Spicy, pungent, and delicious, basil is a favorite herb of many people. Not only can you add the delicious Italian flavor of basil to pasta, chicken, and all kinds of other dishes, but this herb is also a lovely herb to grow both indoors and outside.
Even better, basil is one of those herbs that grow very easily, so even novice gardeners can grow this herb. You can never have too much basil, and when you know how to propagate this herb, you will never run out.
Propagation is simply creating new plants. Many people think that the only way to make new plants is to grow them from seeds. However, there are other ways to get more basil plants, and when you know all of them, you can always have a fresh supply of new basil plants for your indoor herb garden.
Many people start growing basil by purchasing plants. Often, in the produce department of many grocery stores, plants like basil are available for purchase. Also, in the springtime, you can usually find basil plants in the lawn and garden department of many stores.
Basil plants are annual plants, meaning that they complete their life cycle and then they die, usually over the course of one growing season that takes four to six months. If you want a year-round supply of fresh basil, you will need to continually replenish your supply of basil plants. You do not have to keep buying new plants. You can learn to propagate basil plants at home using three main ways.
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1. Growing from Seeds
Basil is one of those plants that grow very well from seeds. While some plants struggle to get started from seeds and it is best to use other propagation methods for those plants, basil is not like that. It grows easily from seeds.
One great advantage of using seeds to grow basil is that you can buy seeds for a wide variety of basil plants. Most stores only stock one or maybe two of the most popular varieties of basil plants in the garden center. But what if you are a basil aficionado and you are longing to try new varieties of this plant?
There are between 50 and 150 varieties of basil in the world, and you may want to give some new kinds a try. Whether you want to try lemon basil, purple basil, or cinnamon basil, you can do this by ordering seeds for the plants online.
To grow basil from seeds indoors, you only need a few things. First, you need a planting medium. You can grow the basil in basic potting soil or you can grow it in peat pellets that are marketed specifically for seed starting.
If you are using basic potting soil, just fill your containers with potting soil and water the soil so that it is damp and spongy. Basil seeds are tiny, and it is easier to wet the dirt before you plant the seeds instead of risking washing the seeds around in the pot when you water them later.
Take a few of the tiny seeds in the palm of your hand and sprinkle them on top of the dirt. Gently press them into the dirt and just barely cover the seeds with a light dusting of soil. You do not have to bury the seeds very deeply.
If you are using peat pellets, soak them in water and let them absorb the water. They will swell as they soak up the water. Drop one or two seeds into the center of the peat pellet, just barely covering the seed with a tiny bit of dirt.
And, now you wait. Put the basil in a warm, sunny spot and keep an eye on the pots. If the surface of the soil begins to look dry and crusty, use a spray bottle of water to lightly mist the surface of the soil.
In five to seven days, the seeds should sprout. If you planted multiple seeds, you should see several tiny stems with pairs of tiny leaves emerging.
After the plant grows three or four leaves, you may need to thin them. If too many plants try to grow in the same space, none of them will grow strong and healthy because they will be competing for nutrients and water. Use a tiny pair of nail scissors, and snip the scrawniest looking seedlings, and spacing them about two inches apart.
If you use peat pellets to grow your seedlings, you should put them into a pot of dirt when roots begin to protrude from the bottom of the peat pellet.
Now you can just keep your seedlings in the sun, watering them when the soil gets dry and watching them grow.
2. Using a Cutting from Existing Plants
While you can grow a hundred different varieties of basil by starting them from seeds, there is one major disadvantage of starting basil plants from seed. It can take six to eight weeks for your plants to grow large enough to harvest the leaves when you grow them from seeds. That is a long time to wait.
If you know how to propagate basil by using cuttings, you can have larger plants ready for harvest more quickly. You can propagate your basil plants in water or in soil.
To propagate in water, take a stem cutting that is about 4 to 6 inches long. You should snip the plant just below a leaf node, or the place where the leaves emerge from the stem. Strip the bottom of the stem clean of leaves, leaving 6 to 8 leaves at the top of the stem.
Place the stem in a glass of water and within a week or two, rootlets will begin to emerge from the stem. Pot the stem in a small pot of soil and keep it watered and you will have a brand new plant.
To propagate in soil, it works the exact same way. Make the same kind of cutting, stripping the leaves in the same way that you would for rooting in water. To propagate it in soil, you will just insert the stem into a pot of dirt. Keep the soil moist and your plant will soon begin to grow on its own in the pot.
Propagating by Layering
Layering is a propagation method that is best used for plants in large pots. You will leave the root of the original plant undisturbed and it will nourish the new plant while it is starting to grow.
Select a long stem from an existing basil plant. Remove the leaves from the section of the stem that you will want to use to make a new plant. Gently, without breaking the stem, bend the stem over until it makes contact with the soil. Pile a bit of dirt on the stem.
If it keeps wanting to pop up out of the dirt, you may want to use something like a bent paper clip or a bobby pin to keep it bent over. You should allow several inches of the top of the stem to protrude from the dirt.
Eventually, the plant will grow roots, establishing itself as a brand new plant. Once the plant begins to grow and form new leaves, you can cut the stem from the mother plant and you will have a new plant.
3. Caring for New Basil Plants
Basil plants are very sensitive to cold weather, so if you want your new plants to really take off, you will have to keep them warm. Basil is perfect as an indoor plant if you have plenty of sunlight because it loves temperatures that are at least 70 degrees.
Keep your basil in a south-facing window, ideally. The second best option is to grow it in an east-facing window. If you do not have windows facing either direction, you can buy a grow light to provide enough light for your basil plants to grow well.
As your basil plants grow and mature, you may want to take more stem cuttings to propagate more plants. Eventually, the basil plant will create flowers and try to reproduce. The flowers are pretty, but if you allow them to mature, the plant will complete its life cycle and the plant will die. You can forestall the end of your plant by pinching back the flowers when they form. Just break them off so they will not mature.
If you do allow the plant to grow flowers, you can harvest the seeds from the plant and grow new basil plants from them.