Growing Basil From Cuttings: How To Root in Water or Soil

Numerous individuals have successfully grown basil through the use of cuttings, often crediting proper equipment, suitable materials, and effective techniques as key factors. This guide provides all the essential information to aid you in joining the ranks of accomplished gardeners who regularly propagate basil through cuttings.

Where To Cut Basil To Propagate

Basil should be pruned from the top about 4-6 inches down, just above a leaf node (these are the points where leaves grow out from the stem). This will allow your basil plant to continue to grow from that point on, instead of leaving a stem that won’t grow leaves.

How To Grow Basil From Cuttings in Soil

While many growers will opt for the water propagation method, you can also successfully grow basil cuttings in soil, and many people report healthy plants. The only downside is that in soil, you cannot see how much root growth a cutting has made.

Supplies Needed 

  • Good quality, sharp horticultural trimming scissors, like Fiskars 
  • An organic potting mix 
  • Growing containers with drainage holes

How To Grow Basil Cuttings in Soil

  1. Make a Cutting

To do this, simply take your horticultural scissors and cut a 5-inch shoot from the top of your plant. Make sure you cut just above the last leaf shoots — this promotes growth and prevents disease.

Make an Angled Cut and Remove Bottom Leaves

Now that you have your cutting, either cut the very end of the stalk at a 45-degree angle or make a 1-inch cut lengthways up the stem. Now, remove all leaves except for the top four or six (this is to stop the lower leaves from taking up too much energy. 

  1. Apply Rooting Agent and Place Directly Into Soil

If you like, apply a rooting hormone or growing agent. Then simply place your cutting into an organic potting mix, and gently firm the soil. Now water, and wait.

You should see plant growth appear in about three weeks. If the cutting begins to droop and wilt, something has gone wrong.

Basil Cuttings in Water

This is the preferred method of growing basil cuttings because the cuttings have a steady supply of water and can be monitored for root growth. 

Supplies Needed 

The supplies you will need for this method are almost the same as for propagating in soil; you just need extra water containers for the basil cuttings. Old jars or drinking glasses work great for this.

  • Good quality, sharp trimming scissors
  • Organic rooting solution or organic hydroponic fertilizer (optional)Old jars or drinking glasses
  • An organic potting mix to transfer cuttings after rooting stage
  • Pots or containers with drainage holes for final transplanting

How To Grow Basil Cuttings in Water

  1. Make a Cutting

As with the soil method, use your horticultural scissors to make a cutting 5 inches from the top of your plant. It is generally agreed that the best place for pruning on any plant is just above the last leaf shoots.

  1. Make an Angled Cut and Remove Bottom Leaves

Snip off the very end of the stalk at a 45-degree angle, or make a small 1-inch lengthways cut up the stem. Then remove all leaves except for the top four or six. This will help your cutting to grow roots and prevent leaves from sitting in water and rotting.

Place Cuttings Into Water

Now, you can add a rooting booster or natural rooting agent into your water before adding your basil cuttings. The water only needs to touch the bottom 1 or 2 inches of the stalk. Keep an eye on water levels regularly.

Your cuttings should develop roots very quickly. Give it about a week to see initial growth and then another week for roots to really expand. Any moldy water and wilted plants should be disposed of.

Common Questions About Growing Basil From Cuttings

The process of growing basil from cuttings is very simple when you boil it down, but there can be many variables, and it’s worth taking a look at the questions surrounding them.

Do Cuttings Need Light To Root?

Yes, cuttings do need indirect sunlight to root. This is because your cuttings are technically fully fledged plants already — just without a root system. So they will not survive in a dark cupboard. However, direct sunlight can be a little harsh for these growing plants and can also spoil the water if using the cuttings-in-water method.

A nice bright spot in the home with indirect sunlight is a good place for cuttings.

How Long Does It Take for Basil Cuttings To Root?

Most cuttings will begin to show signs of root growth by the end of the first week, although some cuttings can be a little slow to get started. If your cutting is not sending out any roots by the second week, you should compost or dispose of it as it will be very unlikely to grow any later on.

How To Make Cuttings Root Faster

Usually, plain old tap water (or, even better, rainwater!), will be sufficient to get fast results. For those who want to minimize wait time and maximize the amount of root growth, you can always add a natural rooting hormone or liquid fertilizer to the water — see below for options.

