March 6, 2013

How To Propagation: Regrow Mint from Cuttings

Both of us have been interested in expanding our gardening skills and one method we've been itching to try but had been a little intimidated to do so was propagation. Propagation is when you take the cuttings from one plant and create a brand new plant with regenerated roots from the cutting.

We decided to try it out with what is deemed one of the easiest plants to propagate — mint. Mint is a fast growing and quickly spreading plant, so we figured it would be a great one to start out with. In the beginning of January we still had few strong mint stragglers hanging on in our outdoor containers. Knowing the worst of the frosts were yet to come, we really wanted to try and see if we could preserve the plant indoors over the winter to re-plant in the spring — not having to buy more and just to see if we could actually do it. So far it's working, so this is how we did it!

On the very first day of January, we snipped a couple 2 inch cuttings off the healthy ends of the mint plant where there were signs of new, healthy growth. You want to cut where you see new growth, as this is the part of the plant that will give you the best shot at propagation:

To prepare the cutting for new root growth, we gently stripped away all the leaf sets on the stem, leaving only a couple new leaves at the top of the cutting. Doing this encourages root growth from the leaf node areas we stripped away and also helps the stem of the plant focus all of its energy on those little top leaves and root regeneration.

This is how they should look once you've stripped all the bottom leaves from the stem cutting:

Side note: It was sunset when we did the first part of this project, so we got a rather distracting but pretty bokeh photo effect from our string lights outside in the pic above.

After stripping the lower leaves from the stem cutting, we just placed them in a shallow bowl of water, making sure the water covered both sets of leaf nodes that were previously stripped away:

From here on out, it was simply a waiting game. We just kept the water level above the two sets of leaf nodes and switched out the water every week or so.

Note: In researching how to propagate, we've read over and over that using a rooting hormone powder on the ends of the cuttings really speeds up this process, but it's something we wanted to try completely naturally to see if we could meet the challenge. There are organic versions of rooting hormone out there and who knows, we might even try it out in the future to see how much of a difference it can make, but again, this go round we wanted to see what was possible without the use of any additional supplements. If you want to try using organic root hormone powder, you would simply dip the stem in water after stripping the sets of leaves, then dip it in the powder and then rest in the dish of water just as above. 

One week after placing the cuttings in the water, this is how we looked:

Not much had changed other than the larger of the two sets of leaves on the tops of the cuttings were beginning to weaken and dry out. It went like this for a long time!

An entire month later (yes, a whole month!), after the first week of February, this is how we were looking:

Several of the first leaves had completely browned and died away. We still had no signs of roots at all, but we left them in the water since the cuttings seemed to keep regenerating tiny little sets of new leaves that would sprout out the top above the other leaves. We figured this meant there was at least something going on throughout the plant and it wasn't so hard to just keep the water fresh and level, so we kept at it.

Two more weeks after the shot above, we'd basically figured it wasn't going to work and that we'd just try it again with some organic root hormone powder in the spring. It was literally at that moment that I looked down and noticed this:

See that little root emerging from the bottom leaf node of the cutting? It must have sprung out like this overnight — it was simply amazing.

After realizing the cutting had finally rooted, we let it continue to hang out and get stronger in the water for about another 5 days before taking it outside to transfer in a soil filled planter of it's own:

We just loosely packed soil around the rooted cutting first:

Then we went ahead and added the second cutting to the planter even though it hadn't sprouted any roots and quite frankly, the stem seemed to have browned and rotted. We figured at the worst, it would just die in the planter, but wanted to give it a chance since it had so many new little leaves springing out the top of it:

After planting, we gave the little cuttings a good soak and brought them back inside to the windowsill where they started off in the dish of water:

A week after planting (March 1st) and getting cozy in their new home with regular waterings, more of the big leaves browned, so I snipped them off in hopes the roots and plant will refocus all of their energies on growing stronger, deeper roots and producing more green leaves like they did in the water.

