Learn this easy way to root basil from cuttings. It’s a great way to stretch your herb budget and have a bountiful supply of fresh basil!
I’ve had a little window garden growing for the past few weeks, in anticipation of summer. Yes, summer is definitely on the horizon and it was time to start my annual “root basil from cuttings” project. I love seeing the cuttings go from small and bare-stemmed to vibrant little plantlings, boasting a zillion tiny, hair-like roots.
I started two weeks ago and each one is now raring to grow and ready to supply me with all the basil my heart can desire. All from one inexpensive grocery store plant!
I shared this technique on how to root basil back in 2015, but with so many new readers, I thought this would be the perfect time to post it again. We took some new photos of my current window garden and I added some extra tips I’ve learned over the years. If you love fresh basil and can’t get enough of it, keep reading! You won’t believe how unbelievably easy it is to generate an abundance of offspring!
I love cooking with fresh basil and use it in a wide variety of recipes. Basil also makes a beautiful garnish and a sprig or two can make an ordinary dinner look extraordinary. It’s fun to use decoratively too. If you visit The Café during the summer, you’ll often find a big bouquet of basil adorning my kitchen counter in lieu of fresh flowers.
You know that well-known saying: “You can never be too rich or too thin”? Well, I heartily disagree with it: as far as “never being too rich”, I think Solomon, known as “the wisest of all men”, summed 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”.
And too thin? That part makes me sad. 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!
Now basil… that’s a whole different story.
Although Scott has grown basil for me for many years, it always seemed that I could use more. One of my favorite salad dressing recipes, Sweet Basil Vinaigrette calls for a quarter pound of basil – have you ever seen how much basil it takes to make a quarter pound? A lot!
A number of years my basil problem was solved when I learned how to root basil from cuttings, a super simple technique. Now I employ it each spring to ensure a bountiful supply of the delicious, fragrant herb. This is how it works: simply purchase a live basil plant at your local grocery or big box store. Look for the biggest, healthiest one you can find. They’re easy to find right now, and a nice size plant usually costs less than three dollars.
When you get the pretty little plant home, divide it up into 10-12 cuttings and place them in small containers filled with fresh water. Basil roots very easily and your kitchen windowsill is the perfect place to start a little “basil nursery”.
Check out the Café Tips and the “recipe” below for detailed instructions and tips on how to root basil from cuttings. In a few weeks, you’ll have a prolific supply of small basil plantlings, all set to be popped into pots or the garden bed. You’ll have so much fresh basil, you won’t know what to do with it. Then again, if you’re a Café follower, you will!
Café Tips on How to Root Basil from Cuttings
- Begin this rooting process no more than 3-4 weeks before it’s 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.
- A healthy basil plant will produce anywhere from 10-12 plantlings, maybe more. If you have limited space and/or can’t use that much basil, go ahead and root them anyway – the little plantlings will make great gifts for your “foodie” friends – believe me, they’ll be thinking quite fondly of you each time they snip, snip, snip!
- The best place to root basil indoors is a bright but not intensely hot window. Morning sun is great but a lot of intense afternoon sun will be too much for the little cuttings.
- The cuttings may look a bit droopy, a day or so after you divide them. They are just adjusting to a new environment; keep the water level full and be sure to change the water every other day.
- Try to use water right around room temperature when changing out the water. this will help avoid shock.
- If it’s going to be below 40˚F at night, remove your “babies” to the counter until morning, then return them to the windowsill.
- Don’t be snitching basil during this growing period. That’s a good way to put them into irreversible shock. I’m telling you this from personal experience.
- I like to use a container that will hold at least a cup of water and have a fairly wide opening at the top. I’ve found that the little plantlings don’t do well in containers that are too small or that have super narrow openings.
- A little warning: sometimes a few of the “little offspring” just don’t make it – it’s too shocking for their system. You should have plenty of others that flourish so just discard the ones that fail.
- Once you plant your new little herb family, they will need plenty 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 forgetful and a bit lazy when it comes to watering plants. Years ago, Scott 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.
- Have some questions about growing basil? Scott is the gardening expert here at The Café. He keeps my little herb garden super healthy and happy. You can check out his recommendations for keeping basil pest-free in his post, How to Grow Pest-free, Healthy Basil.
- Happy basil rooting!
Learn this easy way to root basil from cuttings. It's a great way to stretch your herb budget and have a bountiful supply of fresh basil!
- 1 large full, healthy basil plant, preferably planted in soil vs hydroponic
- kitchen scissors or a sharp knife
- small glass containers
- fresh tap water
- With a scissors or a sharp knife, cut 3-4 inch long 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. Although your little cuttings will eventually sprout roots all the way up the stem, the leaf node is generally where the new shoots will begin.
- Remove leaves from cuttings on the lower 2 inches. (I place any basil leaves that are left over in a small plastic storage container and store them in the refrigerator till I need them for cooking.)
If there are tiny leaves at the leaf node, don’t worry about these, they can stay on.
- Place cuttings in small glass containers of water on a bright windowsill. Choose an area that gets lots of light, but not direct sun, as the little plants could go into shock at this point with hot sunshine. You can put 4-6 cuttings in each glass. The cuttings might wilt a little at first and you may lose a few, that's normal. You should have plenty that survive.
- Watch the water levels carefully, adding water to keep stems immersed. Change the water every other day to keep it fresh. (Be sure it's not too cold on your window sill. Basil loves warmth and doesn't do well if it gets a chill.)
- After 5-7 days you will begin to see some tiny white roots forming. Every day more and more will appear. Let the roots grow to about 2 inches. Continue to change the water every other day. The process will take 12 days to 18 days, from start to finish.
You are now ready to plant your plants outdoors in a sunny spot with good drainage. Keep the plants protected from intense sun for a week or so until they get established. Once they adjust, the little plants will start growing new leaves and shoots. Before you know it, you'll have an abundance of fresh basil!