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How To Grow Basil On Water

Growing basil plants in a glass of water.

It’s a beautiful thing to see it spring to life in a glass or bed of water and then enjoy it later on pizza, in soup, or almost any dish. As it grows, its scent will be intoxicating, and you will want to do it again and again. Learn more about how to grow basil in the water right here.

Why Grow Basil on Water

Growing basil plants in a glass of water.

There are a lot of reasons why people like to grow basil in water. One is for space purposes. Those living in smaller homes like apartments or small houses may not want the trouble of pots and soil mixing to deal with when it comes to gardening. If you are unable to replant your basil, starting it in water can be very fun and so easy.

It is a lot faster to grow basil when you start from cuttings, which is how you will do it when you grow basil in water. You won’t have to wait for germination and will just be focusing on growing the basil in size. Another key benefit here is that you won’t have to deal with soil or too much cleaning until you decide to move the basil to a larger container.

The growing time for basil in soil and in the sun can be as long as eight weeks from germination to plant. With cuttings in water, you can cut your growing time of basil in half.

You will also find that growing basil this way makes basil incredibly affordable. You can purchase a cutting from a farmer’s market or grocery store. Or, you can even use a cutting from a basil plant you already own. The end result is basil that you might spend several dollars on at the grocery store, and even more if it is fresh.

Choose Your Cuttings

Freshly cut basil on the table, ready for replanting.

To grow basil in water, you need to start with your cuttings. You need to start with an existing cutting and take off all of its lower leaves. But first, you will need to select the cuttings for it. You can get them at grocery stores, garden centers, or just take some clippings from the garden of a family or friend.

Farmer’s markets will also sell bouquets of them regularly. A small bouquet is enough for you to enjoy basil with your dinner tonight and start some basil in water. You have to be careful with some of these cuttings because some of them will be sold in pots of five or six plants together.

When you have a large pot with multiple plants, you are going to find that the roots can get very tangled together. It is very difficult to make basil grow in water with rootballs such as this. You are much better off taking looser bouquets and picking the leaves off of the ends, and make sure you are choosing a mature cutting. You want it to look healthy, as if you just harvested it from the garden.

You will need to cut the ends of the basil as well. You want to make sure the cuttings are no longer than 6 inches and no shorter than 4 inches. The cut needs to be on an angle. Once you have chosen and cut the stem, you are ready to put the basil in water.

Putting the Basil on Water

A bunch of basil grows in water on a glass.

Putting the basil in water is an easy step. You will need a clean and clear jar to put the basil in. You want to make sure that the jar or glass is filled two-thirds full. You want to make sure your water is not chlorinated. You can use filtered water or bottled water if you don’t have anything but chlorinated water. Or, you can leave the water out for 24 hours, and the chlorine will evaporate.

Items like old mason jars or jars of condiments run out in the fridge are perfect, but your favorite glass will do as well. This will be your planter. You want one that is at least one quart in size, and tall so that your basil has support. Put the basil in the water, ensuring that the stem is submerged.

To take care of the basil, you want it in direct sun. The room or window where you get your morning sun is the ideal location. You can move the basil when it begins to get dark if you want. You want the basil to have at least six hours of sunlight every day. If the windowsill is warm regularly, even better.

The key to ensuring that your basil will grow is water and sunlight, like any other plant. So make sure that your basil has access to this daily. Changing the water every few days will help your basil grow a stronger rootball.

That is because, with this, you prevent bacteria from growing in the water, bacteria that can harm the basil. Keep the basil here for about 10 to 14 days, and you will begin to see results.

You will be repotting this when it begins to grow its rootball. It is okay to repot the basil after the roots have grown approximately one or two inches.  You want to use a good potting soil that is moist and rich in nutrients for your basil, and you won’t need to care too much for it beyond general watering after that.

It’s Time to Care for the Basil

Two stalk of basil growing healthy on a glass of water.

Harvesting basil involves picking the leaves of basil off of your root so that you can enjoy it. It will be tempting to harvest the basil early because the scent of the basil will drive you wild, particularly if you have the basil indoors. You will know when it is a good time to harvest when this scent starts filling up the room you are growing it in.

You can also tell when it is time to harvest by checking the root system of the herb. If you see some roots developing, the new basil leaves will be ready for you. The timing on this should be approximately two weeks. Waiting a little longer will get you better results, but results in a week or two is certainly doable.

