The How and Why of Rooting Your Herbs in a Jar of Water

Having herbs to smell and cook with is one of the many small pleasures of life. They always look beautiful in a window box by the kitchen window, or if you’re lucky enough to have a garden then as companion plants to your tomatoes. (Companion planting is when you plant crops that mutually benefit each other). Some herbs such as cilantro and green onion also help avoid pests in the home, which is yet another reason to keep them around. But growing herbs from seeds just seems to take forever, and buying them fresh from the supermarket is quite cost-ineffective. So what’s the impatient herb lover to do? We have the answer for you: using cuttings.

Using cuttings is the cheapest and least wasteful way of growing herbs and some plants. By using a cutting, you are mainly employing the plant’s reproductive properties. Cuttings are super easy to make by yourself. Simply find the healthiest looking herb branches from your batch of herbs and cut them, leaving about 4 inches worth of stem. You need to cut just below a leaf node, that is the point on a stem from which leaves grow. If you’re using herbs from a supermarket, make a fresh cut at the bottom of the stem. Next, remove the leaves from the lower two-thirds of the stem so that they don’t rot in the water. Be careful not to damage the stem are you’re taking off leaves. Make sure to also remove any flowers, buds, and large leaves in order to focus the plant’s energy on making roots.

The How and Why of Rooting Your Herbs in a Jar of Water

Your next step is to simply space the sprigs of herbs in a clear glass jar filled with water by the window and wait about a week. You will slowly start to see roots growing, but be patient! It is useless to plant a cutting with less than an inch’s worth of rooting. When you see that your herb springs have started rooting nicely, place a couple of rocks in the water. This technique will help the herbs grow resistance, so their chances of survival will increase significantly.

Once your herbs have sprouted roots of about two inches in length, congratulations! They are ready to plant. You can either leave them in jars of water to grow that way, but we suggest simply planting them in a garden or a flowerpot. Most herbs grow well together so you can slowly build an herb garden with your new cuttings. 

The How and Why of Rooting Your Herbs in a Jar of Water

Just be careful! Not all herbs are created equal, as you have probably figured out if you use them regularly in your cooking. It is only a small group of herbs that you can easily sprout. The general rule is that is they have soft stems, they will root efficiently. Some examples include basil, mint, lemon bale, oregano, and stevia. These will grow roots within a week, but are quite fragile in the planting. It is recommended that you create and plant a few cuttings so that you have a higher chance of keeping a couple of nice plants. Woody herbs, like sage, thyme, and rosemary need a slightly different approach. First of all, you should only use nice green growths as anything woody simply will not sprout roots, and that’s not for lack of trying!

A word of warning: some herbs are annual, which means that unlike perennial plants, they will turn brown after about a year. Perennial plants, on the other hand, will last for several years if properly cared for. Some of the best herbs are unfortunately annual and therefore should not be grown using this method. Some examples include parsley and dill.