Container Gardening: Herb Cuttings

Herb Basics: Herbs are grown for the intense aroma and flavor in their leaves. Herbs are a staple in cuisines from every part of the world, and their scent can often elicit fond memories of favorite meals. Herbs get their trademark aroma from natural oils that they use for self-defense against insects, bacteria, and fungus. That’s right, be grateful that bugs exist because without them, herbs might smell and taste pretty bland! For those of us who want to cook visually appealing dishes, herbs can add a great splash of color or texture. Herbs grow well in container gardens because they are small and you can harvest periodically as needed. Best of all, herbs are versatile. They can be used freshdried, or frozen. They can be grown in a container inside or planted outside. You can start herbs from seed or from a cutting. In fact, if you are trying to incorporate sustainable practices into your routines, re-growing herbs at home from cuttings is a great way to reduce the miles (and therefore carbon emissions) that your herbs travel to get to you and to reduce dependence on single-use plastic packaging! Growing herbs from cuttings is a great way to save unused herbs from ending up in the trash, and it’s easy enough that even those of us without green thumbs can do it.  

Cuttings: Stem cuttings are a method of human assisted asexual plant reproduction. Taking a cutting from a parent plant will create genetic clone. Stem cuttings can come from softwood, semi-hardwood, or hardwood growth. Softwood and semi-hardwood come from the most recent seasons of growth whereas hardwood stems are from the previous season’s growth. Herbs cuttings do best when they are taken from softwood and semi-hardwood cuttings. Stems from semi-hardwood cuttings will “snap” like green beans when broken and still be green. 

How to take and plant cuttings: 

  • Sanitize your cutting tool (pruners, knife, scissors)
  • Find a 4-6 inch healthy section of the parent plant. The top of your cutting will be the plant’s newest growth and will therefore not need to be cut from the plant, you will only need to make one cut at the bottom of the selected section. Make sure the section of the stem that you have chosen for your cutting has at least one set of leaves at both the top and bottom.
  • Make a clean cut across the bottom portion of your 4-6 inch plant section 
  • Strip all the leaves off the plant except the leaves at the top. Your plant will need these leaves to photosynthesize and make food for itself. The places where the stripped leaves used to be will be growth points for new roots.
  • Fill a narrow, deep container with high quality potting soil, peat moss, or vermiculite (or a mixture of all three materials). Make sure your container has holes for water drainage.   
  • Using your finger or a pencil make a long, narrow hole in the potting medium.
  • Stick your cutting in the hole
  • Place your herb cutting in the correct light conditions and water as necessary. 
  • Once your cutting starts to develop roots, move it to a larger container so that it can have room to grow into a full sized plant. Plants in the mint family (basil, oregano, thyme, and sage) will root in just a few weeks! To check if your plant has started to root, grab the stem of the cutting and gently pull upward. If you feel resistance, than your plant has started to form roots in the soil.  

Growing tip: Perdue poultry litter was been found by a University of Florida study to be the best and most economically friendly plant food source for container herbs.  

Herb cuttings that do well in SWFL:  


  • Annual herb that attracts pollinators when flowering 
  • Does best in full to part sun  
  • Prefers moist, well-draining soil 
  • Great to start as a cutting in April-June and then again in September 
  • Regular harvesting along growth points encourages branching and production of new leaves  
  • Cuttings can be taken from a mature plant or store-bought basil that comes in plastic clam shells 


  • Perennial plant that attracts pollinators 
  • Great to start as a cutting in January-April and again in July 
  • Loves the hot and humid Florida weather 
  • Grows best in moist soil with light or partial shade 
  • Cuttings can be taken from a mature plant or store-bought mint that comes in plastic clam shells 


  • Perennial plant that will produce fragrant leaves for years 
  • Can reach up to 6 feet tall and 4-5 feet wide 
  • Prefers full sun and well-draining soil 
  • Tolerates drought well and will suffer when watered too frequently 
  • Best to start as a cutting in May, June, August, and September and will thrive year round in Florida 
  • Starting from cuttings can be a bit difficult 
  • Cuttings can be taken from a mature plant or store-bought rosemary that comes in plastic clam shells 


  • Perennial plant that looks great cascading over the edge of containers 
  • Prefers full sun and well-draining soil  
  • Tolerates drought well 
  • Best to start as a cutting between NovemberApril 
  • Harvesting is best when flowering, but you can harvest the youngest growth at any time.  
  • Cuttings can be taken from a mature plant or store-bought thyme that comes in plastic clam shells 


  • Hardy perennial that can grow to be 2 feet tall 
  • Prefers full sun and well-draining soil
  • Will flower in mid to late summer 
  • Best to harvest when flower buds are just starting to form 
  • Cuttings do best when planted in July, but can succeed when planted during most of the year 
  • Cuttings can be taken from a mature plant or store-bought oregano that comes in plastic clam shells 

Other herbs that grow well in SWFL (not necessarily from cuttings)Cilantro, CulantroCuban oregano, Dill, Fennel, Garlic, Ginger, Lemongrass, Mexican Tarragon, Parsley, and Sage 

Indoor herbs: Herbs that do well on a sunnyindoor windowsill include: oregano, thyme, sage, and rosemary.