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!

How to Propagate Basi for Penniesl - a really inexpensive way to have mountains of fresh basil! - from The Café Sucré

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!?

How to Propagate Basi for Penniesl - a really inexpensive way to have mountains of fresh basil! - from The Café Sucré

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 Basi for Penniesl - a really inexpensive way to have mountains of fresh basil! - from The Café Sucré

5.0 from 9 reviews
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!

 How to Propagate Basi for Penniesl - a really inexpensive way to have mountains of fresh basil! - from The Café Sucré


  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!!!!!

    • Maria says

      To savor basil during the winter months I take my final cuttings and freeze them in olive oil to get the taste of MY basil all year round.. Enjoy..

  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.



    • MaryAnn Coy says

      You can root cuttings from the garden. Like plants from the nursery, look over very carefully for signs of insects or disease. You don’t want to bring in anything that might spread to Houseplants. If frost is in the forecast,pick everything you can and bring it in, store in a cool place and save it. I read earlier in another blog, about preserving basil with Olive Oil and salt. Use a clean empty jar, layer some olive oil, sprinkle of salt and a hand of basil leaves,press leaves down and make sure basil leaves are covered by the oil. Repeat this layering and pressing until the jar is full top with just enough oil to cover. Cove tightly and put as much as you feel you can use in soups, casseroles and use the flavored oil as a salad dressing staple. If you have freezer space make pesto ahead and freeze meal size portions. I used to make at least 25 every Summer and by the time they were gone the row in the garden was ready. Lastly save some in water in the fall as Chris reccomends. I usually use from the bottom when I’m chopping and pinch the tops for salads and garnish. Pinching the tips helps it stay bushy. When it gets leggy at the bottom, I cut the stems up to just below a leaf node. The process will begin again, you can keep it going indefinitely. I have bought bouquets of Basil at the herb section or farmers market and cut an inch off the stems and followed Chris’s procedure. It works well if you can’t find a plant. This method also will work for other types of basil, like Thai Basil or lemon basil. The seeds can be hard to find, and nurseries generally charge $3.00 – $4.00 per plant. So buy only enough plants to get started for the amount you use then trim them in Chris’s fashion. Leave a few base leaves and plant the base plants in your garden. They will grow back thicker than ever and you can harvest frequently right up to frost. Bring what you have in and preserve it the same way, plus a vase for the window. You can do everything the same with red or purple Basil or any kind of Basil.. I’m thinking of trying this with some other herbs I use a lot like parsley and cilantro. Even if they don’t resprout, they might keep for a longer time than they do in the fridge. I will remember to mist them a little each day and retrim the stems, if they are right in front of me.

      Chris, I apologize for kidnapping your blog profusely. When I get on a subject I love or have history with, I get carried away. I miss my community garden plots and my families farm, where there was always scads of Basil planted. I’m so happy to be reminded of how to preserve Basil both ways and wanted to share that this would work with the more expensive specialty Basils. Thai is used frequently in many Southeast Asian cultures, and can be added to any dish you thing it would taste good in. However it is always used fresh in the restaurants and both plants and seed are expensive. I have only found dry online. So please forgive my long post. I will truly try to practice brevity in the future.

  13. Jenny says

    As we head into fall, do you have any thoughts about using this method with bail from the garden to get us through the winter?

  14. MaryAnn Coy says

    PS from MaryAnn Coy if you preserve Basil in oil, you must refrigerate it. It will keep I – 2 YEARS. In the back of your fridge. When you go to use it, you will find the oil solid and white. Just measure it out into a dish an hour or so before you need it. Cover if you have a cat. The combination is Kitty Nervana but only a couple of licks or Kitty will get overweight .

    To the Lady who asked about leaves in her jelly. I think it will work if your water bath canning. But the place to check would be the Ball Company website If that doesn’t work Google Ball company, canning, pre serving. That site had an Q and A area. They have an 800 number but I’m not sure if it’s on site or not. Good luck. MikasMom.

  15. Kayla says

    I bought a basil plant and did as the instructions said…but I left it in the dirt it came in! I have a sunny window in the morning, but the rest of the day is not…would this still work if I cut as you suggest, and either keep them in water, or replant them, in dirt, indoors?

    • says

      Hi Kayla, I think it should be okay as long as you have a few hours of good sunshine and bright light for the rest of the day. The cuttings will last in water for several weeks but then will get weak. In dirt they will grow better and keep longer.

  16. Aida F. says

    I just saw this post on Facebook and had to come visit!! I LOVE your website, SO simple but elegant and I just propagated some basil a few weeks ago and they rooted like crazy. One question, can I grow them in water permanently? I rather do that then plant them but if I must, I will. Any advice would be appreciated thank you so much, and new follower!! :)

    • says

      Hi Aida, Thanks so much for your kind words. I really appreciate you taking the time to write. You can grow the basil in water but it won’t last as long as it would in soil.

  17. says

    Thank you for sharing. I am hoping to get my cuttings that I harvested just before our frost the other night to root. How well does basil do wintering indoors in a pot?
    Also, have you had any luck with rosemary. Mine always withers.

  18. StacyV says

    I’ve had great success growing Basil indoors! Along with just about any other herb you can imagine. But my Basil is the most beautiful! My dining room has a large south facing bay window that is my ‘Forest’ of herb and veggie plants. My living room has a matching window where I used to winter my container tomatoes and pepper plants.. now I have a chaise there, so no more plants. That may change next winter, I have been missing my tomatoes tooooo much! My DH teased me about my ‘Basil Tree’, I kept it pruned but after 6 years it actually developed a wooden trunk and wooden branches. After a good pruning it was at least 3 feet high. I was very sad when I accidentally killed my tree. I always have several basil plants but none as prolific as my ‘tree’. I use fresh herbs in almost everything. Thank you for sharing this propagating method, I have never heard of it, but I can’t wait to get started! I can’t wait to explore the rest of your site!

    • says

      That is amazing! You definitely have a super green thumb. We always grow a lot of basil in the spring/summer, but you’re inspiring me to start a winter indoor garden in our sunroom. Way to go!


  19. says

    Thank you for your great instructions and beautiful pictures describing how to grow Basil. I love making Pesto; use it in salads, on eggs, of course with Pasta.
    I am so excited to try this. I will hop over to Trader Joes and the Nursery to buy some plants, then away I go starting my baby Basil plants. I can’t wait.
    just the aroma of Basil sends me …………
    thank you again for your consideration.

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