taking cuttings from basil plants

The Damsel was making a dish that called for fresh basil, and although she’s loaded with mint, cilantro and sage, that didn’t help her situation. She went to the market and despaired. You know how much they charge for these eeny teeny packages of fresh herbs? $2.99.

She went to the local nursery and bought a basil plant for much less. $1.49. It was pretty spindley and way too big for its little pot, but the Damsel figured she would get three things for her $1.49. #1: the three basil leaves she needed for her recipe; #2: a live basil plant that could grow and give her many more such leaves ;#3: something for the Old School.

Bonus: The plant was tall and funny, and she decided it was crying out to be made into TWO plants.

First, fill two pots with potting soil and soak the soil. Potting soil takes time to get truly moist. Let the bottoms of the pots sit in water for a while so water can flow up as well as down from the top.

Make a cutting right below a node, where leaves attach.

Very gently pull away leaves on this node.

Plant this stem in the prepared pot. Basil roots readily, so the Damsel didn’t bother with root zone powder and so on. Your mileage may vary.

Now for the original plant. It’s way too big for its britches, so it needs a new pot too.

Loosen the poor cramped roots, make a hole a bit bigger than the root ball, and plant away. Keep them very moist. Once they start growing, just pick leaves as you need them. If you see flower buds starting to form, pinch them off. You must cruelly forbid your basil plant to seed, or it will lose its zest for life and die. Motherhood isn’t kind to basil plants.

You already look happier, little basil plants!

Someday, you’ll realize your full potential, when you join your brother Oliveoil and your sisters Parmesan and Pinenut in the blender.

13 thoughts on “taking cuttings from basil plants

  1. Amen to dead-heading those flowers! However, in the Fall, if you let them go to seed, you will have hundreds of new basil plants come up in the Spring. I am watering at least a hundred of those babies in my garden right now.

    • a hundred! You lucky woman. I haven’t heard of such a regrowth in my area, but wow, I’d love to try.

      • Qoops, I forgot about your winters. I don’t know if those seeds would survive the snow, but it is worth a try. Don’t some people freeze seeds?

  2. love, love the basil. I cut it off to use it (above an existing leaf) not just plucking the leaves or the stems become too rangy.

  3. Did you know that in Greek “Basil” means “King?” Fact provided free by “Ask Miss Language Person.” You do not need to know this on The Test

  4. Damsel in distress:

    Regarding straining the custard.

    you would be straining out the pieces of custard that are not smooth.

    Hope this helps.


  5. I was just thinking how much I needed to grow my own little basil plant so that I, too, don’t have to spend my monies on tiny fresh basil packets.

    Have you ever read the poem (I’d never read it until I started looking up how to take care of basil plants) by John Keats called “Isabella, or the Pot of Basil”?

    It’s taken from Boccaccio’s Decameron. It’s the story of a girl whose lover is killed by her angry brothers (I don’t remember why they’re angry – probably a difference in class or something). Her lover appears to her in a dream and tells her where he is buried. She goes to the grave and digs up (quacky lady) just his head. She takes it home and puts it in a little pot with some basil plants, watering it with her tears. I think she hoped that, like the basil, the head would regrow its ‘roots’ and he’d grow his body right back. Maybe she was just a bit off. Anyway, her brothers find out, take the pot (that must have been a fun discovery) and she subsequently dies of grief, like a good maiden.

    There are several Pre-raphaelite paintings of Isabella, hugging her basil plants dejectedly.

    That’s now what I think of when I think of growing my own basil – especially growing basil from clippings.

    I’ll have to try this, though. I need basil! Thanks for the inspiration and instructions. So useful – so fun.

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