One of the most enjoyable parts of gardening is making new plants. It’s like magic, just take a cutting from a plant, let it grow new roots and you’ve got a whole new plant. Basil, a delicious and useful culinary herb, is one of the simplest herbs to propagate from cuttings. A “cutting” simply means snipping off a small section of a growing plant. This cut section will form roots, at which point it will thrive as a new plant.

Basil Needs a Pinch to Grow!

Basil plants must be “pinched off” frequently to encourage full, bushy growth.  If basil isn’t pinched or cut back, the plant grows tall and puts all of its energy into making flowers. When that happens, the plant becomes very sparse and the stem turns woody. Once flowers form, the plant dies.

Pinching or cutting off new growth prevents flowering and encourages the plant to keep making flavorful leaves instead. If you have all the basil you need for immediate use,  you can root some of those cut or pinched pieces and make more basil plants!

New to herb gardening? Check out Five Culinary Herbs That Are Easy to Grow, which includes a guide for growing basil.

WHAT YOU NEED TO PROPAGATE BASIL:

  • At least one cutting from a healthy, growing basil plant
  • A small glass or jar
  • Water

HOW TO TAKE BASIL CUTTINGS:

If you are harvesting basil to encourage growth or picking leaves for immediate use, you can just pluck off the uppermost leaves. But if you intend to root your harvest, be sure to cut at least two or three inches of stem, with leaves on the upper portion. It’s best to make a clean cut just above a set of leaves. Use scissors or sheers that have been cleaned and sterilized.

Four small cuttings of basil

HOW TO ROOT BASIL CUTTINGS:

Place the cut pieces of basil in a jar or glass. Add enough water to cover at least half of the stem but not so much that the leaves are in the water. The cutting needs at least a couple large leaves to ensure photosynthesis continues but remove excess leaves if there are any. Extra leaves require extra water and energy. That energy should be put into making new roots, instead.

Basil cuttings in a glass of water

Put the glass with the cuttings in a sunny location. Change the water every day and be sure there is always plenty in the glass. In a few days, tiny white roots will begin to grow out of the submerged stems! Leave the basil in the water while the roots grow. Once the roots are well-developed and at least an inch long, plant the new basil plants in your garden or pot. They’ll start growing immediately and you’ll be able to harvest leaves in a few weeks.

Basil cuttings with long new roots

The process for cutting and rooting basil is simple but satisfying. A single basil plant can supply enough cuttings for the whole season. That makes this technique a very frugal way to keep your herb garden full and flourishing.

Wonder what to do with extra basil? Try making infused herb oil or dry the leaves for future use. Check out How to Use Extra Herbs for more ideas on enjoying your surplus basil.

mature basil plant and newly rooted plant

The mature basil plant provided five cuttings, all of which became new basil plants! One of the baby basil is planted next to the donor plant.

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