How to propagate basil

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. Check out how easy it is to grow basil cuttings and make more basil plants!

WHAT YOU NEED TO PROPAGATE BASIL:

Propagating basil requires very little.

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

GROWING BASIL CUTTINGS

Four small basil cuttings ready to be rooted
How to grow basil from cutting

Harvest one or more basil cuttings from established basil plants. Don’t take more than 1/3 of the total plant.

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 shears that have been cleaned and sterilized.

In order to propagate basil from cuttings, you’ll need to leave the uppermost leaves on the cutting. Remove the lower leaves to keep them from taking energy from the cutting or rotting in the water.

HOW TO ROOT BASIL CUTTINGS:

basil cuttings in a glass of water

This is the fun part! 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.

Basil annual or perennial?

Whether you grow basil as an annual or perennial depends on the location! In most US growing zones, basil is grown as an annual That means it will die off when the temperature plummets and it won’t come back in the spring.

You can overwinter basil by bringing it indoors. In the spring, you can replant it. But basil is very interested in making seeds to make new basil plants – so the longer it grows, the more you’ll have to pinch back new growth to prevent flowering. For most people, it’s easier to let their basil die at the end of the summer and grow new plants in the spring.

How to grow basil from cutting:

Put the glass with the basil 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 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. Growing basil from cutting is simple, as long as you give the cutting enough time to develop roots before planting it.

mature basil plant and newly rooted 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. The good news is that you can root those cut or pinched pieces and make more basil plants!

Final notes on how to propagate basil

The process for growing basil cuttings into new big plants 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.

You can even regrow leaves from basil  stems you’ve picked clean for use. It takes them longer to make roots but even a bare stem can eventually create roots and then start making leaves. It’s not the most efficient way to make more basil plants but if you’ve got room and you like you basil, why not root those stems too?

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.

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