This is where we are right now:

Funnily enough, the smaller of the two cuttings that had the browned stem and no root growth seems to be producing more leaves since it's been in the soil — so it just goes to show how you never know! While neither of these cuttings look like much now, we've got high hopes they'll continue to grow and get stronger in this little pot as the sun begins to warm up. Who knows, maybe we'll have a pot bursting with mint to show you in a few months from now!

**6 Months Update**
We've got mint! Our little propagated mint above grew and thrived so much over the last 6 months, we've taken new cuttings from the growth and started new plants — it's the plant that just keeps on giving:

This was a great first propagation project for us to get our feet wet with the idea of regrowth from cuttings. We'd really like to be able to propagate a certain hydrangea bush that we'll likely only have one chance to get a cutting or two from, so this was a good baby step towards that goal (and of course we'll spill all the background details on that project when/if the time comes).

One thing is for certain — we never imagined it would be a 2 month process just to produce a root and plant the first cutting. We're not even sure why we let them hang out for so long other than some shred of hope, but we sure are glad we did! We're excited to watch them grow and progress as we learn more and more each season.

Have you had luck with propagating plants before? We'd love to hear your tips for success and what you've found to work best!

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  1. How fortuitous! I'm big into propagating right now. This is my first serious year. Previously, I've had excellent luck with Sweet Potato Vine (I usually buy one of those hanging planters for about $15, they often contain 3 plants) and cut about 6-8" of growing tips, strip off lower leaves, stick in a cup of water in a warm, bright (out of direct sunlight) place, like the front porch. Depending how hot temperatures are, about a week or two and tons of roots.

    Did the same thing last summer with coleus, another warm weather favorite, but dipped in rooting hormone and put into small cell packs of soil. Again, pretty easy-peasy. Did that one outside, too.

    This year, I went into the nursery last week and bought five baby plants with the express purpose of trying to propagate enough annuals for our large flower beds. Coleus, lantana, and calibrachoa are currently being babysat on my breakfast table. The nursery told me the key to propagating in soil instead of water (which they say is preferred - water roots are not as hardy/capable of drawing nutrients I guess?) is MIST, MIST, MIST. So my baby plants have a plastic dome and I'm misting them 3-5 times per day. It's been almost two weeks and there hasn't been any death yet, so I'm hopeful!

    Keep us updated - hydrangea is on my list to propagate this year (Martha Stewart's site has a great tutorial on that which I have kept open on my phone for about two weeks). I have read it takes FOREVER to get to a decent, plantable size. Plan to baby the hydrangeas for at least a year.

    Good luck!

    1. Wow Mia,

      Thanks so much for all the tips — especially on the hydrangea and mist for soil rooting. So helpful to hear tips from those that have had successes!

  2. Some consider mint a weed as it will overgrow lots of things in a garden and will grow through a lot of hardship. I placed one tiny cutting of mint from my garden in the fall in an indoor window planter and it has overtaken the planter over the winter despite the limited sunlight.
    Basil is the easiest by far to propagate, you can literally place a sprig of basil you buy at the store in a small vase (I use an old glass spice jar) and leave it alone. It will grow a very healthy set of roots.
    Don't rush to plant your cuttings, let them get a good set of roots first, it can take 2-3 weeks, but the better the roots, the better the new plant will grow.

    1. Let's hope for a pot full of mint here too! Sounds like we need to try Basil this time next year too!

  3. Which variety of mint do you grow? I loved having a mint plant but mine was overrun by bugs and never managed to bounce back. I'm going to get another as soon as I'm sure the weather is less stormy here in LA. Nothing beats fresh mint tea.

    1. Erika,

      Not sure on the variety, we will have to check that out, but yes it should bounce back hopefully outside — we brought it over to this house from our last one so it's stayed strong for a few years now. Fingers crossed!

    2. My nephew germinated a brand new strain of mint. It is called Quigley mountaion mint. The DNA or whatever it is called is different than any other mint. It incorporates some spearmint in it. Gives tea a nice minty taste.

  4. I am under the impression that although your mint leaves will die the root ball is still alive and come the spring will send out new shoots, rather like chives. So keep your 'dead' root ball, you might be in luck (or Google me to check!)

