How to Propagate Basil – For Pennies!

How to Propagate Basil - Grow fresh basil all summer in your garden!

I’ve been multiplying my basil with this technique for years and honestly, it’s almost too good to be true! I’ve shared this How to Propagate Basil post each Spring because, to me, it’s one of the best tricks EVER!


If you’re a regular visitor here at The Café, you might have noticed that I’m crazy about fresh herbs and use basil quite extravagantly in my cooking, garnishing ………. even decorating! If you visit me in the summer, you’ll often find a big bouquet of basil adorning my kitchen counter in lieu of fresh flowers. As warm weather cuisines come into season here in the northern hemisphere, you’ll be seeing lots of recipes that call for this delicious herb. That’s why I’m sharing this How to Propagate Basil tip with you today that many people are unaware of.

Have you heard the well known saying “You can never be too rich or too thin?” I  heartily disagree with both of these premises. With so many young, beautiful girls suffering from social-induced image problems like bulimia and anorexia, it breaks my heart that a thin, lean body has become an icon of female beauty. The most beautiful women I know range from being short, tall, large, small, young, old and all places in between!

And as far as material possessions ………….. well, I think Solomon, known as “the wisest of all men”, sums it all up quite nicely; “Give me neither poverty nor riches! Give me just enough to satisfy my needs. For if I grow rich I may deny you and say, ‘Who is the Lord?’ And if I am too poor, I may steal and thus insult God’s holy name”.

Now basil ……….. that’s a whole different story. Although we grow a lot of basil each summer, it seems like I could always use more. One of my favorite recipes ever, Sweet Basil Vinaigrette calls for a quarter pound of basil - have you ever seen how much basil it takes to make a quarter pound!?

Basil* (2)

Every year, right around this time, I purchase a live basil plant at the market, the biggest one I can find. Basil is easy to find right now and a nice size plant usually costs less than three dollars.When I get the pretty little plant home, I cut it up into 10-12 pieces. What?! Yup, basil is very easily propagated and your kitchen window sill is the perfect place to start your own little basil nursery. One plant can yield up to a dozen lovely basil plants for spring and summer enjoyment.

Go ahead, pick up a fragrant green basil plant next time you shop and follow the “recipe” below. Within 10 days you’ll have enough basil plants to get you through the summer. If you have limited space and/or can’t use that much basil, go ahead and root them anyway – use the little plants as gifts to your “foodie” friends – they’ll be thinking of you VERY fondly all summer long!

How to Propagate Basil - How to grow basil all summer in your garden.

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A Recipe for Basil Lovers: How to Propagate Basil ... For Pennies!!
How to Propagate Basil.
Recipe type: Gardening
  • 1 large, full, healthy basil plant, either potted or hydroponic
  • kitchen scissors or a sharp knife
  • small glass containers
  • fresh tap water
  1. Begin this process no more than 2-3 weeks before it is safe to plant basil in your climate zone, which is usually when temperatures will consistently remain above 50˚ at night, the days are warm and sunny and there’s no danger of frost.
  2. With a kitchen scissors or a sharp knife, cut 3-4 inch cuttings (they may end up being a bit longer depending on where the first leaf node is) right below a leaf node; this is where a leaf joins the main stem.
  3. Remove leaves off cuttings on the lower 2 inches.
  4. If there are tiny leaves at the leaf node, don’t worry about these.
  5. Place cuttings in small clear glasses of water on a bright, sunny (not hot) window sill. You can put 1-2 cuttings in each glass. Watch the water levels carefully, adding water to keep stems immersed. Change the water every other day to keep it fresh.
  6. After 5-7 days you will begin to see some tiny white roots forming.
  7. Each day more and more will appear. Let the roots grow to about 2 inches. This will take about 2-4 weeks, from start to finish. You are now ready to plant your plants outdoors in a sunny spot.
~ The cuttings may look a bit droopy after a day or so. They are just adjusting to a new environment; keep the water level full and be sure to change the water every other day. A little warning; sometimes one or two of the “little offspring” just don’t make it – it’s too shocking for their system – you should have plenty of others though, that do just fine!
~ Don’t be snitching basil during this growing period. That’s a good way to put them into irreversible shock (I’m not, I’m really not telling you this from personal experience ………..oh dear, my nose is growing!)
~ Fresh herbs love lots of water, especially in the hot summer months. They will wilt, droop and their growth will be stunted if they don’t receive enough moisture. I am very forgetful and lazy when it comes to watering plants. Years ago, my husband devised an ingenious system that keeps my herbs healthy and beautiful during the scorching summer weather we experience here in the Carolinas. Check out this post and you’ll be able to see for yourself how this simple and ecologically efficient drip system works!

