Propagate Rosemary in Water (The Herbs)

Rosemary is an herb we use frequently in our cooking, at least when we have it around. In years past I’ve been able to walk out the front door and cut a few sprigs off the large rosemary bushes in front of our steps. I love how easy rosemary is to propagate. In fact it is so easy to root that you can propagate rosemary in water!

Unfortunately the large rosemary but didn’t make it through a hard winter. My two main rosemary plants both died due to the extreme cold and extra long winter we had. The rosemary plants had been in place for about three years. Both plants served very well as both a landscape element as well as a culinary one. But when you are working with living things they can’t last forever. Fortunately rosemary is very easy to propagate in water which means that my two plantings in the front will hopefully be replaced very soon.

Why Propagate More Rosemary Plants?

One of my planting strategies is to make several cuttings and put them in different areas. Every garden around our house has a different micro-climate (some much more than others) that increases the odds of at least one plant surviving. Luckily I had one rosemary left planted next to our patio and near the grill with its black cover. Both the grill and the patio gathered heat during the day and released it at night keeping that area a little bit warmer during the winter. It’s also on the sunny side of the house which helps a good deal in the cold season.

Cutting of rosemary for propagation in water.
Here is an example of the cutting I made of the rosemary. The leaves are stripped on the lower 3/4 of the cutting.

How to Propagate Rosemary in Water:

When propagating rosemary all you need to do is take a few cuttings like the one in the first picture.  It’s about 6 inches long. Then I stripped the leaves off the bottom of the branch. This part of propagating rosemary makes a perfect opportunity to do a little culinary magic! Then I stuck it in the jar of water below. In a week or two these cuttings should start rooting and I can plant them outside where I want them.You could probably put your cuttings directly in moist sand or rooting medium and have them root also. Layering is another technique that works well.

Rosemary cuttings being rooted in water.
Rosemary will root if placed in a glass jar like this baby food jar.

Rosemary is great in pots and planters but I like to plant it in the garden. Deer and rabbits never bother it.

I know I’ve talked about this before but I figured this might be useful for some of the newer readers. The water method is also great for propagating your basil!

36 thoughts on “Propagate Rosemary in Water (The Herbs)”

  1. Thanks for the post. I have 2 huge rosemary plants that need pruning. But I could never use all the rosemary that will entail. So I was wondering if I could just use some of the cuttings to root for more plants to either plant or give to friends.

    1. Think about using your rosemary in different ways too. I add about big sprigs (stem removed) in the blender with my olive oil, garlic, lemon concentrate, hemp heart salad dressing/marinade.

      I also love to mince it up in scrambled eggs. 1/2 a tsp per egg.

      I also love to toss a load in with my chicken when I'm searing it and leave it in the oven safe pan while the chicken is roasting.

      Great with fish too, just add a splash of lemon juice concentrate to the pan and enjoy the heavenly taste.

      If you're doing a roasted turkey or chicken use a few handfuls inside the bird and scattered on the roasting pan. It adds the most amazing sweet kiss to poultry, best turkey ever!

      LOOOVE rosemary.

  2. Sorry about your established rosemary losses! I've found that older plants just peter out sometimes without a very obvious reason — but this winter definitely could do it.

    I root my cuttings in moist sand mixed with potting soil with great results. I might try it in water though, I like to watch the roots grow.

  3. I'm always propagating something in the kitchen windowsill, never tried rosemary. I just started a bunch of plants from seed (I'm hoping to make a topiary).

    At the moment I'm trying to start: ginger, lemongrass, dumb cane and kennelworth ivy in the windowsill. So much fun to try making new plants for free!

  4. Herbal plants used in the Ayurvedic system of medicine are facing extinction.
    Definite cause of concern, as Ayurveda is increasingly being used around the world to treat various disorders such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes, ulcers and many others.

    Some herbs that have been identified are – Ulteria salicfolia, Hydnocarpus pentandra, Gymnocladus assamicus, and Begonia tessaricarpa.

    Conservation of traditional herbs and plants should become a high priority for all. Challenge
    becomes more severe as many of these herbs grow in the wild and are not cultivated.

    Planet Green (a venture) reported on this earlier this month.

