Growing Basil From Cuttings: Tips for Propagating Basil

Basil Leaves From the Top

Today we’ll look at everything involved with growing basil from cuttings.

The basil plant is a perennial with stocky, wooden stems that produce robust and flavorful sprigs of basil. You’ve likely used this herb while cooking before, or at least ate a dish that included basil.

Like many other herbs, basil can easily be grown in many growing zones in the United States and throughout the world! Basil is a great addition to any herb garden, with a beautiful green (basil green!) color and the reward of fresh basil for your kitchen!

Basil Used in a Dish

But how do you start?

While growing basil from seed is certainly an option, growing basil from cuttings can be an interesting experience and doesn’t even require you to own a basil plant!

Can basil be grown from cuttings?

Yes, basil can be grown cuttings, also known as propagating basil. Propagating is simply means producing a plant that is identical (genetically speaking) to its parent by means of dividing, taking cuttings, etc.

Some plants are more difficult to propagate than others, but with basil, a little patience and plant care will result in your very own little basil bush!

Today, we’ll discuss how to grow basil from cuttings!

Basil Plant Up Close

How to grow basil from cuttings

To grow basil from cuttings, you’ll need:

  • A small pot (3″ is good with good drainage) or growing area with some potting soil
  • Water
  • Rooting hormone (optional)

Before we get into the specific steps, it should be noted that growing basil from cuttings is a lengthy process. Depending on the strategy taken, it could take as long as a year until you can harvest and eat from your new basil plant.

Step-by-step on how to propagate basil

Here’s a rundown of everything involved with growing basil from cuttings.

1. Get a hold of some basil!

To start, you’ll need some basil cuttings of course.

If you are growing your own basil, simply cutting off some healthy, non-flowering sprigs of basil will do. No need to cut off full branches — sprigs that are 4-6″ long will be great! You can take cuttings any time throughout the growing season, but the best time is when its getting colder and the stems are becoming slightly woody on the end.

If you aren’t currently growing basil and don’t know of anyone who is willing to share theirs, most grocery stores or farmers markets sell packs or bunches of fresh basil. While its certainly more preferable to cut sprigs straight from a plant, some fresh sprigs of basil that is purchased should be fine to get started.

So, when is the best time to plant? While the answer will vary depending on where you are growing, generally early fall is optimimal.

This is because the plants’ stems become more sturdy (even woody at their base), which make your cutting more sturdy for propagating!

2. Strip leaves off bottom 2″ of the basil sprig

Once you have a basil sprig, strip off the leaves on the lower end of the stem — you’ll want about 2″ of bare stem, which will serve as the base for future roots!

If you are ready to propagate the sprig right away, cut the tip of the sprig at a 45-degree angle. This will ensure some fresh exposure to the center of the sprig.

If you aren’t ready to propagate, you can store the sprigs in your fridge, wrapped in a plastic bag.

3. [Optional] Dip the stem into a growth hormone

At this point, you have the option of dipping the sprig’s bare stem into a rooting hormone.

Using a growth hormone is optional, especially when it comes to a basil, which you’ll likely be consuming down the road. In some cases, it may be necessary for healthier roots, but in many cases you can get by without it.

If you do want to use a growth hormone for a faster and healthier root system, you can purchase either the powder or gel form at your local garden center. Then, simply dip your stem into some water and and tip into the growth hormone.

When propagating basil with a rooting hormone, keep in mind that most hormones (whether in powder or gel form) will require you waiting until a full year before consuming any part of the plant.

4. Start the root structure

If you chose to start the plant with a growth hormone, you can plant the stem in a potting soil mix to ensure that is has good draining. Since these are just little sprigs at this point, planting them in a small pack or pot is preferable. This will allow you to move the plant around, if needed.

If you aren’t using a growth hormone, you’ll want to establish a root structure before planting in soil. To do this, you can place your basil plant in a glass of water, with the 2″ of bare stem fully submerged. After a 3-4 weeks you should start seeing roots sprouting out of the stem!

Once you have some mature roots, the plant is ready to planted in potting soil! Make sure the sprig’s stem has good contact with the soil so that the root system can grow immediately into the soil.

Do this when soil temperature is between 60-70 degrees Ferineheit. If you plant too early the sprigs may not take root and planting too late may result in a plant that struggles to take off due to the heat (basil is a cooler weather loving herb).

Water Leaflets on a Basil Leaf

5. Wait 6-8 weeks for maturing plant

Depending on what time you are propagating, the time it will take to root up and growing will vary. Typically, after 6-8 weeks you’ll start seeing some indicators of growth.

It’s best to store your basil plant in a warm, humid area. If you have a greenhouse, this climate is perfect! If not, you can achieve the same effect by putting a plastic bag over the plant and container. Depending on the outside climate that you are growing in, keeping the plant outside may be good enough.

If you notice that the leaves start to turn yellow after a few weeks, it may be due to transplant shock (much like us humans, plants don’t like sudden change). In this case, simply trim off the yellow leaves and prepare for more growth.

6. Care for your new basil plant!

Now that you have your plant started, its time to start treating it like any young plant you would purchase at a greenhouse or growing center. Make sure the basil plant gets plenty of sunlight, water (keeping the top level of soil damp is great!) and care is going to be crucial.

Here’s more information on how often to water your herb plant.

Eventually, the basil plant will outgrow its original pot and you can plant this perennial directly in the ground for basil for years to come!

Summary: Growing basil from cuttings

To summarize, basil is a great herb to try growing from cuttings! To propagate your basil, you can follow these steps:

  1. Get a hold of some basil (either from an existing plant or from your grocery store)
  2. Strip off leaves from each stems’ bottom 2″
  3. Dip the stem in a growth hormone and plant in potting soil OR
  4. Place the stem in a glass of water for a few weeks until mature roots have grown before planting
  5. Store the stem and pot in a humid climate and water occasionally for 6-8 weeks
  6. Care for your new basil plant!

Interested in learning more? Learn how often to water your basil plant.