A Guide to Propagating Herbs: Layering

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

| April/May 2009

  • Click on the IMAGE GALLERY for detailed how-to images.
    Rick Wetherbee
  • 1. Select a long, flexible stem.
    Rick Wetherbee
  • 2. Make shallow cuts to stem bottom.
    Rick Wetherbee
  • 3. Anchor stem with U-shaped pin.
    Rick Wetherbee
  • 4. Surround with mulch; keep moist.
    Rick Wetherbee

Layering is coaxing a shoot, stem or branch to form its own roots while still attached to the parent plant. (If you’ve ever grown strawberry plants, you’ve seen nature itself use this propagation method.) This process takes longer than cuttings or division—sometimes up to a year. But if you provide the right start-up conditions, the parent plant takes care of the rest, providing water and nutrients to its offspring. Once the new plant has rooted firmly, you simply dig it up and plant it in its new home.

Best candidates: Ground layering can be done on any plant with creeping stems or a flexible shoot that can be secured easily to the ground. Catmint, Russian sage, rosemary, thyme and yarrow are a few examples. You also can layer plants with vine-like growth, such as clematis, honeysuckle, jasmine or wisteria, as well as shrubs with low-growing or trailing branches, such as boxwood and roses.

When: Layering is best done in spring after stems start to grow but before buds develop.

How: You’ll need a spade or shovel, sharp knife, rooting hormone powder and a piece of wire or U-shaped pin.

1. Select a long, healthy, flexible stem that can be bent to the ground, and remove all but the top few leaves of the stem. Dig a hole 2 to 3 inches deep near the mother plant, where the stem will be buried. Amend the hole with compost if the soil is poor. (Click here to see an illustration.)

2. Using the knife, make several shallow cuts to the underside of the stem where it will touch the soil. Dust cuts with the rooting hormone powder, then lay the cut stem section in the hole. (Click here to see an illustration.) 

3. Anchor the bent stem in place with the wire or pin. Fill in the hole with soil, completely covering the cut section of stem. (Be sure to keep the leafy tip aboveground.) (Click here to see an illustration.)

4. Add a 2-inch layer of mulch over the layering site; keep the area moist until roots form on the buried section. This will take several weeks to several months, depending on the climate and plant. (Check for root development by gently digging around the layering site.) When new roots have developed, sever the new plant from its parent. Dig up the new plant, keeping as much soil as possible around its roots. Plant it in a new garden spot or in a pot. (Click here to see an illustration.)

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

Click here for the original article,  Cut, Divide & Conquer: A Guide to Propagating Herbs .

• Learn more about  softwood cuttings .

• Learn more about  division

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