Propagating Herbs

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Herbs are easy to grow. Once established, they are virtually insect and disease free and have aromatic and culinary uses throughout the year. However, even among the most popular herbs, there are problems in obtaining the desired variety or starting the plants at home.

Many of the most desirable herbs are best started from cuttings or divisions. Cuttings grow much faster than seed with some plants, such as rosemary, and may be the only option for getting the aromatic varieties of other plants. For example, French tarragon is the only variety that provides the aromatic oils that impart the anise like flavor in prized recipes, but it does not set viable seed. If you’ve been disappointed in the plants
you started from seed or even those purchased at the nursery, it’s because they were Russian tarragon, a sad cousin to the culinary herb.

Most oregano varieties sold from seed also lack enough aromatic oils for culinary purposes so you must be very careful in your source or start from cuttings.

English thyme is a female plant and only produces hybrids if grown from seed. Therefore, the characteristics would differ slightly depending on the source of pollen. A true English thyme would have to be started from cuttings. Herbs to grow from
cuttings include lavender, oregano, peppermint, pineapple sage, rosemary, English thyme, lemon thyme, and tarragon.

If you or a friend already have an established planting, dividing it is the fastest and most successful way of starting many perennial herb plants. Spring is generally the best time to divide herbs or other perennials. The older plant is dug, the soil shaken off, and the clump divided. Plants, such as chives, can simply be pulled apart. Woodruff, tansy, and tarragon need to be cut into sections. Others, such as the mints, oregano, and lady’s mantle, can be carefully separated into individual plants. Replant each new plant at approximately the same depth it was growing originally and water thoroughly. Herbs that grow from divisions include chives, tarragon, beebalm, catnip, horehound, oregano, peppermint, sweet Woodruff, lady’s mantle, and tansy.