Cut, Divide & Conquer: A Guide to Propagating Herbs

Fill your landscape for free, beautify your garden and share the bounty with these three easy techniques.

  • Russian sage is propagated easily by layering. Increase your stock of silvery santolina (foreground) by taking cuttings.
    Rick Wetherbee
  • Overgrown daylilies should be dug up and divided: Use a knife to cut crown and roots into smaller sections.
    Rick Wetherbee
  • Overgrown daylilies should be dug up and divided: Use a knife to cut crown and roots into smaller sections.
    Rick Wetherbee

One of the greatest pleasures of gardening is watching a winter-weary landscape come to life with lush, colorful spring plantings. Usually, that requires multiple (and, yes, expensive) trips to the garden center to buy greenery for all those empty spaces. But you can have a bounty of new herbs growing in your garden without spending a fortune if you propagate your own. The best return for your dollars is to divide, cut or layer your existing plants. Propagating plants using one of these three methods produces faster and more accurate results than starting plants from seed. Many herbs do not set viable seed; set few or infrequent seeds; or produce seeds with unknown and unpredictable characteristics. But plants propagated by division, cuttings or layering are identical to the parent plant.

The propagation method you choose will depend on the specific plant and time of year. With a small investment of time and a few simple tools, you can create a new generation of plants for free, and enjoy transforming your garden along the way.

Method #1: Division
• Method #2: Softwood Cuttings
• Method #3: Layering  

Garden Swap Party

Want a fun way to celebrate spring with friends and neighbors? Organize a plant swap party. Everyone brings plants propagated from their own garden—starts from divisions, cuttings and layering—to trade for new varieties, as well as tips for growing them. Add tea and dessert, and you’ve got a party, perfect for Earth Day, Arbor Day or Mother’s Day.

A frequent contributor to The Herb Companion, Kris Wetherbee grows and propagates herbs in the hills of western Oregon.

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