    I agree with domesticitychic, let it grow a good set of roots before planting in soil even if it takes more time.

    Plants with moist looking stems as opposed to woody ex. basil I find propagate easier. If strolling the neighbourhood take an empty pop bottle with a little water in and you can sneak cuttings of your favourite plants! My mum does this all the time :)

    1. We are definitely hoping for a bounce back! Thanks Willow!

  5. I wonder if time of year had anything to do with it - all my mint is dormant right now, but I know in the season, that stuff will take off gangbusters.

    1. Becky I think you're on to something — we are both wondering as the weather warms up if these plants and roots will take off at a much faster pace!

  6. Love your blog! I discovered propagation last year and I can't seem to get enough of it. I take small cuttings whenever I see a plant that I like (and it's legal to do so, of course!). Hydrangeas, basil, mint, thyme, lavender, and oregano have all worked for me using the method you describe here.

    I find that warmer, sunnier windowsills work beautifully (and for the woodier plants, to use a fingernail and lightly scrape off a thin layer of the stem, where you want roots to grow. Also I heard that you should water your new cutting with the water that it grew roots in - but I haven't done the experiment to test.

    I haven't tried the root powder, you should update us if it works much better!

    1. Thanks so much for the tips Carolyn — so helpful! Love knowing you were able to get a hydrangea to work — any tips you have for those specifically we'd love to learn more!

    2. Oh of course - although I must admit that my success rate for rooting hydrangea is at best 25%! To get around this, I usually set up 10 of them and hope for a couple. My best cuttings were done outdoors in spring/summer, in moist (not wet) soil, but I've gotten a couple from water, when I'm lucky!
      Good luck!!

  7. The easier method would be to buy a bunch of mint, cut the top away for cooking and planting the rest in a pot. In a week or two,you can see most of them bearing new leaves..

  8. I propagated mint varieties (apple, peppermint) and in water only- took only ten days to root.

    Am now working on rosemary...

  9. This is really great. I bought some fresh mint at the market and I'm trying to get them to root in water with some organic root growing powder. I'm glad you took so many photos of your process and the growth of the plan, now I have an idea of what to expect.

  10. do you know where to buy flavored mint plants? Lemon, chocolate, etc?

  11. Do you know if you can propagate dill in this fashion?

  12. I've grown plenty of basil and mint plants in this manner - in a summer windowsill it takes just a week or two to get roots from a top cutting, which I then plant in basic potting soil. Trying it in the winter now and experimenting with a honey mixture to encourage growth.

  13. Thanks for writing your experience. I'm ready to do some more cuttings to grow and take with me to a new home. It only took two weeks(from new moon to full moon) for several mint cuttings I did some years ago to sprout root ( I didn't use that growth hormone either). I think maybe because I started them in the late spring (?), when it was warmer outside and the mother plants in their prime. The cuttings were kept in a sunny window and I heard they like company, so there was a bunch in a jar. Your future propagation plans are inspiring!

  14. I have done this recently and it only took two weeks for some good sized roots to sprout . I think you just needed to put some soil in the water . I put some organic potting soil and a tiny tiny bit of fertilizer and they both sprouted within 2 weeks . I hope you Have a good day :)

  15. Thank you so much for your blog. I had tried to propagate mint, in the spring, but gave up after a month. Now, I know to be more patient and to strip the leaves off. I have had excellent luck with sweet potato vines by just sticking the cutting in the dirt, no rooting needed.
    I recently began working with rose cuttings in potatoes and will let you know how that goes.
    Thanks again,

  16. I am currently a college student trying to start my own little herb garden for both money-saving and therapeutic purposes. It's been a week since my cutting has been sitting in water and there has been little to no activity. This blog was definitely helpful and encouraging. Thanks for giving me hope in my little mint.

  17. How encouraging! A friend gifted me some of her rosemary, mint & basil. I followed your instructions & am looking forward to a rewarding result like yours.

  18. Interesting to see it took so long for you to get roots. I did exactly what you did and got a single root in about a week. Right after the single root, the roots grew insanely quickly! Maybe it was the New York City tap water. Lol


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