How to Propagate Basil

Four basil plants that were started as cuttings

text-box-multiplePart 8 in our Herbs Series link

Our series on herbs, including both culinary and medicinal herbs!

If you want to stay within your gardening budget this year, consider propagating some of your plants this season!  To propagate means to create new plants from a single parent plant.  You can do this with quite a few plants, but basil is one of the easiest.  If you like basil, you know it’s an herb you can do a lot with because it can go with savory and sweet dishes.  For me, summertime means making a lot of fresh pesto. If you take basil cuttings every couple of weeks, you can have unlimited supplies to take you through fall and even into winter. 

Supplies needed:

  • One healthy basil plant (preferably one that has not flowered yet)
  • Scissors or trimmers
  • A jar or propagating vessel
  • Water

Supplies needed to propagate basil: scissors, jar, water, and a basil plant

How to Take Basil Cuttings

  1. Choose a stem that is 2-4 inches tall.
  2. Trim just below the leaf nodes.
  3. Strip the lower leaves off of the stem, about two inches up. Make sure to leave at least two leaves up top attached to the stem. 
  4. Place your cuttings into clean water.  Basil doesn’t need to be dipped into rooting hormone to develop roots, especially if you do this in the spring and summer months when there is a lot of natural light.  
  5. Place your cuttings in an area with a lot of natural light, like a window sill.
  6. Change the water every couple of days.

Wait for Roots to Develop

Roots should start appearing in about 2-3 weeks. After you have roots around 1-2 inches long, they can be potted up or moved directly into the garden. If you pot them, use a good soil mixture; basil likes moist soil. In summer, you can plant the cuttings directly into the ground or garden bed. Basil likes heat so if it’s still getting cold at night, it’s best to keep it in a pot until it warms up.

Basil cutting in water has developed roots


Once your transplanted cuttings get established, you can take cuttings from those plants and keep the process going as long as you want. Once frost returns, it’s time to move the basil back inside, of course.

This video shows the process:

It really is that easy to keep the basil-goodness going all summer and beyond. It’s like getting plants for free! A few more herbs you can propagate in water are: rosemary, sage, and oregano.

If you’re looking for more budget-friendly garden tips for this season, check out this post: 

Harnessing Local Resources for Your Garden

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