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Rosemary – From Cuttings or Seed – Is There Any Difference?

I’ve grown the herb rosemary many times from cuttings. Easy to do. Just take a 4 or 5 inch tip cutting from early spring growth and stick in the ground (or a pot with moist grow mix) and wait for roots.

A few years ago I decided to grow some rosemary from seed.

I started it using the wintersown method.

Rosemary is known for extremely poor germination, so out of package of 100 seeds I thought I did wonderfully to have almost a dozen germinate.  (I was expecting 2 or 3.)

Long story short – the bitter cold last winter killed every rosemary plant I had, whether fully mature or seedling. Of course, everybody else lost theirs as well.

If someone had asked me, “Why go to the trouble to start rosemary from seed?”,  I’d have been hard pressed for an answer. I did it, just because I wanted to try it.

Is there a benefit or advantage in starting from seed?

I think I may have stumbled across the answer.

I was reading an article on Stephen and Cindy Scott in Chino Valley, Arizona, who are part owners of the open-pollinated heirloom garden and seed company, Terroir Seeds LLC (home of Underwood Gardens).

Their approach to gardening is holistic and they work with the soil and plants (nature) instead of trying to get nature to work some other way. (You’ve heard that many times, here on TMG.)

They offer heirloom and open pollinated seeds, soil building and seed saving education, and a good selection of seed.

The Benefit to Growing Rosemary from Seed

According to the Scotts the primary reason to start with seed rather than a cutting revolves around flavor. “Rosemary that grows from seed is more intense (in flavor).”

They go on to say that seed grown rosemary has a lot more oil and aroma than a plant grown from a cutting.

Of particular interest was the implication that if you grow a plant from a cutting and take a cutting from that plant and start another, the aroma drops off with every new generation started.

The Scotts say it’s like making copies of copies.  Most of us can relate to that.  If you have an original document and make a copy and then use a copy to make copy and so forth down the line, you loose quality with every copy.

Does This Apply to Other Herbs?

I have no way of knowing.  But if I had to venture a guess, I would say it does.

I’ve noticed that the thyme I grew from seed last winter seems to have much more aroma than thyme I’ve grown from cuttings in the past.

Final Thoughts

I thought this piece of information was really interesting and wanted to share it with you.

If you want maximum oil and aroma from you herbs, why not try growing them from seed and do your own aroma testing.

You can wintersow thyme, rosemary, and many other herbs right now.

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Related Posts:

Wintersown – Index to my Wintersown Posts and Topics Covered in Each

Cuttings – Free and Easy Way to New Plants

Sedum – Time for New Starts

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All content including photos is copyright by TendingMyGarden.com.  All Rights Reserved.

10 comments to Rosemary – From Cuttings or Seed – Is There Any Difference?

  • Beppy

    that was a fascinating bit of info to start my day. Thanks

  • Sharon Russell

    Does that mean that fruit trees that are grafted produce fruit that’s less flavorful than the previous generation?

  • Don Rutherford

    I just read an email that states there are 7 herbs and spices that are especially good for your health.

    I have received small kits to plant herbs indoors and have only done it once that I remember, but thank you for your blog on the intensity of flavor.

    I don’t know if this applies to store bought herbs, either fresh or dry, but this year I’ll plant some outside.

    I read your blog on the financial need in running your website. If I buy extra books to give away, will this help that need?

    Don

  • Interesting! I need to get going with my rosemary. These deep freezes have killed all three of my plants. I’ll go ahead and start some seed then.

  • Sandra

    Boy, that is very intriguing, Theresa. I wonder if it holds true for other items like strawberries. I love how you are continually learning and growing as a gardener.

  • Theresa

    Beppy, I too think it’s such great piece of information. Glad you thought that as well.

    Sharon, I don’t have any experience with fruit trees (like apples, pears, plums etc.). I just know what I read.

    The popular current day consensus is that fruit trees must be grafted to produce fruit that tastes good.
    I could almost bet that that idea is from “marketing” rather than based in fact most of the time.( I do know that where the trees are grafted is the weakest spot. I also know that there are folks who root fruit tree cuttings for a stronger tree.)

    I think it definitely possible to grow trees from seed and have good results in spite of the popular opinion you can’t do it. Only thing is, it would take someone a long time to have the hands on experience to really know since fruit trees can take a while to grow and produce and obviously you’d have to grow lots of trees.

    It’s possible that there is some truth to the saying that apple seeds don’t bear true to the parent tree.
    Also might be some truth to the saying that fruit from seed does not taste as good. Maybe..
    But several things come to mind:

    #1. – The public has been so influenced by supermarket hype that what they consider a good apple may not have been what folks a 100 years ago considered good. The majority of folks have had their taste so “perverted” by highly salted and artificially seasoned and sweetened food that they are unable to accept anything else or any wild or natural foods.

