Repotting Basil: Complete Guide & Helpful Tips for Success

Basil is a plant that thrives in potted environments. It is not bothered by confined space and will yield an abundance of leaves for culinary use. However, it will eventually outgrow its container and require a new home.

Repotting basil can also be a fairly straightforward procedure, but there are a few tips that will make all the difference to the health of your plants.

Soil for Basil

Whenever planting anything in containers, it is important to choose specialized potting soil. Why? Simply because we are growing in an artificial environment. We do not have the drainage, nutrients, or beneficial microorganisms that we would have when planting in the garden.  

Basil in pots prefers well-draining soil that can also retain moisture so that it does not dry out too quickly. A high-quality soil like Burpee Organic Potting Mix is formulated to provide basil and other potted plants with the growing conditions they need.

This soil includes a mix of elements that regulate the moisture levels in pots, meaning there’s almost no risk of pooling water and less risk of drying out. Most potting mixes like Burpee are also made with fertilizer so that your plants begin feeding and growing immediately.

When To Repot Basil

The earlier in its life stage you can repot basil, the better. This is because roots that are still small and growing can be much more resilient to transplanting shock than dense, established root systems.

Seedlings should be repotted when they are about 4 inches tall. On established plants, once you can see white roots in the holes of your container, it’s time to repot. Other indicators are poor plant growth and soil that no longer retains moisture.

Supplies Needed

There’s really not much you need to repot basil. The main thing is a container that is about 2-3 inches larger in diameter than your existing pot.

You will also need a watering can or water sprayer, or simply use a container filled with water.

Lastly, you will want to have an organic potting mix on hand to fill your new pot and top off soil to the right level.

How To Repot Basil

Repotting basil is a very simple and enjoyable process. Let’s take a look at how it’s done:

  1. Wait until early morning or late afternoon to repot your basil as the heat of the day can be stressful for plants.
  2. Fill a pot with organic potting mix up to about 2-3inches from the top.
  3. Water your plant so that the soil is nice and moist.
  4. Make a hole into the soil of your new pot about the same size as the pot from which you are transplanting. 
  5. Next, tip the basil on its side. If your plant is in a plastic pot, you can gently squeeze to loosen it. For hard containers, you can gently grasp the stem of the plant between thumb and forefinger to pull out your plant.
  6. If you see dense roots around your plant, you have a rootbound plant, but don’t panic! Simply loosen roots with your fingers.
  7. Gently place the plant into the new container, and backfill with potting soil until all gaps are filled in and the plant is buried at the same height it was before.
  8. To finish off, give your plant another good dowsing of water. 

It’s important to make sure that the plant is at the same stem height as it was. If planted too deeply, basil can develop a rotting stem. If planted too shallowly, tender roots will be exposed, harming your plant.

We are sure that after repotting a few times you will become a certified whiz at this. It’s a simple skill that can be learned very quickly.

Repotting Root Bound Basil

I would bet a lot of money that a rootbound plant happens to just about every gardener at least once on their journey. It’s almost unavoidable, whether it’s a seedling you forgot about, a pot in an unvisited corner of the garden, or a store plant that has been sitting on the shelf too long.

Sooner or later, it’ll probably happen. Fortunately, basil can be quite forgiving when rootbound, and it’s definitely possible to save.

Make sure you give the soil a good watering so that it’s moist. This will decrease the amount of shock your basil will experience and make it easier to remove the plant from the pot.  The new container should be no more than 3 inches wider than the previous one.

Once you have removed the basil, break up the root system on the outside. It’s okay to tear the root mass a little, your plant will bounce back.

How To Separate Basil Plants

By far the best method for this is to use the best tools a gardener has available — their hands! Of course, if you wish, you can put on some gloves.

To separate basil plants, simply water your plant and remove it from the container it is growing in. Next, you will want to place both hands on the root ball, and gently pry it apart. (Imagine opening up a hotdog bun with your hands.)

It’s a really straightforward process, and you don’t have to be overly careful. As long as the basil stalks themselves aren’t damaged, you should be in the clear.

How To Repot Basil Cuttings

Basil cuttings are a great way to start propagating your own plants on a budget. You can simply take a cutting from an existing plant, remove the bottom leaves, and place the stalk into a jar of water with some organic rooting hormone

Your basil should start growing roots within the first week and be ready to plant after the second or third week once there are plenty of roots. To repot basil cuttings, simply place them into a new pot or into garden soil, just as you would any other plant.

Basil Transplant Shock

Transplant shock affects almost all transplanted plants and can really hinder your plant’s growth if not stop it altogether! Basil is among those plants that tend to do very well after transplanting, but there are still some important steps to follow to minimize shock.

  1. Never transplant during the heat of the day. This is true especially when putting basil into the ground. Late afternoon seems to be the best time as plants have an entire night and morning to build up strength.
  1. Where possible, avoid damage to roots. Because roots are how your plants take in water and nutrients, the more intact they are, the faster your basil can recover.
  1. Keep your soil moist both before and after transplanting. Moist soil provides a welcoming environment for your plant.
  1. Water your basil soil with a sugar and water solution. Plants can benefit from the immediately available energy in sugar after transplanting. Simply mix 2 tablespoons of sugar into ¼ gallon of water, and give to your basil.

Growing Basil in Pots – Key Tips

It seems that there are certain plants that just do incredibly well with human company. Basil is definitely one of them, and it just loves growing in pots around the home. If you follow some basic guidelines, there is no reason why you can’t grow this beautiful, tasty herb.

  • Choose healthy seedlings, and inspect the bottom of pots. If you see a lot of white roots, the plant is already rootbound, and it’s best to pick a healthier plant.
  • Choose organic, heirloom seeds. These are vigorous growers and grow into more nutritious food.
  • Use an organic, specifically formulated potting mix.
  • Give your plants a minimum of six hours of sunlight a day.
  • Fertilize your plants with a high-grade, organic fertilizer. (Remember that you’re going to eat the basil, so don’t fertilize with anything that’s not natural!)
  • Water regularly but not too much. Soil should never be wet or muddy and definitely never fully dry.


There are few other herbs out there that are as resilient as basil, and basil is the ideal plant for those who have never grown potted herbs before. It is a forgiving plant that can tolerate a lot, so don’t stress about making a few mistakes.

Basil grows fairly quickly, so if you don’t see a change in size within 1-2weeks, there could be a problem. Go over the steps, and make sure you ticked off soil, water, and container needs. Basil from seeds is usually ready to harvest within 5 weeks from sowing. For transplanted basil, it will be fine to pick within a week. 

The main thing is for you to have fun, enjoy the process (and the results), and get comfortable growing this herb. Happy gardening!