By Glenna Shaeffer
When you need to take tender herb plants indoors to keep over the winter, you can dig the whole plant in Mid-September and bring it in. If you do not have enough room indoors for larger plants, you can take cuttings to bring in. Late August is the best time to take cuttings of herbs that are Mediterranean in origin. The plant is still in active growth during this month which helps in rooting. Later when the weather cools the plants prepare chemically for going through winter and do not root out easily again until spring.
Scented geraniums [Pelargoniums], lavenders [Lavandulas], and wall germanders [Teucrium] are easily rooted at this time. 4- 5” cuttings are taken from the top of the plant. They are of older summer stems – not too young and not too woody [You can still pierce their skin with your fingernail with some effort.]. Try to take shoots that are not going to flower. When a plant is in flower chemicals again have changed within the plant so it puts its efforts into flowering and has less reserves for rooting. With scented geraniums gently tearing the shoot from the main stem will leave a small wedge-shaped heel of the main stem attached. This is good for propagation. After taking cuttings let scented geraniums lay in shade to heel over the cut edge for 12 hours at least. Being slightly wilted will not hurt. Scented geraniums with large leaves need ½ of the leaf cut off so there is less transpiration of water away from the cutting. Scented geraniums and lavenders do appreciate a slight dip in a rooting hormone at this time, but can root out without it [may take longer] if the cutting is properly cared for before it roots. Tap off any excess rooting hormone. They just need a dusting.
Set the cuttings in a pot filled with moist, loose soil or vermiculite. A number of cuttings can be put in the same pot — just not too tightly so they get some air circulation. Spritz the foliage with a good spray of water once or twice until the wilting has rehydrated. Indoors, put the pot in light but complete shade and keep it moist at all time. Do not let it sit in water. Keep the pot where you can keep an eye on it. Wetting the soil down probably a couple of times a week [or less in the dead of winter] will work. This will take some time. Some plants will root within 2 weeks, but some will take considerably longer. If the cutting tries to flower, remove the flower immediately. Any dead or rotted stems and foliage needs to be removed from around your cuttings to keep the soils healthy. Put your fingers into the soil and gently pry up the cutting to see if it has rooted. If many roots are approximately 1” long, the cutting is ready to be transplanted into its own pot. If there are no roots or too few roots, gently tamp the cutting back into the soil and wait some more. Lavenders and wall germanders or plants that do not have succulent stems do not need to lay out to heel over the cut. Just skip this part. After it is repotted with new roots you can let the plant flower for your enjoyment. You can fertilize it, but there is no need of fertilizer in the dead of winter. Fertilizing can begin again in late February when the plant starts to grow again.