    #2. I feel certain that variety has a lot to do with whether or not the fruit can be grown from seed.

    #3. As does soil and environmental conditions.

    #4. In the early 1800s John Appleseed started apple orchards from seed. Then he sold 2 and 3 year old apple trees to settlers. So he certainly did well with growing from seed.

    Hey Don,
    Tell us what the 7 herbs are. 🙂 You’ve got us curious now.

    Regarding my book helping to finance TMG, I would have to answer yes and no. I’ll explain: Book sales have thus far paid for the first printing of the book and sales now are going towards a possible second printing.(There’s no profit in the book until I get well into the second printing if and when that takes place.) Eventually this book and other things that I write and offer to readers will hopefully foot the bill for TMG. But that takes a lot of time. Especially when one appeals to a small percentage of gardeners; knows nothing about promoting via social media; and has limited time to devote to all this and is definitely not a “techie”.

    So yes, any purchase you make will help. But it may take some time before I’m able to use all book sale monies to finance TMG. How long – I don’t know. TMG will be 5 years old in February. Still, I have only a small select group of readers. Probably, if I were into social media I could have a very large group. But I don’t know anything about that and rather spend my time writing for gardeners who really want to learn rather than using up that time to market TMG via social media or the like.

    Correct me if you think I’m wrong, but I feel I appeal to folks who can think for themselves and are tired of wading through all the hype of what is said to be necessary to garden. I think folks who find TMG are so relieved to find someone who can tell them from 36 years of experience that gardening is not hard and can be done very easily with practically no funds. Down deep, a lot of folks felt that, but thought maybe they were the only one.

    Farming Bear
    Sorry you’ve lost your rosemary already. Hope not all of us will lose it this year.

    Here’s a tip: If you have plants that are usually considered perennial in your area, and it turns bitter cold (like now), make sure the plants have been well watered (by rain or by you if the soil is dry). It’s usually the dry cold that will kill the plants. If the soil is moist, they usually make it through just fine.

    Sandra,
    I wonder about things like strawberries as well, Sandra. We’ll just have to get busy and experiment.
    As far as learning: it’s what makes gardening even more fun.
    What makes me high is having gardened for all those years, working with nature, but not knowing any of the “whys”. Now I’m starting to learn WHY working with nature worked. Love it!

    Theresa

  • Toni Brock

    Great article Theresa. I have been meaning to ask you about my Oregano. Here is the situation: I have planted several Oregano from seed and the first year it is pretty good, then the second year after overwintering, it begins to taste like mint. So this year I bought a plant of Oregano and I have kept it in the pot and have now brought it into the house to over winter. So far it still smells wonderfully oregano so my fingers are crossed. I am just quite confused by the switch in my seed started plants turning to a mint taste and wondered if you had insight. They haven’t been invaded by mint plants. It is the Oregano itself changing.

  • Theresa

    That’s so interesting Toni. I don’t have much information to offer on that.

    I’m not familiar with any oreganoes tasting like “mint”, but oregano is considered to be in the mint family. And like other herbs, there are many varieties. You probably have one that may be prone to “changing its flavor”.

    From years back I always considered the best variety of oregano for culinary purposes to be Greek Oregano. There are those who think the cultivated variety of Greek Oregano is no where near as flavorful as the oregano that grows in the wilds of Greece, but the cultivated Greek Oregano is what most of us have access to.

    I’m sure, like other herb varieties, each variety has its own particular favorite use. A little bit of googling could tell you what varieties are used with what foods.

    Next time you order seed or get a plant, take note of the variety. If your googling doesn’t lead you to a variety that appeals to you more, why not try Greek Oregano. I don’t think it will ever change to mint flavor on you. At least, it never did for me in the many years I’ve grown it.

    Theresa

  • Billie

    Hello Theresa,

    I have raised beds and it has been a very hot summer here in Redding. My husband does the watering and the foliage on my Rosemary gets wet. My plant is loosing its petals or what ever you call them. The plant is very sticky and very fragrant. If I touch it I get sap on my hands and it is so strong smelling. What is happening to my plant? Appreciate your reply.

  • Theresa

    Hi Billie,
    Not knowing all the details, I can only make an educated guess as to the problem.
    However, my guess is probably a good one that you have already touched on: too much water!
    Rosemary – like most herbs – like it drier. It does not need or like the water that most veggies do.
    A healthy Rosemary should not loose its needles.
    Regarding sap that is sticky to the touch : I often have that on mine.
    Regarding smell: It’s suppose to have a wonderful strong rosemary smell.
    Hope this helps you.
    Theresa

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