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New plants from old rosemary

QUESTION: I’ve recently moved a large rosemary plant from a friend’s yard to mine. It has not liked the move. I’ve started rooting some cuttings in water, and they seem to be doing well. How long should I let the roots grow before moving them to dirt? Do you recommend potting them in soil in a clay pot during this heat until they mature? Can I save what is left of the big plant in my flower bed?  — Charles W.

It may take several weeks, but stem cuttings of rosemary can root in water.

Good idea to root cuttings from the rosemary plant. Once they get a good growth of healthy roots — six to eight roots per cutting, 1 to 1 1/2 inch long — put them in a container in good potting soil. If they’re going to be outdoors, I don’t recommend a clay pot because in this heat, clay dries out very quickly; plastic containers may hold the moisture longer. Place them in a protected spot out of direct sun until they become acclimated to their new environment. If you have enough cuttings and the roots seem big enough, you could try to plant cuttings directly into a prepared bed in the garden. Wherever you put them, make sure they have good drainage, and get adequate moisture while they are acclimating to their new home.

If the big plant already looks like it’s dying, it may be too late to save it – rosemary is notoriously hard to transplant. But here’s one thing you could try: cut the branches back, which may allow the plant to put more energy into establishing new roots instead of maintaining a lot of top growth. This may not work, but it’s worth a try.

This is a good place to describe the process of propagating plants from cuttings. Start by cutting off 2 – 3 inches of the tender top growth of an established plant. Remove the leaves from the bottom end of the cutting, and dip the stem in a rooting hormone powder (such as Rootone). Place the cuttings in a damp rooting medium that drains well, and make sure the medium doesn’t dry out.

With rosemary cuttings, roots should form in about three weeks, and can be planted into individual pots. Pinch out the top of the cutting to encourage branch development.

Or, stick a few cuttings of new growth in a glass of water and wait for the roots to appear. Strip the leaves that will be below the water line, and change the water frequently. In fact, it’s a good idea to change the water every day. When roots develop, plant the cuttings in potting soil.

More from the garden:

The Creeper returns, at Turning Toward the Sun: A Garden Journal.

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