How to Regrow Basil (Complete Guide)

So, you wanna how to grow basil from cuttings that you bought from the store?

Did you know that once you get a single cutting of basil, you’re set?

Basil is super easy to grow at home in a planter. You can even move it outdoors later on if you want.

It makes a tasty herb to add to your favorite pasta, soups, salads, or make sauce out of it (pest0).

Let’s dive in!

Quick care guide: Basil

Plant typePerennial herb
OriginIndia
Scientific nameOcimum basilicum
Other namesBasilic, Genovese, Purple Ruffles, Cinnamon, Mammoth, Lemon, Globe, African Blue, or Thai Basil.
Soil typeFertile, loamy, well-draining
Soil pH6.0-7.0 (acidic)
Sunlight requirementBright, indirect light, partial sun
Bloom seasonSummer
ColorsGreen, white, yellow
Max height3 feet
Max width3 feet
Low temperature tolerance50F
High temperature tolerance80F
Ideal temperature range70-80F
HumidityModerate (60% or higher)
Watering requirements1-2" per week
Fertilizer requirementsHeavy feeding during spring, summer
Plant food NPK10-10-10 or 12-12-12
Days until germination1-2 weeks from seed, 3-8 weeks from cuttings
Days until bloom75 days
Speed of growthModerate
Hardiness zones10, 11, 12
Plant depth0.25" from seed, 1-3 inches from cuttings
Plant spacing3 feet
Plant withBorage, oregano, chives, chamomile, marigolds, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, potatoes, cabbage, chili, bell peppers, beans, broccoli, cilantro, eggplants, and other root veggies.
Don't plant withPlants in the same family
Propagation methodSeeds, cuttings
Common pestsSpider mites, aphids, Japanese beetles, leafminers, slugs, snails, grasshoppers
Common diseasesFusarium wilt, leaf spot, shot blight, downy mildew, Rhizoctonia
Indoor plantYes
Outdoor plantYes
Grown in containerYes
Flowering plantYes
Beginner friendlyYes
Care levelLow (easy)
Best usesCulinary, preserving, drying out, spices, soups, salads

Why regrow basil?

While you can easily purchase basil from the grocery store, it pays to grow it on your own.

The most beneficial reason is that you never have to buy basil again. For regular basil eaters, it pays off quickly!

Now you can top off that pho noodle, spice up that pasta, or make your own pesto sauce for free. Organically!

The other reason is that you can grow it how you want. Organic? Check.

If you’re curious to learn how to grow basil from store-bought cuttings, you’ll be pretty darn surprised at how easy it is to regrow.

You’ll wonder why you didn’t do this earlier and all the money you could’ve saved- even though it’s only a few dollars for a bunch!

Basil is very popular in the home gardening community. It’s definitely up there in the list of popular herbs to regrow with barely any work required.

It makes a wonderful addition to your home herb garden. If you ever get too much basil (which you probably will since it’s an easy growler), you can use it for sauces, pesto, or even cocktails!

Freshly picked basil is a simple way to add some kick to your favorite recipes. It’s easy to grow, easy to care for, and makes a good beginner herb that can be regrown endlessly.

Can basil be grown from stem?

Yes, you’ll be regrowing from “cuttings” it’s called in the gardening community. You may also hear it referred to as “scraps” online.

The stem is what you’ll be planting in water or in a container of soil. But each stem needs to be cut on the bottom end to expose the flesh to the substrate or over water.

This will encourage new roots to form. The leaves will be removed from the bottom 1/3 of the basil. The top leaves can be left on the stem cutting because they provide photosynthesis.

How to grow basil from cuttings

Fresh homegrown basil.
Regrowing this herb is so easy.

In this guide, we’ll focus on promoting from basil cuttings, not from seed.

Starting from seed requires about 6-8 weeks before they’re ready to be harvested.

When starting from cuttings, you halve the time so you can start enjoying your homegrown basil ASAP!

It does take a few weeks for the basil to root, but once it does, you can cut it as needed. All season long. Basil is awesome for regrowing.

Choosing a basil plant

The first thing you need to do is to pick your basil plant from the grocery store. It’s also known as the starter basil or seed plant.

There are multiple ways to get your starter plant including buying a plant from the nursery or farmer’s market. Or from a neighbor.

But if you don’t have those options, then just buy a bunch from the supermarket. Get organic if possible so you start off with ‘fresh’ basil.

You can use store-bought cuttings as long as they’re not patented, sterilized, or dried. Most supermarket grocers will have your typical basil leaves for sale. These should be regrowable.