    More details on the Ayurveda Group blog (

    Direct link to the blog post

    Link to planet green site

  5. Thanks for the tips! Propagating my rosemary to make some edible hedges is going to be one of my winter projects this year. (good to hear it's so easy …)

  6. The King of Propagation does it again! 🙂 I bought a large rosemary tree right before Christmas and would love to have some smaller ones. I'm going to try this! I wonder if it would work with my trailing rosemary ('Mrs. Howard's')? It's woodier than the tree's branches.

  7. Kylee – It should work with either although I haven't tried it on the trailing rosemary. I bought one last year but have tried it yet! It got covered up with basil and I think I forgot it was there.

  8. Hi All, — I followed the advise of using the top part of rosemary cutting for propagation and 10 out of 10 attempts it failed (in a jar of water) and only 1 out of 8 attempts succeeded with top cutting in moist fiber mulch.
    Total success was achieved by PUTTING THE BOTTOM PART OF CUTTING in water (with the top cut off !!!)All 100% produced strong and a lot of roots within 2 weeks. 🙂 Can start a nursery now with such success ! Erich Stark Australia

    1. I am going to follow your approach. My rosemary plant is about 6 years old and thriving without any attention. Now I want to create more plants for my garden, to share and to sell.

  9. @Erich Stark I'm sorry you had trouble. I'm not sure why you tried to put the cutting in upside down, but the pictures in the post above should have been a good guide. Using the top part of the cutting was not recommended by this post. 🙂

    1. Just put three rosemary stalks in some water and changed the water daily and all three have rooted in about 1 month. The advantage with doing it this way is that you can actually see the roots developing. So easy!

    2. I have been told not to change water, because the plant will produce growing hormone while trying to grow the roots. The smaller the jar the more concentrate the hormone in the jar. That's what promote the root to grow.

  10. Thanks for the advice. I'm thinking of propagating from my 20+ year old Rosemary plant. Do you use any rooting agent or just plunk it in water?

  11. Anonymous,

    If you're just putting it in water there is no need for rooting hormone. You probably could also stick it in a pot of soil, keep it moist, and end up with good results. A little rooting hormone in the last case may speed rooting but most likely isn't necessary. I'm impressed that you have one that is 20 years old! Our climate can be iffy here for it. I had two that lasted for about 3 years then succumbed to the winter cold and wetness.

  12. Thank you so much! Very helpful and I want to get started right now. Also, I know that one article I read said that the best time to get cuttings is during the spring. Is that true?

  13. I planted a small rosemary plant in my front garden 5 years ago and it is now so large that I cannot reach around it (probably a diameter of 5 feet!) I have even trimmed it back every summer. I live in North Texas and we have fairly mild winters, but the winter of 2010 we had over 2 1/2 feet of snow and weeks of sub-freezing weather and thankfully it did just fine!

    I'm so happy to learn that it can be water propagated! Now when I trim it I can get free plants!

    Glad I found your site!

    Happy Gardening!

  14. I want to propagate a rosemary plant to make into a bonsai. I have always wanted to bonsai a tree but I have never had a good enough tree to make into a bonsai. I ended up using a tree that I dug up from my backyard yesterday, but it was dying before. It seems to be coming back to life, so I wired it and I am hoping it will not die. I tried to root rosemary once before but the stem only started rotting, not rooting, after about a month. I think I know what I did wrong and I will try again, doing it the right way this time. I have gone on this website several times and it has helped me immensely. Thank you so much!

  15. I really want to try to propagate a rosemary plant, but last time I tried it did not work very well. The stem split at the very bottom and the bark became very soggy and came off, but it showed no signs of growing roots. I will definitely try again. I think the problem last time was that I put the cuttings in water that contained dissolved ironite fertilizer that I happened to have around. I thought it might make it easier to root it but obviously not since it did not sprout. I am really eager to get a rosemary plant since I just planted some seeds and they can apparently take up to two months to grow, even though the package shows that they only take two to three weeks. With my last cutting, the stem turned dark brown up to the water level. Not sure if that was rot or just staining from the ironite. Anyhow, I had originally tried to start three, but my mom found two and took them away (she didn't know that I was propagating her rosemary plants in my room, and I doubt she was very pleased), but I had the last one in there for several months and it did not show signs of development.