Using a fertilizer is only necessary for the water method. Potting mix will almost always be fortified with nutrients to feed your plants for around three months after planting.

Do Rooting Hormones Work?

At the heart of it, hormones in plants work similarly to the hormones in human bodies. The hormones we are looking at are those that stimulate growth — in this case, root growth.

So if plants already have these hormones, why do we need to add more? This is because most plants are not designed to be cut or broken and then continue to grow. This is why we sometimes need these hormones to kick-start root production and send it into overdrive.

How Long Do Rooting Hormones Take To Work?

You can expect to see results by the end of the first week, but this always varies between cuttings. Sometimes cuttings treated with rooting hormone never produce any roots, although this is rare.

How To Use Rooting Powder in Water?

Because many rooting powders have been formulated for ornamental plants, we highly recommend that you use a natural or an organic powder. Think of it this way – if you wouldn’t ingest the chemical, you shouldn’t expose your edible herbs to it.

To use a natural gel such as aloe vera, first cut your basil stems at a 45-degree angle, or make a small, ¼ inch cut lengthways, splitting the stem. Then, dip the cuttings about an inch into the gel, and simply place them into water or soil, and wait for results.

Best Rooting Hormone for Water Propagation

Our preferred rooting solution for propagating edible herbs like basil is General Oraganic’s BioRoot. Although it is not a rooting hormone, it is a fantastic way to ensure plants have enough nutrients to grow roots.

What Can I Use Instead of Rooting Hormone?

Many gardeners make their own rooting hormone from a mixture of fertilizer or natural products. This essentially gives your cuttings the nutrients they need in order to boost root production. 

  1. Aloe Vera

This is your best bet at a natural alternative to a commercially available rooting hormone. Because it is a plant-based product, it naturally contains rooting hormones. Aloe vera is also super easy to propagate from cuttings, meaning that it already has strong chemicals to help it take root. 

On top of this, aloe vera also contains nutrients that developing plants need as well as salicylic acid, which is a natural chemical that promotes growth.

This plant is often available in specialized foreign grocery stores, like Asian supermarkets. You can also use a pure aloe vera gel like this, but fresh is best.

  1. Aspirin

It is a common piece of advice among gardening circles that aspirin can be used as a rooting agent. As with aloe vera, it contains salicylic acid, which promotes growth.

  1. Willow

Many of us who have seen willows grow by the water will know how vast their root systems are. You can even cut a branch and place it into the soil, and it will grow a new tree. For this reason, crushed willow twigs stirred in water make a great natural rooting hormone solution for your basil cuttings.

  1. Honey

Many environmentally conscious gardeners opt for using honey as a rooting hormone. While honey doesn’t actually contain any rooting hormones, it does have many benefits, such as anti-fungal properties. This is useful to minimize the risk of any cuttings going bad from mold. Honey also contains sugars thatplants will feed on to boost growth.

  1. Cinnamon

There are some strong advocates for the use of cinnamon as a rooting agent. Just like honey, it does not contain rooting hormones, but it does hold antifungal properties, so it can help prevent the growth of mold and rot while your basil develops roots.

Basil Cuttings Wilting

Usually, basil cuttings will not wilt in water. If your basil is wilting, the main reason this might be happening is that there is an infection in the plant. Alternatively, the cutting may need to be re-cut at the end.

You can try rinsing the plant gently, re-cutting the stem, and placing it into a fresh solution. Most of the time, however, you will need to dispose of the cutting and start again.

Basil Cuttings Not Rooting

Sometimes we can do everything right, yet we are left with basil that does not develop any roots. This is rare, but some cuttings just never form roots.

If you are consistently having problems with this, it could be an issue with the plant you are taking your cuttings from. The problem could also be where you are placing your cuttings. Bacteria from the environment can contaminate your solution or soil, so try placing it in another area of your house, or use new, clean jars to place cuttings into.


Growing your own basil from cuttings can be an extremely satisfying project. It only takes five minutes to prepare everything, and then you can eagerly await those first roots that will appear within a week.

A big clump of roots about 2 inches long means the basil is ready for planting. Once planted, basil will grow quickly, giving you lots of fragrant, delicious leaves to enjoy.