Propagating basil from cuttings

How to propagate basil from cuttings

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Once you grow basil, you’ll want to grow more. But you don’t have to buy seeds all the time. You can propagate basil from the cuttings of your old plants to fill your garden with green and lush basil.

Who would hate a garden full of basil’s aroma?

This post discusses the benefits and the method of propagating basil from cuttings. We’ll also discuss how to care for seedlings until you transplant them. Hydroponic growers would need to do a little more work, which is covered, too.

The benefits of propagating basil from cuttings

Basil is a resilient plant to grow. You’ll hardly fail if you follow the steps outlined in the next section. But you’d need to know the benefits of propagating from cuttings instead of seeds. Although growing from seeds is a good idea, here are some points to consider.

Basil cuttings are easy to get

You may wonder where to get cuttings if you don’t already have a plant. Go to your regular store where you buy basil! Remove the leaves for your consumption; you have the stem to propagate. If you have a plant, then it is simple. Just cut. To grow from the seeds, you need to check your gardening shop. If you try to get it from your plant, you must let the basil flower. Unfortunately, once flowered, basil’s flavor becomes bitter.

Related: How To Prune Basil For A Flavorful, Bushy Plant Forever

Growing from cuttings is faster.

Seeds take time to germinate. Basil seeds germinate in about two weeks, and you’ll see the first true leaves the week after. Even for the first pruning, you need to wait for another month. But if you grow basil from cuttings, stemps grow while the roots grow. You get your plant about two weeks earlier.

Basil seeds are too small for large-scale planting

You’d have difficulty sowing basil seeds if you’re running a farm or want to plant more basil. That’s because basil seeds are too small. Of course, you can get coated seeds, which are easier to sow. Yet, cuttings are more convenient.

No waste with cuttings

Once you consume basil leaves, the stems almost always get wasted. But if you propagate them, they won’t. If you need only one or two plants, why would you buy a packet of seeds and waste everything?

The success rate is higher with cuttings.

Basil cuttings almost always propagate and rarely fail. Besides, if there’s enough humidity, basil grows aerial roots, too. But with seeds, you can’t guarantee 100% germination. Most industrial growers sow two or three seeds in a single hole and pinch the weak ones when they grow.

How to propagate basil from cuttings

Now that we have chosen the perfect cuttings to grow, we can get new plants. Growing roots in basil cuttings may take up to two weeks.

Step I: choose the suitable cuttings to propagate basil

Of course, I said propagation is almost certain with cuttings. But not if you make obvious mistakes. First, you need to have the proper cuttings. Here are a few things to consider when choosing the cuttings.

Make sure they are fresh, the stem isn’t dry, and the leaves aren’t withered too much. You may keep your cuttings in the fridge but not in the freezer. Although you can preserve frozen basil for several months, basil stems die in extreme temperatures.

Pick the healthy ones. Diseased ones aren’t going to do any good to your garden. Look for signs of diseases that could spread. For instance, fusarium wilt in basil spreads from plant to plant. However, curly leaves are primarily due to nutrient deficiency and lack of sunlight.

The cuttings should be at least four inches long, but keeping them smaller than eight inches is best.

If you need more than one plant, choose cuttings that are almost the same length. If not, the taller plants would block light for the ones below. Although the shorter ones will propagate, their growth will be limited.

Step II: Remove the leaves from the basil plant.

You only need the buds to grow new plants. Leaves don’t play a bigger role in propagation. But they do in your kitchen. You can leave the smaller leaves at the tip of the basil plant. Remove the bigger leaves and any leaves in the bottom half of the plant.

Leaves removed to propagate basil from cuttings

Step III: Take a clean jar from the kitchen and fill it with clean water

Any jar would work for this. Pick a jar that supports your cuttings. The shape and color of the jar don’t matter.

Most people suggest RO water. It’s better to have one, but basil can propagate in any water. Your tap water, well water, or even rainwater should do. Make sure its pH is in the 6-6.5 range. This is ideal for basil and many other plants. But 5.5-7 wouldn’t harm your plant either.

Related: Water Quality in Hydroponic Systems: How to Ensure Your Plants Thrive

Step IV: Place the basil cuttings in the water

Ensure at least half of the cutting is underwater. Leave the remaining leaves and the plant’s tip above the jar’s opening, which will let the leaves absorb enough light.

Placing basil cutting in a jar of water to propagate.

Related: How Much Light Does Basil Need?

Step V: Place the setup in a proper place

The cuttings need light, air, water, oxygen, and carbon dioxide to grow into seedlings. While you’ve already given water, you have little control over the other factors. But moving the plant closer to a window would make a big difference. The cuttings will get the necessary ventilation, sunlight, and all the other factors. Also, basil is a sun-loving plant. The more light, the better the plant.

Step VI: Close the setup with a larger transparent jar

If you’re propagating in your house, this step is crucial. As you may have guessed, this prevents mosquitos and other pests from using your setup as their hose. As a bonus, the enclosed basil cuttings will enjoy a humid conditions.

Related: How to Prevent mosquitoes in Hydroponic Systems

Transplanting basil seedlings to soil

In two weeks, you’ll see basil cutting has developed roots. Some of the buds may have developed into tiny branches, too.

You can plant this in a plant pot with a good mix. Basil usually needs full sun to grow healthy, about 6 hours of sunlight. But since you’re transplanting this from water, you better give it some partial shade. Limiting sunlight for 2-6 hours or covering it with a 40% shade net would do. You can move it back to full sunlight after another week. This temporary shade would give more time for the new seedling to adapt to its new environment.

If you’re using organic fertilizers, you can mix them into the pot when planting them. Otherwise, you’ll have to wait for one week from the transplant. This is because salts could burn the young seedlings. Alternatively, you could use a small concentration of inorganic nutrients.

Related: How to transplant hydroponic basil into soil

Transplanting basil to a hydroponic system

Transplanting cutting-propagated basil seedlings to hydroponics is different. The seedlings are prepared differently because of different hydroponic systems and growing mediums. Here are a few methods.

In systems like NFT, we don’t use coco peat directly as it may clog up the systems. Instead, you’d use peat pallets. Yet, transplanting basil using a peat pallet would be very difficult. You must make a hole in the middle using a needle-like thing and carefully insert the basil seedling without harming the roots. I wouldn’t recommend this to you. If you still need to use coco peat, use a nursery bag. You can keep the basil plant and fill it up with coco peat.

A rock wool plant plug is preferred for transplanting basil cuttings to NFT. You can easily place the plant in the middle and wrap it; rock wool doesn’t clog the system.

In most other systems, such as Kratky, DWC, and ebb and flow, you can place a net cup in the hole and carefully insert the basil seedling. Then, fill the net with coco-chips or clay pebbles.


Basil is a delicious aromatic herb used in many cuisines around the world. If you consider growing it at home, you don’t always need seeds. Just the cuttings you bought from the store would do.

In this post, we’ve discussed how to propagate basil from cuttings and some tips on transplanting and caring for them. I hope your garden and house are filled with basil’s aroma!

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