Caring for the basil is easy. You can change its water every few days, perhaps every two or three days, and watch the roots. You want the water to be room temperature for the best results. If you are using chlorinated water, keep a pitcher of chlorinated water out on the counter, covered, for a few days. You can use this to change out the water for your basil every few days. Keep refilling the pitcher as needed.

The youngest roots are going to be two or three weeks old, but you want to wait until they are at least three inches long before you begin considering the big transfer. Now it is time to find and use containers with soil for your basil.

Fertilizing Basil

Basil plants in hydroponic machine.

You don’t have to pot the basil if you don’t want to. If you want the basil to grow in water forever, you can do that. As the basil ages,  you can add fertilizer to the water with a ratio of one gram of fertilizer per one liter of water. Mix the fertilizer first before adding it to the water-growing jar.

You can fertilize basil every few weeks and can even use aquarium water to the basil plants. Aquarium water is natural assistance to feed the basil that is growing in water and can even serve as a good fertilizer.

Transplanting and Harvesting Basil

A hand picking basil leaf that grows in water.

If you are transplanting basil from water to fertilized soil or nutrient-rich soil, you want to choose a pot that will be at least six to eight inches in diameter. You also want to choose a location to put your basil that will be warm. The basil plant does not do well in frost, so being able to bring it in, if you are putting it outside is preferred.

If you are transplanting the basil outside, you want to select a location that has sun. It is just as important outside as it is inside for the basil to have at least six hours of sun daily. Still, full sun for the transplanted basil is safe for the basil as well, unless you are living in the tropics.

When you are transplanting inside, you want to be sure that the pots have drainage holes. The soil selection is important as well because you want soil that will drain well while still being able to keep some moisture inside. General potting soil is a good choice and can be purchased cheaply at most grocery stores and garden centers in the spring.

Some potting soils will come with fertilizer, while others will have to be mixed with fertilizer or have fertilizer added to it. You want to be sure not to add too much fertilizer, particularly if the soil is organic because it will lead to more greenery and less aromatic basil.

You also have to watch the pH balance of the basil. Acidic soil is very bad for basil. You want the soil pH level closer to neutral, with a pH level of 5.5 to 7.5. You also have to keep an eye on the moisture of the plants, particularly when the seasons get warmer.

The soil can not dry out for the basil, and you’ll want to keep an eye on this when the temperatures outside increase. This is true whether you are keeping your basil inside or out. Do not overwater, but just make sure the soil stays moist enough. Overwatering will lead to fungus in the plant, and this could ultimately kill the plant.

If you are feeding or fertilizing the plants, you can do so in two-week intervals while the plant is growing. When they have grown, you can pinch the basil plants back to ensure more basil leaves grow, and you can do this during the fertilizing season. A liquid fertilizer or tea made of compost is ideal for basil. You will have to wait until the plant is at least 50 days old before you can begin harvesting it. When you are ready to harvest, early in the morning is the best time.

Types of Basil

When you are planting or rooting basil on water, you can easily feel overwhelmed by the many varieties.  Basil is intoxicating in both scent and growth. Once you start, you will not want to stop growing basil. Don’t get too caught up in the many different varieties. Here is a quick primer on them.

Sweet Basil

A Thai sweet basil plant on pot.

This is the kind of basil that you will usually find in the grocery store. The leaves are a green shade and are rounder than other kinds of basil. This is not the same as Thai sweet basil, which has a pointier leaf than traditional sweet basil. Additionally, Thai sweet basil is going to be a little bit spicier than traditional sweet basil, as you would expect. Thai sweet basil is also edible and offers purple flowers instead of green ones.

Speaking of Purple Basil

A sweet purple basil plant in a small pot.

Purple basil is just what it sounds like but doesn’t offer the aromatic delight that traditional sweet basil can offer. It is a very pretty color, though, coming in at burgundy, and giving any outdoor garden a beautiful pop of color.

Ruffled Basil

A healthy ruffled basil in a small pot.

Ruffled basil is basil that has a ruffled leaf, and this is almost the only difference from traditional sweet basil that it has. It looks pretty and goes well in dishes like salads, pasta sauces, and pizza. The taste is milder, but it is a beautiful basil that any gardener can be proud of.

Citrus Basil

A jar of citrus basil with lime and lemon besides.

Citrus basil is a lemon and lime kind of basil with a distinct citrusy flavor. This comes in many different colors and is popular basil in marinades.