Many grocery stores will sell small containers with basil inside. They’re like plastic tubes and often sold as small bunches organically. You can buy this small bunch and use them to seed your basil.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when looking for a basil plant:

  • The leaves should be lime green
  • No signs of pests
  • Leaves aren’t jagged, eaten, or torn
  • Stems are strong and virulent
  • No holes in the foliage
  • Roots are intact with no insect damage

Basil can recover from damage, but why make it difficult for yourself?

By picking a strong plant from the start, you increase your odds of success. And if you’re growing organic basil, it’s an easy way to stay organic (minus the soil, plant food, etc.)

Can you root basil cuttings in water?

Rooting basil in water is the most popular technique, not only because it’s cool to look at, but it has a high chance of rooting.

You also don’t have to deal with dirty soil or any of that jazz. It’s as simple as putting a basil cutting and putting it in a mason jar.

So at this point, you should have your starter basil ready. Wash it off and give it a good rinsing from the store. Cut off any damaged or wilted parts.

Sterilize a pair of scissors using 70% rubbing alcohol. Let it dry. Then make a clip just below where the basil leaves shoot out of the stem. Cut the stem, not the leaf.

Clip off leaves on the stem’s bottom 30%. The stems on top can be left behind. This will aid the basil in photosynthesis to develop roots.

The reason behind cutting off the bottom leaves on the stem is that you do NOT want to put them underwater. They’ll rot. You should never submerge the leaves at any point in the process of regrowing.

Get a small glass jar.

Fill it with spring water or distilled water. Basil can be sensitive to the chlorides, fluoride, or other contaminants in water, so make sure it’s clean before you use it.

The jar should be filled only a few inches.

Fill it to the point where the water is as tall as the first leaf sprouting out of the stem you cut. Place the cutting inside the jar.

The leaves should be completely above the waterline, and outside of the jar itself. While basil can grow with its leaves inside the jar, it can also hamper the growth.

Place the jar in a spot with bright, filtered sunlight. If you’re in zone 7 or lower and there’s no sun during the winter, use a grow light.

The light should be bright, but not direct. If you put it next to a sunny window, the light will lead to some nasty bacteria or algae.

When the water turns brown or you see brown/green mold growing, that’s usually due to too much light.

Monitor the basil for 2 weeks. You’ll start to notice small white roots coming out of the cut end on the basil. The leaves should be misted lightly with clean water daily to keep them humid.

Change the water every other day or when you notice it’s dirty. Be careful to not disturb the plant as much as you can.

If you spot any mold, change the water immediately. Plant damage at the root level should be confirmed that the basil is infected. Start over with a new batch if this is the case.

When the roots grow to about 2” in length, the cuttings are ready to go! Remove them from the jars and either take them to your planters or move them to the garden.

Wasn’t that easy? Told you that regrowing basil is super simple!

Rooting in containers

The other option is to root your basil in containers. While it’s not as impressive as rooting in jars, it’s traditional and works well.

It also saves you the process of having to move the basil from water to dirt later on. Read both and see what you like. Here’s how to do it.

First, you’ll need the planter. A simple 3-inch pot will do, but you can always get creative. Anything that has drainage holes on the bottom will work- you can use paper cups, yogurt containers, or even toilet paper rolls.

Similar to lemon balm, oregano, bee balm, or mint, you can plant basil in water or planters.

For the potting mix, I suggest going with anything organic. A basic organic potting mix will only run you a few bucks more than a traditional mix.

Water retaining is a necessity because it’ll save you from constantly watering it and losing it to evaporation.

If you can get one that’s formulated with nutrients for growing veggies, that’s excellent! Getting a high-quality, moistened potting mix will do wonders later on for your basil cuttings.

Get your container of choice, then fill it with the mix. Consider putting a 1” layer of pebbles at the bottom. This helps prevent clogging of the drainage holes over time.

Put your basil cuttings into the mix. The end with the cut leaves should go up to the first pair of intact leaves. Firm the substrate around the stem to hold the cuttings in place.

Place your pot near a bright light, but not direct light. Gently water the soil, then mist the leaves with a spray bottle. Use distilled water if possible.

Cover the potter with a plastic bag to keep the humidity levels high. This helps encourage proper rooting. Rooting hormone isn’t necessary for basil.

Continue to monitor and mist daily. Roots will form in 1-2 weeks. You’ll know when it’s successfully rooted when the cuttings grow new leaves.

You can also gently pull on the cutting to see if it’s firmly in place. The roots look like white bean sprouts and are nice and thick.

