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How to Encourage Basil Cuttings to Root

Rooting a basil plant in a clear cup of water in the kitchen

Rooting Basil

I don’t need to tell you that you love basil. That is probably why you’re here! But not everybody has the time or patience to grow basil right from seed. Luckily, there is a super timely and cost effective to grow basil and that is through growing from cuttings!

Basil is going to be a wonderful member of your herb garden where it be indoors or outdoors. Having fresh basil leaves ready to go will benefit nearly any dish that comes out of your kitchen, sweet, savory, or otherwise.

Basil plants are also awesome when it comes to companion planting! If you’re growing basil outdoors, its little white flowers will provide a much needed source of pollinators, while simultaneously repelling unwanted pests.

There are so many reasons to grow basil, but it doesn’t have to be a full time job! So sit back, get your pen and paper, and get ready to learn all about growing basil cuttings.

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Learn all about protect basil from pests and disease here.

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Is your basil flowering? Learn how to encourage or prevent basil from flowering!

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Why Grow Basil from Cuttings?

Three bushy and healthy basil plants growing in a windowsill

There are 3 main ways to grow basil. Most gardeners make the decision to grow basil straight from seed and then transplant the seedlings outdoors once frost has passed, or keep them inside as indoor herbs.

Growing basil seed can be a super time consuming process! In zones 2-6, gardeners have to start seeds indoors, under grow lights, a good 6-8 weeks before the early spring then they’re transplanted outside.

In zones 7-10 the seeds can be sown directly outdoors after the last threat of frost, but it can take a good 6-8 weeks before leaves are large enough to be ready for harvest.

Both of these methods require quite a bit of time, and the growing season is pretty restricted to the warmest parts of the year.

Growing basil cuttings is absolutely the most time efficient and also the most cost effective! Additionally, since the plants are already established, they are more capable of growing those healthy fresh leaves, faster!

Where can you Find Basil Cuttings?

Transplanting healthy basil plants into the garden

If you don’t already have a set of established bas plants, not to fret. There are tons of places where you can find healthy plants from which you can grab those coveted basil cuttings.

The Grocery Store – my personal favorite place to find basil plants is the grocery store. I love rescuing them from those sad conditions and giving them a new home.

You will also notice that there is usually more than one plant growing in a single container, meaning you can divide up those roots to create multiple plants.

It’s important to transplant these plants out of those plastic containers as they do not have very good drainage and basil does not like that. Additionally, replant them in some nutrient rich potting mix to help them out.

Garden Centres & Nurseries – garden centres and nurseries are an obvious place to find basil. They will have seedlings and seeds ready to go, but see if you can find a huge, established basil plant for purchase.

These guys are already well established and you can cut the entire thing right down to the soil and use each of the stems. The original mother plant will sprout back up in a few short weeks with healthy, true leaves.

Fellow Gardens – if you’re into gardening, chances are that you’re friends with other people who garden! Once you get a basil plant going it will often produce more leaves than a person knows what to do with, and they’ll be happy to gift you with some cuttings.

Farmer’s Markets – another great place to find basil plants is at farmer’s markets. Not only is this a great way to spend an afternoon, but it is pretty much guaranteed that these will be happy and organic plants. The happier your mother plant is, the happier the cuttings will be.

How do you Get Basil to Root?

When it comes to encouraging those new cuttings to take root in the soil, there are 2 main roots (haha, plant pun) that you can take to propagate basil. There is water propagation or potting propagation.

Whichever method you choose to propagate basil, you must first choose the perfect stem cutting from the mother plant. The cutting should have at least 2 sets of true leaves on it, as the stem cutting will need to continue photosynthesizing.

Cut the basil stem just below the leaf node (the leaf node is where the bottom leaves meet the stem), but make sure you have enough length on the basil stem that the lower leaves don’t touch the surface of the water or soil.

Propagating healthy basil plant in clear cup of water

Water Propagation

Propagating basil cuttings using a cup of water is one of my favorite ways to create new plants. I love the process of being able to watch the little roots start to grow under the water. It’s also super easy and quick! You will need:

  • a clear, short glass
  • fresh distilled water
  • basil cuttings

1. The first step is to pick the perfect glass for your new cutting. It should be short enough that the leaves won’t be blocked, but tall enough to hold a decent amount of water. Any clear glass vessel of the right size will do.

2. The next step is to fill the glass with distilled water. If you don’t feel like making that effort, you can also just let the glass of water sit out for 24 hours so that all of the chlorine evaporates from the water. This is far healthier for the plant.

3. Keep the cup in a south facing window as basil really likes bright sunlight. Make sure to switch out for fresh water every few days so that bacteria doesn’t build up.

4. The basil cutting should start to take root in about 2 weeks time. You’ll be able to tell that the cutting is ready to be transplanted into its earthy home once the roots are 1-2 inches in length.

