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How to Propagate Basil

Propagation, or the process of creating new plants from existing ones, is an essential skill for any gardening enthusiast. This is especially true for basil, a beloved culinary herb known for its fragrant aroma and rich flavor. 

Growing basil from an existing plant allows you to extend your supply of this wonderful herb. Making more basil plants is a great way to have a lot of your favorite herb. 

In this post, I’ll tell you the easiest ways to do this, and explain how to make more basil plants from cuttings or splitting.

Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned green thumb, this guide will provide you with a detailed introduction on how to propagate basil.

How to Propagate Basil

If you’re new to gardening or experienced, knowing how to make more basil is great because you’ll always have some when you need it.

There are a couple of methods you can try, and you’re sure to find one that works best for you.

Don’t worry, it’s super easy. In fact, if you’ve never tried making more plants before, this is a great one to start with.

Basil Propagation Methods

There are three different ways to propagate basil, and these techniques work for any type you have. So, whether it’s Thai, holy, lemon, or the most common sweet basil (Genovese), you can use the methods below to make more.

From Cuttings:

Making more from stem cuttings is the easiest and most popular way to make more basil. You have the option to cultivate them in water or in soil.

Unfortunately, You can’t grow from just the leaves, it only works with the stems. But don’t worry, taking stem cuttings is easy, and you’ll get a grown plant much faster than leaves would.

By Splitting:

Plants that have more than one stem growing out of the soil can be split and replanted to make your garden grow even faster.

Splitting them is the quickest way to get a new plant, but also needs the most work. It’s better to do this with young plants than with larger and more mature ones.

From Seeds:

You can also grow basil from seeds, which you can get yourself if you let them flower. Depending on your climate, this could happen anytime from mid to late summer.

When the old blossoms turn brown, just shake them over a container to get the seeds. 

Learn all about how to grow basil from seeds here.

The Ideal Time to Propagate Basil

The best time to make propagate basil is in early summer before it flowers. Flowering needs a lot of energy, and we want to use that for new root growth instead.

Splitting can technically be done anytime. But, since they are annuals, it’s best to do it while the plants are young and have plenty of time to make more leaves, rather than trying to split a mature plant later in the season.

Things You Need To Propagate Basil 

Before you get started, I recommend having your tools and things ready to go so you can work fairly quickly. Here’s a list of the things you’ll need.

  • Basil cuttings or a young plant 
  • Rooting
  • Propagation chamber
  • Glass jar 
  • Precision Pruners 
  • Potting soil 
  • Container for potting 

Propagating Basil From Cuttings 

First, I will show you how to grow more basil from cuttings, as this is the method most people prefer. To succeed, let’s first learn how to take and prepare your cuttings.

How To Take Cuttings

Since they will grow from anywhere on the stem, you really can’t go wrong here. But, there are a few things to remember when taking your cuttings.

Find a stem that is at least 3-4 inches long. You could try using one that is shorter. But the longer they are, the easier this process will be.

Next, with a clean and sharp pair of small shears or precision cutters, make a cut just above the next leaf node that’s lower.

The plant won’t regrow above the cut point, so doing this prevents your plant from having a lot of bare stems.

Related Post: The Correct Way to Prune Basil

Preparing The Cuttings Ready For Propagation

To get your cuttings ready, pluck or cut off the leaves at the bottom. You’ll need to do this quickly to prevent the cutting from drooping.

If the cutting starts to wilt or dry up, it will become difficult to root. Therefore, make sure you’re ready to place your cuttings into the water or soil immediately after taking them.

How to Root Basil Cuttings

When you’ve got your basil cuttings ready, follow these easy step-by-step instructions to root them in soil or water.

Steps for Rooting Basil Cuttings in Soil

Planting basil cuttings in soil can help them grow stronger and better withstand transplant shock later.

Step 1: Get your soil ready – I suggest a seed starting mix, or you can make your own. I like a mix of equal parts coco coir (or peat moss), perlite (or pumice), and vermiculite. Basil plants love humidity, so having a propagation chamber can be useful.

Step 2: Choose a container – Use a clean 3”-5” nursery pot or a propagation box. Biodegradable peat pots are another good option and make transplanting easier later on.

Step 3: Put the soil in the container – Fill your pot with 3-4″ of soil and wet it. It should be moist, not soaking.

Step 4: Put the cuttings in the soil – Make a hole in the soil with your finger, then put the cutting’s stem into it. Make sure the soil around the base of the cutting is packed in gently to make contact with the stem.

Step 5: Cover with plastic – Put the lid on your propagation chamber, or put a plastic bag over the pot. Make sure the leaves aren’t touching the plastic as they can rot and turn brown.

Step 6: Put in bright, indirect light – Choose a place with plenty of light and warmth but avoid direct sunlight, which might cook them.

Step 7: Keep the soil moist – Try not to let the soil dry out or become too wet. A tray under the pot will help, and you can water from the bottom.

Related Post: How To Store Basil

Steps for Growing Basil in Water 

Growing basil in water is a common method because it’s simple and exciting to watch the roots grow. You can use any container that holds water.

Step 1: Fill a glass ¾ full – Always use warm water to fill your container.

Step 2: Put in the cuttings – Only the stems should be in the water, make sure no leaves are touching it or they might rot.

Step 3: Place in a sunny spot – Basil likes warm, direct sunlight, so a bright windowsill is great. If they start to wilt, move them from the hot sun.

Step 3: Keep the water clean – If the water gets dirty or dries up, change it. If the water smells bad or looks cloudy, it might be a sign of rot, so check the stems and leaves.

Step 4: Wait for the roots to reach 2” long – Once the roots are about 2″ long, it’s time to plant them in soil.

Try not to let the roots grow much longer in water as the plant might have a hard time adapting to soil.

Related Post: How & When To Pick Basil Leaves

How to Propagate Basil by Divison 

If you have a young basil plant with more than one main stem coming from the ground, you can use these steps to propagate by division.

Steps for Dividing the Stem 

You need a plant with more than one main stem. Often, young basil plants you buy from supermarkets or garden centers have multiple stems, making them perfect for this.

Step 1: Get a new pot ready – Fill a pot about 5″ deep with an all-purpose soil mix and make it damp. Or you can get a spot in your garden ready for planting.

Step 2: Carefully divide the stem – This is usually an easy task. Take the plant out of its pot and gently pull the roots apart. Do this slowly to avoid breaking any of the delicate roots.

Step 3: Pot them up or plant them – Put them in a pot or the garden, making sure they’re at the same depth as they were before. Pack the soil around them gently.

Step 4: Water them – Keep the soil moist and you should see new growth soon.

How long does Basil take to grow from Cuttings? 

Basil grows fast from cuttings. If the conditions are right, roots start to appear in just 7-10 days. But, it may take 2-3 weeks for them to be ready for repotting.

Using bottom heat and keeping them in a bright, humid spot will speed up the rooting process.

If you use soil, you’ll know when they have roots because you’ll see new leaves growing at the top.

Related Post: How To Dry Basil

How to Transplant Basil after Propagation

Once the roots are around 2″ long, or you see new leaves growing at the top, you can move them to a bigger container or your garden.

Plant them deep enough to cover the roots completely and wet the soil.

If you want to plant them in your garden, slowly get them used to outdoor conditions before moving them out.

Gradually expose them to more wind and sunlight over several days before planting them in their new spot.

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