Getting Your Feet Wet in the Propagation Pool - Rooting Herbs in Water

By on March 03, 2014

Instead of kissing your perennial herbs goodnight for the long dormancy, you could invite their progeny into your house for a fresh herb supply all through the winter.  Many herbs will root readily from stem cuttings and often don’t require anything fancier than a glass of tap water. Once you’ve got them good and rooted our Growing Herbs Indoors video shows you the basics of keeping those herbs thriving and flavorful through the winter.

The Process

A great time to gather cuttings to root is between August and October, but any time of the year when the herbs are actively growing will produce excellent cuttings. Late summer is an advantageous time to root cuttings since the herbs are still growing strong and cuttings rooted in summer will be established plants by the time the mothers have nodded off into dormancy.

Rosemary Cutting
Trimmed Rosemary Cutting

There are many types of cuttings but the simplest one to use for herbs is a stem cutting. To take a stem cutting you’ll need some very sharp snips or a knife. The cleaner the cut, the better the chance the cutting will root. Find a nice sturdy shoot with no flowers on a plant that is actively growing and free of pests and diseases. Make your cut three to six inches down and a quarter to half inch below a leaf node. It’s a good idea to take three or four cuttings from each plant to make sure at least one cutting roots.

Remove half of the leaves on the bottom of the cutting with your snips or knife. A clean cut is the best so don’t tear or pinch the leaves. Place the cuttings in sterilized jars, or drinking glasses. Clear jars or glasses work best because you can easily tell when the cuttings have rooted. The water should come up to, but not touch, the lowest set of leaves on the cutting. Replace the water every one to two days to avoid bacterial growth in the water. Use room temperature water when you refresh the water to avoid shocking the cutting.

Once your little cuttings have sprouted roots that are a quarter to half inch long transfer the cutting to a pot. It’s important not to let the roots get too long before you plant the cutting because this can make them difficult to plant without damaging the roots.

Cutting in Water

The List

Herbs that root readily in water include:

  • Basil
  • Mint
  • Pineapple Sage
  • Rosemary
  • Patchouli
  • Lemon Verbena
  • Herbs that you’re better off starting in perlite or some other soilless medium include:

  • Sage
  • Oregano
  • Thyme
  • French Tarragon
  • Lavender
  •   Comments (6)


    Do I need to dip it in a rooting medium before I put the rosemary in either the water or a pot?  If I try this with French tarragon, do I need a rooting medium before putting it in Perlite?

    Posted by Bob Simon on Mar. 15, 2014 at 11:27:59 AM

    Hello Bob,

    Herbs root readily so they don’t need a rooting hormone. That said, you can if you want to.

    Posted by on Mar. 17, 2014 at 9:26:17 AM


    Was wondering, will herbs root well if I do the cuttings in the middle of October??? And, will they do well, if they are planted in compost??? Tanks and greatly appreciated!!

    Posted by rose smith on Oct. 17, 2014 at 9:20:42 PM

    I think the fall is a great time to start cuttings. They won’t dry out as readily as they would if cut in the hot summer. They would do fine in compost as long as it is not too heavy. I like to root in our mix of Quickroot. You can also use perlite or pumice. Just keep the cuttings moist and most importantly, give them time to put their roots on.

    Posted by Suzanne at Peaceful Valley on Nov. 07, 2014 at 10:49:23 AM


    Hello , I realize this is a old thread , hopefully u can help me .I recently received a patchouli clipping and have had in water waiting to root. How long does it actually take and does it root from the bottom stem. I’m noticing sprouts from the nodes where the leaves once were. I am new to this .. I’m waiting and waiting and waiting ...

    Posted by Tammi on Aug. 29, 2016 at 3:41:27 PM


    Tammi, I have read that the patchouli should make roots along the stems. If it is not rooting in the water, try putting it in some vermiculite/perlite mix and keep it moist. It may start to put out roots that way. I am not sure how long it takes for the plant to start putting out roots.

    Posted by Suzanne on Aug. 30, 2016 at 11:54:31 AM

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