From a scattering of basil on healthy greens pizza to a handful of mint in a pitcher of iced tea, fresh herbs make our meals shine. More than just garnish, herbs like basil and mint provide a punch of flavor, nutrients, and healing properties.
Fresh herbs can get expensive, though, whether you’re buying cut herbs at the market or planting an herb garden. By propagating or cloning herbs from cuttings, you can save money, turning one plant into an infinite supply of new ones.
Growing herbs from cuttings also saves time because it’s faster than growing herbs from seed. For those who don’t have garden space, this can be a fun way to grow herbs indoors all year round, close to the kitchen where you’ll use them.
It’s super simple. All you need is a cutting from an herb plant and a glass of water…
Herbs You Can Root in Water
This easy propagation technique involves snipping a stem from a mature herb plant, putting the cutting in water, and waiting until it grows new roots. You can keep growing the herb in water indoors, or transplant it to soil in the garden.
Rooting in water works especially well for soft-stemmed herbs such as basil, mint, lemon balm, oregano, and stevia. For woody herbs like rosemary, sage, oregano, and thyme, take cuttings from new, green growth; older brown stems do not sprout roots easily.
Note that some annual herbs like parsley, cilantro, and dill should be grown from seed and do not work with this method.
Where to Get Herb Cuttings
There are lots of places to get cuttings, from mature plants in your own garden to friends’ and neighbors’ gardens (with permission, of course!), and even herb sprigs that you buy at the grocery store or farmers’ market.
For best results, take cuttings from healthy, disease-free plants in spring or summer. Avoid cutting herbs that are actively flowering because you want the plant’s energy to be focused on forming roots, not flowers. If you do take cuttings from a flowering plant, be sure to pinch off any flowers before you root it.
How to Grow Herbs from Cuttings in Water
Save money and time by growing herbs from cuttings and turn one plant into an endless supply of new ones.
What you’ll need…
- Sharp knife or scissors
- Rubbing alcohol
- Clean glass or jar (see Notes)
- Room temperature water (see Notes)
- Pebbles (optional)
1) Clean your tools. Clean your knife or scissors in warm, soapy water and wipe with rubbing alcohol to sanitize.
2) Take a cutting. Using a clean knife or scissors, take a stem cutting about 4 to 6 inches long. Make the cut at an angle, just below a leaf node (the point on a stem from which leaves grow). If you’re using cut herbs from the store, make a fresh cut at the bottom of the stem. It’s a good idea to take a few cuttings to make sure at least one of them will root.
3) Trim the cutting. Remove the leaves from the lower two-thirds of the stem; this is so they don’t get submerged under the water and rot. Also snip off any flowers, buds, or large leaves so the plant’s energy gets directed toward making roots. Take care not to cut or damage the stem as you’re removing leaves. (Tip: Use the extra leaves to make tea!)
4) Put the cutting in water. Stand the cutting in a glass of water, making sure the topmost leaves have plenty of airflow and no leaves are submerged in water. Keep the jar in warm place with plenty of indirect light.
5) Change the water frequently. Change the water every day or two to prevent the growth of algae and bacteria.
6) Wait for roots to grow. Depending on the plant and conditions, rooting time may take a couple days to a couple weeks.
Once the roots appear, you can keep your plant growing in water and just snip off leaves as you need them. As the plant grows, you may need to transfer it to a bigger vessel.
Or, you can transplant it in the garden:
7) Harden the roots (optional). If you’re planting herbs in soil, it’s a good idea to toughen the roots first. To help them harden, drop small pebbles onto the roots each day for a week.
8) Transplant (optional). When the roots are 1 to 2 inches long, plant it in the garden or a container of potting soil.
- Glass or jar: Choose a glass or jar with room for airflow around the leaves. Algae grows faster in clear glass and more slowly in opaque or amber glass, but if you change the water frequently (see Step 5), then algae shouldn’t be a problem.
- Water: Filtered water and spring water are good choices. Avoid distilled water, which lacks important trace minerals, and chlorinated water, which may hurt plant tissues. You can also leave chlorinated tap water out for 24 hours to let the chlorine evaporate.