When the cutting has rooted, remove the bag. Now you can either keep the cutting in the pot and clip it as needed or transfer it to your garden.

If transferring outside, be sure to harden it off. Do this by exposing it to sunlight for a few hours each day over the course of a week. Basically, you’re letting it get used to the outdoors.

Rooting basil cutting in soil

If you decide to transplant it to your garden, the main thing to keep in mind is to harden it off.

Also known as acclimating your plant, you basically take it outside for a few hours each day to get exposure.

Then you finally plant in a partial shade location. Basil tends to produce a larger yield when planted in the soil in the garden outside compared to indoor growing.

If you want larger leaves with tastier zest, then plant them in your garden for optimal results.

How to care for basil

Basil growing in a water jar.
Basil growing in water. It’s that easy.

Here are some handy tips to get the most from your plant.

Check your hardiness zone

Basil grows well in USDA hardiness zones 2-10, making it an excellent choice for a wide range of people looking to add some regrowable herbs to their garden.

For those in zones 7 or lower, you’ll have to grow it indoors over the winter using artificial lighting.

Then you can harden the seedlings off and move them to your yard in the spring.

For higher zones, seeds can be planted directly outside into the garden. Depending on which zone you’re in, planting time will vary.

The point is to grow it when temperatures start to pick up. That’s why gardeners in cooler zones need to start indoors under sheltered conditions so the basil doesn’t get killed by the elements!

Soil

Use a well-draining soil with moisture-retaining properties. Get one SPECIFICALLY for potted plants if you’re growing in a container. Organic if possible.

The soil should be loose, rich, moist, with a near-neutral pH. Do NOT use soil formulated for gardening in potted basil. Use a potting mix only.

pH

Basil appreciates a soil pH range between 6-7. Use slightly acidic soil to neutral pH for ideal growth. Don’t use basic/alkaline soil.

Watering

Water 1” per week if kept outside in the garden.

Basil grown in containers will need more water because it evaporates quickly. Water at the roots, deeply and thoroughly. Adjust for warmer weather. Hold back for the rain.

Depending on the humidity of your room where you’re growing (if indoors), you can gauge how much you should water weekly.

Drooping, poor growth or yellowing/browning could be signs that it needs more water.

Plant food

Basil should be fertilized regularly so it can produce those gorgeous greens for you to eat.

Use high-quality plant food in tandem with good draining soil. Fertilizer for indoor basil is the same as outdoor fertilizer- there’s no difference.

Use a balanced NPK liquid fertilizer 1-2 times per month. Read the directions before use. 10-10-10 grade fertilizer is good enough, but you can use 12-12-12 if your soil is lacking nutrients.

Sunlight

Basil loves the heat. It thrives in bright sunlight for at least 8 hours per day. Basil is a summertime crop that’ll produce for you all season- perfect for adding some spice to your pasta or sauces.

Temperature

Basil thrives in temperatures higher than 75F. The warmer, the more foliage it’ll produce. It doesn’t tolerate the cold well at all, so keep that in mind.

Humidity

Keep humidity high to moderate. If growing indoors, you can use a humidity tray or just mist daily to keep it up. Dry or crispy leaves could be signs of low humidity.

Harvesting

Use a clean pair of scissors to make a clean cut when you’re ready to use some for culinary purposes. Pick the leaves when the plants are at least 6 inches tall.

Basil will leaf out when the temperatures pick up around 80F in the summertime.

Harvest in the morning because this is when basil produces the tastiest leaves. Pick the leaves regularly to encourage strong growth through the summertime.

Pick leaves at the lower portion first as these are older, rather than the younger ones. You can pull them off if you want, just be careful. Don’t cut off a whole stem unless you want to cut it back.

Overwintering

Basil generally doesn’t need to be winterized. It will die back on its own. The seeds will fall into the soil and then grow during the spring to produce more plants.

When the temperatures dip, basil will immediately turn black or brown.

This is a sign that winter is here and the basil is ready to winterize itself. Basil can’t toilet the cold weather, so it’ll get ready for it by dropping its leaves.

There’s nothing you need to do if growing outdoors. You can try to keep it through the winter if growing indoors, but after a few seasons, the taste will get worse.

Try harvesting the cuttings and then starting new basil plants from those.

Pests

Indoor basil rarely gets any pests. The bigger issue is usually fungus or mold.

But some common buggers you may see munching down on your basil leaves are slugs, aphids, and Japanese beetles. These are outdoor bugs, so you probably won’t have to deal with them.

If you notice jagged leaves, holes, or skeletonized foliage, it’s likely a sign of pests. Each bug has its own management technique.