  16. In the one of the pictures, it looks like you cut the stems diagonally, to form a pointed, V-shaped end of the cutting. Do you have to do that? Would it help?

    My makeshift illustration of what it looks like (I represents a portion of the stem, V represents the pointed end):


    The picture I am referring to is the first one. The rosemary clipping that is lying down on the table looks as if it has a point end, not one cut flat. Is that what you did, or am I imagining things?

  17. I am surprised to read that long-established plants died off or that it is unusual for a rosemary plant to live to the age of 20 years. I only say this because my rosemary plant is well past 30 years old and we live in an area where we get quite a bit of snow every year. My plant came from a cutting taken from my Italian grandmother's plant. When I was a child helping her water, she told me her rosemary and oregano plants were more than 50 years old. As far as I know, they are still around, even though my grandmother passed away many years ago.

  18. I have two HUGE rosemary bushes in my backyard and am thinking of cutting them back quite a bit. Instead of throwing all the cut material away, I was considering selling it at a local farmers' market. I've seen little packages go for quite a lot at the grocery store. How do you think I should package them, in what size clumps and what do you think a fair price would be? I wouldn't have asked this question a few years ago, but I'm retired and on a small fixed income and any money at all would come in really handy right now. Please respond (anyone).

    1. Try checking out the supermarkets near you and seeing how much they charge for rosemary. Then price yours a little bit less. You can also check on how they are packaged and do something similar. You'll want to package your rosemary fairly soon after harvest so that it can get to the customer in great shape. Farmer's markets are great places to sell and meet customers. Try to get folks to sign up on a mailing list or email list so you can let them know what you have when and when its ready.

    2. We have a very old (40? 50?yrs)Rosemary plant. Do old woody stems really root? I've had success with curly willow and forsythia in N CA. The rosemary s in a shady place on west side

    3. If you take cuttings from the first year growth of the rosemary you should be able to get it to grow roots. Older wood won't root but you should have no trouble with first year cuttings.

  19. I have a 3year old rosemary bush, 3ft wide and 4ft tall, planted in an old tire. It is doing exceptional!! I have read over and over concerning extreme cold. My rosemary has been encased in ice twice over the past 2 years, and did great! Extreme heat doesn't seem to bother it either, summers with 110 degrees. I would love to take it with us to our new home, but I don't want to kill it. Are they as hardy when transplanting? If so, how deep, and how far out around the plant should I dig to safely move it? thanks linda

    1. Linda,

      I can't say for sure how well your plant will do. It depends on a number of factors from how much of the root ball you get to the climate conditions of where you plant it. When transplanting anything keep in mind that it will be weaker that it was in its first location until it is fully established. I think your rosemary will transplant just fine but before doing that I would recommend rooting a few cuttings as insurance. They will be genetically the same as the parent plant and will probably get established a little easier. If you do both and it turns out everything does fine then you just end up with extra rosemary – not a bad problem to have!

  20. Thanks so much for the rooting tips for Rosemary. I have one potted for herbs and had to bring it inside. Since then, it has grown like crazy. I'm going root the cuttings and plant them near my front door. The aroma is a great welcome.

    1. I just discovered you today. Love your site. I am also trying to microclimate a rosemary this winter. Hopefully with extra stone,some wind protection, and southern exposure, I will succeed. I didn't even use any of it this summer to allow it to grow as much as possible. I did succeed in propogation with rooting compound. My barely zone 7 WEST TENNESSEE climate just might do it. I have seen one in this area as big as a washtub.(couldn't resist that old expression) Cynthia

  21. Hello Dave,
    You never mentioned a cultivar name. I live in N. Alabama, four miles from the TN border, USDA ZONE 7. The best success I have had was with a cultivar named Rosmarinus officinalis 'ARP'. It is rated for USDA zones 6 to 10.

    The biggest problem I had getting it to grow was keeping my chickens off of it! They loved the stuff! LOL! I now have two three foot shrubs in the yard and both are in full sun.

    1. Unfortunately I never knew the cultivar name of this one. I made it through cuttings from another plant, then made cuttings from my own plant. 'Arp' is a good one though!

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