig Lying on the Counter

5. Wait 6-8 weeks for maturing plant

Depending on what time you are propagating, the time it will take to root up and growing will vary. Typically, after 6-8 weeks you’ll start seeing some indicators of growth.

It’s best to store your rosemary plant in a warm, humid area. If you have a greenhouse, this climate is perfect! If not, you can achieve the same effect by putting a plastic bag over the plant and container. Depending on the outside climate that you are growing in, keeping the plant outside may be good enough.

If you notice that the leaves start to turn yellow or brown/black after a few weeks, it may be due to transplant shock (much like us humans, plants don’t like sudden change). In this case, simply trim off the discolored leaves and prepare for more growth.

6. Care for your new rosemary plant!

Now that you have your plant started, its time to start treating it like any young plant you would purchase at a greenhouse or growing center. Make sure the rosemary plant gets plenty of sunlight, water (keeping the top level of soil damp is great!) and care is going to be crucial.

Eventually, the rosemary plant will outgrow its original pot and you can plant this perennial directly in the ground for rosemary for years to come!

Rosemary with Flowers Birds Eye View

Summary

To summarize, rosemary is a great herb to try growing from cuttings! To propagate your rosemary, you can follow these steps:

  1. Get a hold of some rosemary (either from an existing plant or from your grocery store)
  2. Strip off leaves from each stems’ bottom 2″
  3. Dip the stem in a growth hormone and plant in potting soil OR
  4. Place the stem in a glass of water for a few weeks until mature roots have grown before planting
  5. Store the stem and pot in a humid climate and water occasionally for 6-8 weeks
  6. Care for your new rosemary plant!