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Propagating Basil: Grow a Bounty of Fragrant Herbs

Basil is a fun and fresh ingredient to have on hand in your kitchen. After propagating basil on your own, you can have basil any time you want!

Keep reading to learn all about the simple and enjoyable process of propagating your own basil.

Propagating Basil

Propagating in Water

What You’ll Need

When propagating basil in water, you’ll need to start out with either basil cuttings or a divided stem from a basil plant. You’ll also need a glass cup or jar, ideally transparent; some water; and scissors or small pruning shears.

How to Propagate

Once you have all the necessary materials, you should fill your cup or jar approximately three-fourths of the way full with room-temperature water.

While the cuttings or division are rooting, make sure to replace the water if it starts to look murky or cloudy.

Once the roots become two inches long or slightly longer, take them out of the water and transfer them to soil.

Propagating in Soil

What You’ll Need

When propagating basil in soil, you’ll need either basil cuttings or the divided stem of a basil plant. You’ll also need potting soil, a small pot or container, and scissors or small pruning shears.

How to Propagate

First, prepare a pot with potting soil and fertilizer. Wet the soil so that it’s moist when the cuttings are planted

Then dig a small hole in the soil deep enough for the stem of the basil to fit. Once the stem is in the hole, cover it up enough so that it’s supported by the soil.

Eventually the plant will get large enough that you’ll need to transport it to a bigger pot or into a larger container. However, this doesn’t necessarily have to happen right away.

How to Propagate Basil From Cuttings

Now that you’ve learned what mediums basil can propagate in, it’s important to talk about the different parts of a basil plant you can propagate.

Propagating basil from cuttings is the most common and easiest way to propagate.

It’s important to note that when propagating basil from the cuttings, you have to propagate the stem along with the leaves. Your propagation won’t work if you just use basil leaves.

Remove Your Cutting From the Plant

Choose as long of a stem as you can find on the original basil plant. The stem should be at least three inches long because the longer the stem is, the easier it will be to propagate.

Basil Cuttings

Take your scissors or pruning shears and cut the stem from the rest of the plant right above one of the leaf nodes.

Prep Your Cuttings

As soon as you’ve removed your cutting from the plant, start preparing them immediately.

It’s important to prep your cuttings as quickly as possible so that the leaves don’t wilt. Once the leaves have wilted, they may be impossible to propagate.

Move Your Cuttings Into Your Propagating Container

Next you’ll move your cuttings into either your jar filled with water or your pot filled with soil.

Follow the instructions in the “Propagating in Soil” and “Propagating in Water” sections to make sure that this container is ready for the cuttings.

Make sure there are no leaves touching the water or buried under the soil.

Give the Cuttings Water and Sunlight

The final step of propagating basil involves making sure the soil stays moist and the cuttings receive consistent indirect light.


Water the propagated cuttings every few days. You may also want to check the soil periodically in case your plant needs watering earlier than that.

If the leaves begin wilting, this may mean that the plant is receiving too much sunlight. In this case, you’ll need to move your basil plant to a less sunny area.

How to Propagate Basil by Division

If your basil plant has more than one stem, you may be able to divide the stems and replant one of them. This is often true of basil plants that you can buy from the grocery store!

Propagating basil by division is most successfully done in soil, so we highly recommend propagating in soil for this approach.

Prepare Your Propagating Container

Follow the steps in our “Propagating in Soil” section for everything you’ll need to prepare your propagating container.

The one difference between propagating cuttings in soil and propagating a division in soil is that a division will need a bigger pot because it’s larger than the cuttings.

Separate the Roots

Propagating basil by division requires the extra step of root separation. This is because the roots of the plant you’re hoping to propagate in a new pot will probably be a little entangled with the roots of the plant that will stay in the original pot.

Basil Roots

Gently and slowly separate the roots with your fingers until the division’s roots are separate from the original plant’s roots.

Transfer the Division Into a New Pot

Now all you have to do is transfer the division into the new pot! The size and depth of the new pot should be roughly the same as the size and depth of the old pot.

Follow the steps in our “Propagating in Soil” section to ensure that the new pot is adequately prepared for the division.

Give the Cuttings Water and Sunlight

Make sure the soil stays moist by watering the propagated division every few days and checking the soil periodically in case your plant needs watering earlier than that.

Position the cuttings somewhere they’ll receive consistent indirect light. If the leaves begin wilting, it may mean that the plant is receiving too much sunlight.

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will it take for my cuttings to root?

The rooting process for basil is generally pretty fast, so you could go from propagating basil to enjoying it at your dinner table in a matter of months!

If all goes well, you can expect your basil to begin rooting approximately seven to ten days after you first moved it to the propagation container.

However, be sure to wait until the roots are two or three inches long before transferring it to a larger pot. This root growth stage may take up to four weeks.

My basil cuttings won’t root, what am I doing wrong?

It can be incredibly frustrating to monitor your basil for weeks and realize that it’s not growing like it should. Luckily, there are a few different things you can look for that might be able to solve your problem!

The combination of sunlight and water may be one answer as to why you’re not successfully propagating basil. On one hand, your plant may not be receiving enough sunlight or water. On the other hand, you could be giving your plant too much sunlight or water.

To figure out if over- or under-watering is the problem, simply check the soil moisture and gauge if it might be too wet or too dry.

Checking Soil Moisture

For a sunlight-related issue, check the plant’s leaves. If the leaves have started to wilt or droop, try moving the propagation container to an area that receives less sunlight.

If neither of these options is causing your basil’s failure to root, your plant could be experiencing root rot. When propagating basil in water, make sure there aren’t any leaves touching the water and that the water is clear and clean.

Finally, if the basil leaves were already wilting when you placed them in the propagation container, this may mean that the cuttings or division weren’t healthy enough to propagate in the first place. If this is the case, then this round of propagation may be a lost cause.

Is it better to propagate basil cuttings in water or soil?

After reading about the two different methods of propagating basil, you might be wondering if one medium is superior to the other. The short answer is, not really!

Using water and soil are both great ways to propagate basil, and, if done correctly, they’ll both lead you to the same result.

However, there are some minor upsides to each specific method. For example, propagating basil in water is fun because you’ll get to see for yourself when the basil begins to grow roots.

On the other hand, propagating in soil is slightly easier because you don’t have to transfer the plant from one medium to another after it’s started rooting. While you may have to upgrade to a bigger pot eventually, starting your basil out in soil means it won’t ever have to leave that soil.

Propagating Basil Made Easy

Now that you’ve learned all the ins and outs of propagating basil, it won’t be difficult to grow your own! Next time you’re at the grocery store, pick up a basil plant and give this process a try.

If you enjoyed learning how to propagate basil, check out our complete guide to seed starting for tips about growing all sorts of fruits and vegetables!