Growing basil from cuttings for a limitless supply of fresh basil

You cannot have too much basil. And propagating basil from cuttings is a perfect way to grow more basil.

You can use basil for so much more than fresh tomato salads and pesto. Stay tuned for how you can have a limitless supply of fresh basil at home.

Looking to grow basil plants from cuttings? 
1. Cut the stem just above the third pair of leaves
2. Gently cut off (and use) all but the top 2-4 leaves
3. Place cuttings in a glass with room temperature water
4. Wait a few weeks for roots to form and transplant into potting soil.

5-step guide: growing basil from cuttings

We prefer propagating basil cutting in water over potting soil. I find it easier and more effective. And it is so rewarding to see the fresh new roots grow and take form.

1. Taking cuttings from an established basil plant

Use sharp garden scissors to cut the stem at an angle just below a leaf node above the third pair of true leaves.

I like my cuttings to be 7-10 cm (3-4 inches) long. Shorter stems will work, but if they are too short, they may “curl up,” making it hard to keep them submerged in water.

2. Prepare the basil cuttings

Carefully remove all leaves below the crown. Be gentle, as you do not want to bruise or tear the stem. The basil leaves you to remove are, of course, ideal to use for salads or cooking.

Growing new basil plants from cuttings
New white roots are starting to form.

I prefer to use sharp garden scissors, and I do recommend that you use sharp and sterile garden scissors.

But I have to admit that I am guilty of pinching the leaves more often than not. Then again, I propagate basil from cuttings throughout the year. And after a while, pinching those basil leaves almost becomes second nature.

3. Prepare a container

I prefer to use a tall glass container that will help support the cutting. But I also often use a regular drinking glass.

White new roots forming on basil stem cutting
Thai basil rooting

Again, ensure the glass is clean to give your basil the best chance to grow and develop. When the container is clean, fill it with room-temperature water.

I use regular tap water, and I recommend you start by trying to use (drink quality) tap water. It will most likely work just fine. If you have a problem using regular tap water where you live, try using distilled water or boiling tap water, and then let the water cool down to room temperature.

I wash the container as if I was to use it for drinking a glass of water. I have found no need to use any specialised chemicals to sterilize my containers.

4. Place cuttings in the container

Place basil stems in the container with water and add more water as needed. You want the branch but not the leaves to be in contact with water.

You do not need any rooting hormone to propagate basil. We never use rooting hormone for edible plants, but in the case of basil it is truly not necessary.

Next, place the container in a warm and light place with plenty of indirect light. Avoid exposing the container to direct sunlight.

5. Give your basil fresh water

Replace the water every other day or so. If you notice any smells or discoloration, replace the water immediately.

Always use room-temperature water. There is no need to risk transplant shock by exposing your young plant to cold water from the tap.

In 2-4 weeks, fresh new white roots develop along the stem.

When you have sufficient root growth, transplant cuttings into a pot filled with fertile soil that drains well.

And be a bit brave; plant 3-5 cuttings in the same pot if you want a large and impressive basil plant.

And there you have it; you now have a new basil plant to enjoy and harvest.

Propagate basil from cuttings year round

You can propagate basil year-round into pots and containers if you provide sufficient light and a warm growing environment. 

Basil cuttings showing first signs of setting new roots
Fresh new white roots

But for me, the general rule is that I will sow basil seeds in pots indoors from February. I then propagate more basil from cuttings continually throughout the growing season. I prefer to grow basil hydroponically during the colder and darker periods of the year.

Basil does not like cold weather or windy conditions. Do not plant basil outdoors until the minimum temperature reaches 10 degrees Celsius (50 degrees Fahrenheit). Ideally, you wait until the ground temperature reaches 15 degrees Celsius (60 degrees Fahrenheit).

Grow different varieties of basil from cuttings

Propagating basil plants from cuttings is one of my favorite “gardening hacks.” And it is in part because propagating basil is relatively easy. The root system develops nicely in the water, and propagation is almost guaranteed to work every time.

Not all herbs are easy to root from cuttings. Rooting cuttings can actually be both tricky and time consuming. Mediterranean herbs like sage, tarragon, oregano and rosemary are examples where it can be done but it will in comparison take much, much longer before you see new tender roots spring to life. 

And even better, all types of basil can be grown from cuttings. The photo below shows 3-week-old Thai basil where 2 seedlings are nearly overdue for transplanting.

Thai basil cuttings with developed root systems
Thai basil: do not wait too long. You want fresh, white roots.

Again, all you need is an established Thai basil plant, a sharp pair of scissors, and a glass of water. When growing Thai basil, you look for a 7-10 centimeters (3-4 inches) long cutting.

Can you grow basil plants hydroponically?

Basil is an ideal herb to grow hydroponically. We use Deep Water Culture (DWC), and Ebb and Flow hydroponic grow systems to grow basil indoors during the colder parts of the year.

Ideally, you will root your basil in the hydroponic growing system of your choice, thereby avoiding the need to transplant the plant later on.

But you can also transplant the plant into your hydroponic grow system when fresh white roots form.

Growing basil from cuttings hydroponically is an ideal way to ensure that you have enough basil to harvest year-round, whether it is an outdoor growing season or not.

How to grow larger basil plants from cuttings

Forget all the photos of solitary basil seedlings, each planted into separate pots. To grow large and productive basil plants, you need to transplant several cuttings per pot.

You must start at least 3-5 cuttings per pot or container when propagating basil from cuttings.

Forget one pot, one seedling. You will need to transplant quite a few cuttings to grow an impressive plant.

Still, you need to give the basil seedlings space, as airflow and proper air circulation are critical to developing healthy plants. The answer is, however, simple, use a slightly larger pot.

Where to get an excellent cutting to root

To root basil stem cuttings is not difficult. Still, rooting basil cuttings gets even less complicated when you harvest every single cutting from strong and established plants.

Here are 3 good ways to find good quality basil plants for growing basil from cuttings:

  1. If you have time: Grow your basil from seeds at home
  2. More expensive: Buy a basil plant from your local garden center
  3. Most popular: Buying basil plants from grocery stores

Either alternative will work as long as you ensure that you start with a healthy basil plant. You want basil stems to be strong, fresh, and full of vigor.

Mattias Magnusson: Hello, I'm Mattias, a passionate and experienced gardening enthusiast. I am the creator of, your guide to year-round herb and veggie growing. Let's simplify green living, no matter your space or location.