 Propagate Basil for Pennies!


  1. says

    Awesome. I can’t believe its that easy. Everyone should be doing this. I miss basil so much during the winter and I really hate to break down to by it in the produce aisle. Thank you so much for sharing this. Pinning!!!!!

  2. says

    Chris your Rock! I love this post and look forward to it every year! I do exactly as you say and you know what, I have fresh basil all summer! I love this and I am buying my basil today so I can have beautiful basil in my garden all year! Thank you for sharing this year after year!! Whenever I pluck my basil I think of you and I am very thankful for you showing us how to do it!

  3. says

    I love basil and heaps of other fresh herbs. I do this sort of propagation with basil and tomatoes too. Both are easy to strike and once you have a plant that seems strong and healthy – stick with it, I say. :)

  4. Kim says

    I receive dozens and dozens of blogs each day and it’s way too much for me to manage, and way, way too many recipes for me to make in this lifetime. For the last few months I’ve been keeping watch to see which blogs are most relevant to me and which just exist in another world entirely. One bog, yours, has clearly and consistently proven to be most useful to me. Your recipes are the most interesting, most delicious, and most approachable…not everyday, but most every day. And basil? My favorite, too.

    I just wanted to thank you for making the very top of my list of “keep” blogs. Keep up the great work.


    • says

      Seriously!!! The word should be “shameless” not shame. I want everyone to know this wonderful technique. Perhaps the world would be a better place if everyone had their heart’s desire of fresh basil :) At least in a culinary sense …

  5. Patti O'Reilly says

    I’m running to the basil plants! I have my fresh mozzarella and tomatoes waiting! Years of flying to Paris and that salad is just one use!! Great small vases at Jagg…cute for decorating too!
    We must meet soon. I went to Summit last night…thinking of you!

  6. says

    And you said you didn’t have a green thumb! ;) Between Scott’s watering system and your basil propagation tips for a mini “basil nursery”, I am all set! Thanks ever so much for sharing this with your readers, Chris. Will definitely pin to group DIY boards at Pinterest. Have a lovely Sunday afternoon and evening!

  7. gloria says

    I love this idea absolutely Chris, I love basil so much
    I bookmarked to make to my next spring!!!

  8. says

    What a great idea! You just made my day, Chris, I love basil and use it in my cooking all the time. I make and freeze batches of pesto throughout the entire summer and into the fall. I have got to do this! Thanks for sharing!

  9. says

    I will keep this tip handy. It will probably me end of May or beginning of June before night time temps are at 50. Looking forward to it!

  10. says

    I saw this great idea on your blog last Spring, Chris, but didn’t try it. Looking back on how much basil I used I’ll be prepared this year. A quarter pound must be a shopping bag full! We are about a month away from seeing the plants in our local garden centers. Thanks for reposting this.

  11. says

    Great tips! Thanks so much for sharing. Can you tell me why you remove the two bigger leaves in picture #3 (right above where you cut it?

    Thanks! xx Kelsey

    • says

      Hi Kelsy,
      I remove the leaves for two reasons. First because they will start rotting and will make the water kind of nasty and second because that’s the area where the roots will start forming the best and removing the leaves seems to help the process.

    • Andrea says

      Lo puse en práctica y la verdad que prendió mi hya tiene un poco de raíz, pero otras se secaron, la planta no era demasiado grande, esperaré el verano para conseguir una planta generosa.- La plant5a nueva vivirá en mi cocina.-
      Gracias por divulgar esta experiencia espero que muchas personas lo intente ya que da resultados

    • says

      Hi Loreto, I’ve never tried that so I can really advise you. I’d be afraid they’d wilt too much before they developed a strong root system. If you try it, let me know.

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