As the weather turns colder in autumn, it’s sensible to be prepared and insure your precious herbs against damage from winter cold and wet. By taking semi-ripe cuttings now, you’ll create some healthy young plants that can be overwinted in a cold greenhouse or warm windowsill, for bountiful crops next year.
Herbs that are worth taking cuttings from include shrubby herbs that are old, or prone to being hit by late spring frosts. Low-growing or creeping herbs such as Corsican mint, chamomile or pennyroyal can be split into smaller sections and over wintered – find out how to split creeping herbs.
Lemon verbena (Aloysia citrodora) is a half-hardy deciduous shrub, so it’s always worth taking cuttings now to insure against a hard winter. They will look like twigs once the leaves fall, but don’t panic – they will reshoot in spring, providing the compost is not allowed to dry out totally. The best cuttings are taken on a warm, dry day, before midday.
The following steps can also be used for myrtle, rosemary and sage.
In this clip from Gardeners’ World, Monty Don shows you how to take semi-ripe herb cuttings and keep them fresh, what compost mix to use, and how to position them in the pot to improve their chances of rooting. You’ll also find out how to tell if a cutting has rooted and how to look after it to ensure it grows well:
Learn more about taking semi-ripe herb cuttings, below.
You Will Need
- Damp polythene bag
- Seed trays or modules
- Multi-purpose, peat-free compost
- Pencil or dibber
- Shredded bark
Choose your cutting material from a healthy, non-flowering stem, and cut just above a leaf node. Place the cuttings into a wet bag (use a water spray bottle) and label it.
Once you’ve collected enough cuttings, seal the bag and place in the salad compartment of a fridge for up to 24 hours, until you are ready to pot the cuttings up.
Fill a module tray with a cuttings compost made from one-third fine-shredded bark, on-third perlite, and one-third multi-purpose potting compost. Firm in well.
Water the tray before inserting the cuttings so as not to disturb the new stems with zealous watering. Allow excess water to drain away before planting the cuttings.
Using snips, prepare the cutting by removing the lower leaves, leaving two sets of fully expanded leaves at the top. Remove the growing tip by cutting just above a set of leaves.
Using a small dibber, make a hole in the compost, insert the cutting, and lightly firm it in place. Cover with a propagation lid or fleece to prevent scorching. Keep the compost moist so cuttings don’t dry out.