Can You Divide Herbs For Propagation?

Last updated on October 23rd, 2023 at 08:37 pm

Title: Propagating Herbs by Division: A Guide to Successful Herb Gardening

Propagating herbs by division is a simple and effective method to multiply your herb garden. Herbs are known for their aromatic leaves and culinary uses, and having more of them can be a valuable addition to your garden. In this guide, we’ll explore the process of dividing herbs for propagation and the types of herbs that can be propagated this way.

The Benefits of Herb Division

  1. Cost-Effective: Propagating herbs by division is a cost-effective way to expand your herb collection. Instead of purchasing new plants, you can multiply your existing ones.
  2. Preserves Desired Traits: Division allows you to maintain the desired characteristics and flavor profiles of your favorite herbs, ensuring consistency in your culinary creations.
  3. Healthy Plants: Division promotes healthier growth by rejuvenating mature herb plants. It helps to alleviate overcrowding, which can lead to weaker plants and decreased yields.
  4. Sustainability: Propagating herbs from your garden reduces the need to buy new plants, contributing to a more sustainable and eco-friendly gardening approach.

Herbs Suitable for Division

Can You Divide Herbs For Propagation?

While not all herbs can be propagated by division, many common culinary herbs respond well to this method. Here are some herbs that are suitable for division:

  1. Mint (Mentha): Mint is known for its vigorous growth and is a prime candidate for division. It’s recommended to do this in the spring or early fall.
  2. Chives (Allium schoenoprasum): Chives can be divided in the spring or fall. Each division can grow into a new chive plant.
  3. Lemon Balm (Melissa officinalis): Lemon balm is a hardy herb that can be divided in the spring or early fall.
  4. Oregano (Origanum vulgare): Oregano can be divided in the spring. Each division can be replanted to create new oregano plants.
  5. Thyme (Thymus vulgaris): Thyme can be propagated by division in the early spring or late fall.
  6. Sage (Salvia officinalis): Sage can be divided in the early spring or early fall, producing new sage plants.

The Division Process

Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to propagate herbs by division:

1. Choose the Right Time: The best times for division are typically in the early spring, just as new growth begins, or in the early fall. The weather is mild, and the herbs are actively growing.

2. Prepare Your Tools: You’ll need a sharp garden knife, pruners, or a shovel to divide the herbs. Ensure your tools are clean and sharp to make clean cuts.

3. Dig Up the Herb: Carefully dig up the herb you wish to divide, ensuring you don’t damage the roots or the main plant. Use the tool to gently loosen the soil around the herb.

4. Divide the Plant: Examine the plant and identify where you can make clean divisions. Look for natural separations in the plant or areas where new growth is emerging. Use your tool to make a clean cut, ensuring that each division has roots and foliage.

5. Replant: Plant the divisions immediately in their new location or containers. Ensure the soil is well-drained, and water the newly planted divisions to settle the soil around the roots.

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6. Provide Care: Water the newly divided herbs regularly to keep the soil consistently moist. After they establish themselves, you can treat them like mature herb plants.

Tips for Successful Herb Division

  • Healthy Plants: Choose mature, healthy plants for division. Unhealthy or stressed plants may not respond well to division.
  • Watering: Keep the divisions well-watered, especially in the first few weeks after planting. This helps them establish roots in their new location.
  • Fertilization: While herbs typically don’t require heavy fertilization, you can use a balanced, organic fertilizer to give the divisions a good start.
  • Spacing: When replanting divisions, ensure you space them appropriately to prevent overcrowding, which can lead to competition for resources.
  • Sunlight: Herbs generally prefer full sun or partial shade. Ensure that the new planting location meets their sunlight requirements.

In conclusion, propagating herbs by division is a straightforward and economical way to expand your herb garden while maintaining the desired traits of your favorite herbs. With the right timing, tools, and care, you can successfully divide herbs like mint, chives, lemon balm, oregano, thyme, and sage. This method not only allows you to enjoy the benefits of fresh herbs in your cooking but also promotes a more sustainable and thriving garden.

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.

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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.

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Which herbs can be divided?

Can You Divide Herbs For Propagation?

Dividing herbs is not just for propagation. Some plants grow better if you divide them regularly. Herbs that can be divided easily are:

  • Basil
  • Lovage
  • Marjoram
  • Mint
  • oregano
  • Chives
  • Thyme

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

Can You Divide Herbs For Propagation?

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.


  • James Jones

    Meet James Jones, a passionate gardening writer whose words bloom with the wisdom of an experienced horticulturist. With a deep-rooted love for all things green, James has dedicated his life to sharing the art and science of gardening with the world. James's words have found their way into countless publications, and his gardening insights have inspired a new generation of green thumbs. His commitment to sustainability and environmental stewardship shines through in every article he crafts.

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