Tiny basil plant growing in a pot

Potting Propagation

The other option is propagating basil through planting directly in some potting soil! This option of propagating basil cuttings works just as well, it’s just a little bit trickier to tell when the basil is ready for transplanting. You will need:

  • well draining potting soil
  • small pots (about 4 inches)
  • clear plastic bags
  • mister

1. The first step is to fill your small pots. Any old container will do while you’re growing your plants at first, but they’ll eventually need a vessel with more evaporation capabilities, like terracotta.

Fill your pots with that well draining soil mix. You can amend it with compost and sand if you’re worried about drainage. They’ll be thankful for that added nutrients from the compost, too!

Moisten the potting soil before you plant the cuttings so that the soil mix is properly saturated, creating the perfect environment for the growing plants.

2. Pick a spot in your home with a nice sunny window. Growing basil likes areas that are high heat and high humidity. Place those clear plastic bags over each of the plants to create a little micro-environment around them.

3. Maintain soil moisture as well overall moistness. You’ll need to water the plants every few days, as well as misting the plants every day to maintain moisture.

4. The cuttings should start to take root in a couple of weeks, but you’ll only be able to tell by doing the tug-test. Very gently tug at the cuttings around the 2 week mark to see if there is resistance.

If there is resistance, the rooted cutting is ready to be transplanted either into the garden outside or into new, deeper pots. The general rule with basil pots is that the pot should be as deep as the basil is tall for that expansive root system.

How do you Use Basil?

Lovely herb harden taking root in water on the porch

If basil is a new plant in your home, you may be overwhelmed by all of the leaves that it is producing! There are tons of ways to use this fresh herb.

  • make pesto
  • make basil flower vinegar
  • garnish a cocktail
  • garnish a pasta dish
  • dry your own basil
  • apply the fresh herb to a salad
  • grow in the garden for pollinators
  • give a basil seedling to a friend


What are some popular basil varieties?

There are a ton of incredible basil varieties to choose from, and the majority of them are cultivars created from ocimum basilicum.

Sweet Basil – sweet basil is the most common basil variety, ocimum basilicum. This variety has the classic sweet/spicy flavor and fragrance, and they grow to be around 8-20 inches in length. Sweet basil bears fresh green leaves that are 1-2 inches in length.

African Blue Basil – African blue basil is a really special hybrid that has a beautiful purple basil leaf with green, super serrated edges. They grow to be a shrub rather than a small plant, sometimes reaching 4-6 feet in height! They have a spicier flavor and are particularly beautiful to look at.

Purple Basil – purple basil is a gorgeous basil variety that has a deep purple basil leaf. The edges are usually serrated and leaves are more narrow. Purple basil is more frequently used as a fresh garnish because of its lovely color, and the fragrance changes when cooked.

Lemon Basil – lemon basil is a very common fresh herb that is used in many Asian cuisines. It is appreciate because of its lemon-y kick to it accompanying that classic basil flavor. Leaves are more narrow and long, but the plant is modest in size, only achieving lengths of 8-20 inches.

Genovese Basil – Genovese basil is the variety you’re looking for if you want a huge basil leaf harvest. These are very vigorous growers with huge leaves and tall heights to prove it. Genovese basil has a super fresh and sweet flavor, and it is the variety you choose if you’re looking to make pesto or caprese salad.

What are some good plants to plant alongside basil?

Growing herbs are a fantastic thing to do for your garden for so many reason. Growing herbs is a great way to add texture and depth to the garden. The fragrant foliage will help deter unwanted pests, and they will simultaneously attract beneficial insects to the area as well.

Many gardeners will plant lemon balm alongside basil, along with chamomile, oregano, marigolds, and tomatoes, and root vegetables.

What are some issues that basil faces?

The biggest issue that a basil plant will face is downy mildew. Basil is super sensitive to living in water logged areas, which is why it is so important that they are planted in well draining soil.

Downy mildew happens in areas with high heat and high humidity, and is caused by crowded basil plants that don’t have enough space for water to evaporate from their leaves.

Does basil like direct sunlight exposure?

Basil plants will change the amount of sun exposure that they want depending on the temperature. If it is very hot they will require bright indirect light, but if it more mild they will require direct sunlight for the morning, but will want partial shade in the afternoon. One way to ensure that the leaves never get leaf scorch is to make sure that they plants are properly watered.

What tool should I use to prune basil?

The best tool that you can use to prune or harvest basil leaves is your fingers, but if you’re doing a big harvest or pruning you can always use a set of scissors.

Is it better to grow basil indoors or outdoors?

Deciding whether to grow your basil indoors or outdoors will depend entirely on the climate of the place that you live. If you live in an area that is more mild, they should be fine to live outside until the winter arrives.

If you live in an area with super intense heat, it will probably be too much for your plant to take. Though they like heat, too much heat and sun will very quickly cause the leaves to wilt.

However, growing basil indoors can be done really successfully as you can better control the growing conditions of the plant, and the growing season can last pretty much all year long as long as you continuously prune the plant.

What is the method for basil propagation?

Basil propagation can happen in three different ways, but rooting basil cuttings tend to be the quickest and the most successful and cost effective. This is because taking cuttings from an already established plants helps ensure that its life can continue in a new environment, and it is very easy to root basil this way.