Propagating plants by division is often faster than by seeds or cuttings. Especially if you do not need large quantities in the home garden. – But can you do the same with herbs?
Many herbs can be divided for propagation. However, not all herbs are suitable for this method. Plants with a pronounced root ball are usually suitable for dividing, whereas plants with taproot are rather unsuitable. The new plant parts should still be sufficiently large.
Fresh herbs in the garden or on the windowsill are the dream of every cook. With patience, kitchen herbs can be grown by seed. An easier option is to divide them. For herbs from pots, it is recommended to divide them immediately after purchase to keep them alive for a long time. Fresh herbs from the supermarket are planted densely in the pot so that they produce a lush appearance and therefore have little space and the nutrients run out quickly. A pot of basil or mint can be divided among three to four pots after purchase. This way, with proper treatment, the plants will last longer.
Propagate herbs by dividing the plants
Dividing a plant in the garden prevents it from depleting the soil and stimulates its growth again. The reverse is also true for herbs that are too prolifically growing. They can be divided to keep order in the herb bed. Dividing a plant has the advantage that the new offshoots are identical to the mother plant. Compared to seeds, the characteristics of the plant do not change.
Propagating herbs by division is cheaper than new seeds. Some herbs, such as lovage, can rarely be purchased as a full-grown plant. Dividing herbs is a way to share your own plants with interested friends and family. If you’re seeding herbs, you’ll need some patience. Propagating plants with cuttings also requires a conscientious approach and time before they can be replanted. In comparison, sharing plants is straightforward and quick.
When and how to divide herbs?
The best time to divide herbs depends on whether the plant is growing in the garden or in a window box or pot. In the garden and outdoors, spring and fall are the most appropriate times. The most decisive criterion to divide plants is the flowering time. Early bloomers are best handled right after flowering or not until fall. All other plants are best right in the spring, where they can grow big and strong again in the subsequent growth phase after division.
In addition to the time of year, good weather is important so that the divided herbs have optimal conditions to grow. It’s best not to divide them in predominantly dry or too wet weather. Also, the period of severe frosts should be over. Herb pots bought in the supermarket or garden center, which are intended for indoor use, the season is not so crucial. In fact, it is advisable to divide these herbs immediately after purchase to give them space and fresh energy.
Divide the plant at the root
To divide herbs, start at the root. Carefully loosen the soil and ground around the herb you want to divide. For a larger project, a digging fork is helpful here to assist in dividing if the roots are firmer. Once the area around the root is loosened, dig it out carefully without damaging it too much. Minor damage will stimulate new growth, but major damage can mean the death of the plant.
The method of division depends on the root. Fine root balls can be carefully pulled apart by hand, but thick roots are better cut with a knife or spade. For herbs with root runners, be sure to cut off a piece of the root with above-ground shoots. The two or more pieces then go to their prepared and excavated new place and root better if they get some water.
The procedure for potted herbs is not as elaborate, but involves the same steps. It is important not to damage the roots too much. If pulling them apart by hand doesn’t work, a knife is helpful. For potted herbs, it is important that the pots have a hole in the bottom so that water drains away and does not pool. The choice is special herb soil, but also normal loose potting soil gets the herbs.
When and how to divide chives?
The best time to divide chives is spring and fall. The advantage of dividing in spring is that the chives grow faster. Chives grow better with regular divisions. This is because the more it widens, the smaller its stalks become. As a guideline for dividing, we recommend at least every three years, depending on how much the chives like to grow. However, you should not divide the plant too often either, so that it does not lose too much strength, because each division also means stress for the plant.
Use a spade or digging fork to cut off a piece of the chives. Then separate the roots by hand or knife. Place the new part in its prepared area and water it to help it take root. In herb pots, it is equally important to divide the chives so that they have enough space. An occasional fertilizing with organic fertilizer will help it grow.
Long-lasting basil from the supermarket?
Herb pots from the supermarket sometimes make even experienced gardeners, like orchid growers, despair. Freshly purchased basil often droops and dies after a few days. This is because potted herbs are bred for rapid growth and consumption. With a few tricks, you can prolong the life of basil.
First and foremost, divide the basil. This will give the herb more nutrients and space. Herbs are hardier than ornamentals and are comfortable with nutrient-poor substrates. Which soil is best for potted herbs depends on the herb. Basil, for example, grows better in humus-rich, well-drained soil. However, it also thrives with classic potting soil instead of herb soil. Depending on the size of the basil, two to four pots can be filled from one purchased pot. To divide, take the plant out of the pot and gently divide the roots by hand or with a knife. After potting, watering will help with growing.
Proper care for the basil pot
Another factor in the long life of basil is proper care. Basil needs water, but not too much and preferably every day. A guideline is to water about ten percent of the pot volume. It is important that this drains and does not fester or even mold. It is best to water basil from the bottom and drain excess water from the planter. As a Mediterranean herb, basil likes warm temperatures, ideally around 20°C. Weather permitting, fresh air on the balcony or windowsill are best. In addition to proper care, the herb will last longer if you do not randomly pluck off the most beautiful leaves, but carefully cut off whole shoots. This gives the basil a chance to grow back and sprout again.
Which herbs can be divided?
Dividing herbs is not just for propagation. Some plants grow better if you divide them regularly. Herbs that can be divided easily are:
The rule of thumb is that herbs are divisible as long as they form roots on side shoots. It is often enough to use a spade to separate the herb and replant the two parts. It is important to water the plants after digging them in.
Herbs in pots
Dividing is recommended for almost all herbs that come fresh from the supermarket. For parsley, distinguish between curly and flat-leaf parsley. Curly parsley is usually already very rooted in the pot, so dividing it is laborious. An alternative to save the roots is to repot into a larger pot. If you prefer division, be careful not to damage the roots too much. Flat leaf parsley in the garden cannot be divided because of its root shape.
Some herbs, like peppermint, use up nutrients in the soil faster than others. Therefore, if you have peppermint in pots, it is advisable to change the soil annually and divide the mint so that it has adequate space and nutrients.
Herbs in the garden
Lovage can be divided in spring and late fall. Because lovage forms deep and strong roots, digging and dividing requires a little more physical strength. A spade and a knife are suitable for this. The prepared parts are best left to dry for a few hours before replanting and finally watering.
Some herbs multiply so effectively in the garden that only dividing will stop them. These include marjoram, oregano and thyme. Thyme is best divided in the spring. Sort out the middle part of the plant and diseased parts and keep only the plant sections with healthy and undamaged roots. After dividing, it is best to put the thyme back in the ground immediately.
Other herbs such as rosemary or lavender can be propagated much more reliably by cuttings. If you are interested in propagating the herb, cuttings are more effective with these herbs, which are often much more difficult to divide.
What other ways are there to propagate herbs?
Besides dividing the whole root ball, there is also the propagation via sufficiently large root pieces, the propagation via cuttings and the propagation via seeds. I have collected more information in this linked article.