Basil plant

Basil Propagation: Everything You Need To Know

Basil is a great plant to have around and in our opinion, the more you have, the better! In this article we’ll go through everything you need to do, to take a single basil plant, and turn it into as many as your heart desires. It doesn’t matter where you get the basil plant from. You could start it from seed, buy it from a garden centre, get if from a friend, or even buy fresh basil from a grocery store. Wherever the basil comes from, knowing how to propagate is an essential skill to have.

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We grow new basil plants from seed every spring. Once they are established we take cuttings and more than double the number of plants we have. It is far an away easier than starting all the plants we wanted from seed. Lets dive into how we do it.

Is Propagating Basil Easy?

Basil is one of the easiest plants to propagate from a cutting. It is a prolific grower which helps in it’s ability to grow roots from a cutting.

Basic Steps To Propagate Basil:

  1. Remove a cutting from a basil plant about 6 inches long.
  2. Place the cutting in a glass of water and keep in a sunny location for 2 weeks.
  3. After there are 2 inch long roots, plant the cutting into soil, either a pot or a garden bed.
  4. Enjoy your new basil plant.

Why Propagate Basil?

Basil is a fairly easy plant to grow from seed. If you’re like us though, we don’t have tons of space for seed starting. Especially when basil gets started from seed at the same time as peppers and tomatoes. About 4-6 weeks before your last frost date. That’s why we start a few basil plants and then propagate from them to create as many full basil plants as we want.

Removing a cutting from a basil plant to be propagated.
Removing basil cutting for propagation.

How Big Should The Basil Be To Harvest A Cutting From?

The basil plant you are harvesting your cutting for propagation should be a young but well established plant. The mother plant should be planted in its permanent home for at least 3 weeks and there should be new growth on it, which is where you will harvest from.

How Big Should You Cut Basil For Propagation?

Cut a piece of basil about 6 inches long using clean garden pruners from a healthy basil plant that has not gone to seed. This will be the best to propagate with.

Basil cutting about 6 inches long for propagation
Basil cutting about 6 inches long for propagation

What Does A Basil Plant Look Like When It’s Gone To Seed?

When basil is about to go to seed it will stop producing large leaves that we use to east. Instead it will form little flower heads that start out looking like a cluster of leaves. Then it will continue to grow and produce flowers and the seeds.

Basil plant starting to bolt and beginning to flower
Basil plant starting to flower

How Do You Propagate Basil?

There are two main ways to propagate basil. Both start off the same by taking a cutting from a healthy basil plant. They differ in the medium you put the cutting into.

Propagate Basil Using Water:

Propagating basil by placing a basil cutting in a glass of water. Keep the glass in a sunny spot like a window sill. Change the water out every 3 days until roots form and then transplant that cutting into soil where you want it to grow.

Using water to start roots on your cutting works nearly 100% of the time. The only downside is you will be transplanting the cutting into new soil after roots have formed so there may be transplant shock.

Basil cutting in glass of water on window sill.
Basil cutting in glass of water on window sill.
Propagate Basil Directly Into Soil:

Place your basil cutting directly into moist soil. Keeping the soil moist by covering it with a clear plastic cover to retain moisture. After a couple of weeks the basil cutting will grow roots directly into the soil.

Going directly into soil doesn’t have the same success rate as the cutting needs constant water and if the soil dries out the basil might not grow roots. It does avoid moving the seedling again once roots are developed.

Both methods have pros and cons so it’s up to you for which one you want to do. Or try them both!

How Long Does It Take To Propagate Basil?

From the time you take the cutting from the mother plant to the time it is established with roots into new soil take anywhere from 2 – 3 weeks.

How Do You Know When To Transplant Your Basil Cutting?

If you’re using the water method to grow roots on your cutting, wait until the roots are about 2 inches long before transplanting. This allows more roots to grow along the stem and the seedling with take hold easier.

Basil cutting in glass of water for 8 days. Starting to form roots.
Basil roots after 8 days in water

How Should Beginners Propagate Basil?

It is our recommendation to start propagating basil using the water method. This way you’ll be able to see the roots develop and track it’s progress. It also give you the opportunity to watch and see what the roots look like without having to dig up a plant.

Is A Basil Plant From A Cutting The Same As From Seed?

Yes! The plant that you get from propagating a cutting will be identical to the mother plant it came from. It will grow to be just as large and you’ll be able to propagate from it as well if you wanted to. It will also bolt and go to seed just like a plant grown from seed would.

Basil cutting that has been in a glass of water for 2 weeks that has roots about 2 inches long.
Root growth of cutting in water for 2 weeks

How Do You Plant Your Propagated Basil Cutting?

Once the roots on your cutting are about 2 inches long (after about 2 weeks) it is time to transplant it into some soil. Fill a pot with high quality potting soil or find a nice sunny spot in your garden. Dig a hole big enough to fit your basil cutting up to the first set of leaves. Carefully place your seedling in the hole and back fill the soil. Water in well.

How Long Before You Can Harvest From A Basil Cutting?

The cutting will take a week or so to get settled in its final growing position before it will start to grow well. Once it establishes itself you can start to harvest as soon as there are leaves to be harvested. Basil is a fast growing plant and the more you harvest the faster it will grow.


Basil is an easy plant that anyone can grow and propagation is a great way of sharing it. Now that you know how to propagate basil it makes a great gift to friends and family.

We hope you liked this basil growing guide. If you did make sure you check out our other growing guides and seed saving guides that we have. We are growing our website with more articles all the time, and we invite you to grow with us. If you have any questions about basil or would like to share some of your knowledge with us please leave a comment below.

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