Basil is one of my favorite summertime herbs to grow. While you can probably pick up seedlings at the nursery, propagating basil yourself is easy to do.
Go here to learn all about growing and harvesting basil.
When you decide you want to plant basil in your garden, you’ll need to choose between purchasing seedlings or starting plants from seed. If you already have some basil in the garden and want MORE (or if you have a friend who’s growing basil) you can quickly increase the number of plants you have by taking cuttings.
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Starting basil from seed
Basil seeds are small and black and produce a seedling that is distinctly different from other garden crops. The first sign of a basil plant emerging from soil is a pair of symmetrical, almost half-circle cotyledon, or first leaves.
Basil seeds sprout best in temperatures between 60º and 85ºF. Plant seeds in full sun, covered with a quarter-inch of soil. When the plants are a couple of inches tall, thin to allow about 12″ between plants.
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If you opt to start basil seedlings inside for transplanting into the garden later, use a grow light and a heat mat to increase the soil temperature.
Propagating basil from cuttings in water
Here’s the cool thing about propagating basil from cuttings: You’ll cut the time to harvest in half compared to plants started from seed.
Of course, you’ll have to get cuttings to get started. Here are three ways to consider:
- Purchase a single seedling at the nursery and get it established, then you can start multiple basil plants from the first one.
- Find a friend with a healthy basil plant and ask if you can take some cuttings.
- Check your grocery store to see if they sell fresh herbs.
However you do it, you’ll end up with a multitude of free plants!
To propagate basil this way, cut a 6″ stem from a basil plant, just below a leaf node. Choose a fleshy stem that has not flowered yet. Roots will sprout from the nodes, where leaves emerge from the stem.
Carefully remove the leaves at these nodes and place the cuttings in water. You may end up with several nodes under water; roots should sprout from all of them.
While it’s not entirely necessary, if you have some of this homemade rooting hormone, you can add a tablespoon or so to the water.
Change the water every couple of days. In about two to three weeks, when the roots are a couple of inches long, move the rooted basil cutting to soil — either in a planter filled with potting soil or directly in the garden — and water it in.