Propagating basil


We have a basil plant in the kitchen, bought from a supermarket. They always die, but we use a lot of basil in our cooking and I dislike having to buy a new plant every few weeks. Over time these store-bought basil plants tend to get leggy and thin out. I looked around and found a good video on Youtube which demonstrates how to take cuttings from basil.

Original basil plant after pruning

The key is to cut just below a stem node, to take advantage of the lateral meristem tissue found there to promote root growth.

I suspended the cuttings plants in water for two weeks on a windowsill, but didn’t add any rooting hormone or use growth lamps as the video suggested. After two weeks there was a good amount of root growth on most of the cuttings, ~2-4 cm. Out of 10 cuttings, two died, mainly because they weren’t suspended properly in the water and drowned.

Cuttings growing in water
Root growth of cutting after two weeks in water

Each cutting was planted in its own tin can, with holes punched in the bottom for drainage. One problem with the store-bought basil plants is that they group multiple plants together in the same pot to give the illusion of a lush, full plant. But this overcrowding promotes the leggy growth and eventual death.

New cutting in tin can