But most can be controlled by regular pruning, essential oils, or regular watering of the plant. You should consider using natural remedies like diatomaceous earth or neem oil, both of which are very good against these pests.

Other bugs you may spot are flea nematodes, grasshoppers, cutworms, or leaf miners.

Diseases

Basil is vulnerable to fusarium wilt, leaf spot, shot blight, downy mildew, or other issues caused by excess moisture.

Usually, humidity is the root cause of these. When there’s poor water drainage or the ambient moisture content is off the charts, then it puts your herb susceptible to these issues. Gray mold Botrytis, root rot, Rhizoctonia, etc. will cause spots that are yellow or brown or white.

These should be pruned immediately and then your basil should be isolated then sprayed with a fungicide. It should be safe for organic plants/veggies because you’ll be eating it.

Read the label and follow it.

Companion plants

Some popular choices that grow well with basil herbs are borage, oregano, chives, chamomile, marigolds, peppers, tomatoes, asparagus, potatoes, cabbage, chili, bell peppers, beans, broccoli, cilantro, eggplants, and other root veggies.

As you can see, you have a lot of options with basil companions. They can be planted together in the same plot outside.

But if you’re growing indoors, keep ‘em separate.

When to replant basil

Replant basil after it’s combed back for the winter. You can restart from the cuttings of the previous generation plants, or use new ones from the grocery store

Basil will also be able to propagate itself if grown outdoors. Indoor herbs will need your help to do so.

What to do with basil

With basil, the obvious thing to do is cook it! There are countless recipes that you can utilize with this herb.

Everything from pesto sauce, salads, basil soup, basil skewers, basil, pies, salads, seafood, chicken, pasta, or Genovese. There are tons of ideas online. You should never have surplus basil!

Common questions about propagating basil

Here are some other commonly asked questions about basil care.

My basil isn’t rooting

If your basil isn’t rooting after 1-2 weeks, there’s like an issue with either the original cutting or the substrate you’re using. Remember that water isn’t a natural growing medium for basil.

The cut end may also be susceptible to mold or rot, especially when grown over water.

Thus, if you’re trying to grow in a jar and it just doesn’t take root, try switching to the soil.

Some other things to note:

  • Try using a different basil starter cutting if the first one doesn’t work
  • Cut off the stem end cleanly
  • Remove all leaves that will be submerged in water
  • Use organic basil only
  • Only use virulent basil plants that haven’t flowered yet
  • Check for root rot daily
  • Change the water every other day
  • Check the temperature
  • Switch to soil planting instead of water if it doesn’t root

It’s not hard to identify root issues.

It’s as simple as this:

  • If it doesn’t sprout those tiny white roots within 2 weeks, there’s a problem. Rarely does basil take longer than 14 days to root, unless temperature or lighting is suboptimal?
  • If your basil takes a very long time to root, chances are it won’t. You need to find out what’s going on then fix the issue. Start over with a fresh cutting if necessary.

Can you grow basil completely indoors?

If you wish to keep your basil growing inside your house, that’s totally fine.

You may even be able to save it for the wintertime so you don’t need to report it.

Just keep the ambient temperatures stable and the plant fertilized. It’s normal for it to drop leaves when the cold season gets here, so you need to make sure you’re running the heater or ambient temperatures don’t drop too low.

Or else you may as well just let it wilt then start over!

Note that basil grown indoors will produce fewer leaves that are smaller, less tasty, and overall smaller yield vs. outdoors growing. This is just the nature of indoor herbs.

My basil cutting is wilting

When your basil wilts, check the color of the leaves. If they’re scoring or brown, it may be getting too much singlet.

If they’re yellowing or drooping, consider adding more water or plant food. Prune it regularly, even if you don’t use the leaves.

Cutting them off regularly will encourage more leaf growth. Wilting can be due to you never using the leaves when you should be!

Further reading/references

Enjoy your homegrown basil

Homegrown basil.
Freshly harvested homegrown basil!

Basil is often overlooked for a simple, easy-to-grow culinary herb. I don’t know why more people don’t grow it themselves.

Is it the notion that basil is too spicy? Bitter? Or people just don’t know you can regrow it from scraps?

Do you have any questions? Drop a comment if you do! Let me know if you found this page helpful or if you have any feedback for improvements.

With its wide variety of culinary purposes, basil is one of the few handfuls of herbs you can regrow. Cut and come again to your pleasure.

Keep it in your kitchen or in your garden. This versatile plant can be used for spicing up any dish! Now you can enjoy it without ever having to buy it for the superstore.

 

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