We like herbs. They are easy to grow, and taste best fresh. I often buy pots of growing herbs in a supermarket or garden centre but somehow never have the right herb when I want it. So, this year I am on a mission to create a small and ready supply at my doorstep.

We have written before about growing your own herbs, but this one is about growing new, free plants from old.


Fresh herbs are a treat. If you grow too much, leaves can be dried for gifts or winter use. Here, a soft green sage is thriving. There are different varieties of sage to grow - purple, gold and multi-coloured can create a show in containers and borders. Sarah Buchanan.

Want to know how to do it? Read on! 

Popular herbs to propagate in late summer

Bay: Take ‘semi ripe cuttings’ in late summer into early autumn or 'layer' the stems.

Chives: Divide the clump by lifting it out of the ground and gently pulling a chunk off, or split the clump into two or more parts. Plant the original and the new plants in pots or your border, and water in well.

Marjoram: Simply lift and prise off chunks of this plant when it is too big for your space. You may need a spade if the clump has grown very big. Plant the new and old in pots or borders and water in well.

Mint: Hard to get rid of this once you have it but it’s a herb we all love. There are umpteen varieties – different flavours and leaf colours, so try a few. It’s easy to grow new plants by digging up a chunk of root and planting in a pot or border.

Rosemary: Take ‘semi ripe cuttings’ now or ‘mound layer’ a stem.


Layer or take cuttings from rosemary to create new plants for gifts or more plants in your garden. The leaves smell wonderful, can flavour many dishes and, popped into a bottle of oil, create a fantastic herb oil for cooking.  Sarah Buchanan.

Sage: My friend says it is easy to ‘layer’ this shrubby herb, so I will give it a go. Why don’t you? These herbs tend (in my garden) not to be long lived so it’s a good idea to create new ones while you can.

Thyme: Take ‘semi ripe cuttings’ now, or ‘layer’, or ‘mound layer’ stems.

How to do it

Semi ripe cuttings

Use sharp secateurs to remove a shoot of this year’s growth that is 20-25 cm (4-6 inches) long. Shoots should feel soft at the top but hard at the bottom. Either cut below a leaf on the shoot, or cut a whole shoot away from the base of the plant, or pull a whole shoot away with a little of the main stem (a heel) attached. Remove the lowest leaves on the shoot and the soft tip. Dip the bottom of the cutting in hormone rooting powder, tap to remove any excess. Plant the cuttings in a compost that is suited to cuttings, with at least 50% sharp sand or perlite. Water well and allow to drain. Keep the pots in the light and out of direct sunlight.


Bend a flexible young shoot to touch the ground. No more than 30cm (1 foot) from the parent plant remove any leaves on the stem and make a slim cut along it, going through a leaf bud. Wedge the cut open with a small twig and sprinkle hormone rotting powder on the cut. Bury the cut stem about 10-15 cm (4 -6 inches) deep, in the soil or in a pot. Use a wire ‘peg’ or stone to hold the cut stem down. Within a year pot up your new plant.

Many plants can be layered by laying a stem along the ground, covering with soil and holding it down with a wire peg or stone.

Mound layer

This seems extreme, but turns old and woody plants into fresh young things. Create a mound of soil mixed with sharp sand over the plant, leaving the tips of shoots showing. Keep the mound watered, replacing any soil you wash away. In the spring gently remove the soil, pot up rooted stems as new plants, dig up and discard the old plant.

Why not scout about for friends’ and neighbours’ plants, and offer to swap some of your new plants with theirs?