How to Grow Free Basil from Cuttings

basil growing in a pot

I’m so excited about this tip, I decided it deserved its own blog post, rather than just a footnote in another post (which I had originally planned to do).

I buy basil often at the farmers’ market. When I get it home, I store the bunches in jars of water to keep them fresh. It works well. One of the vendors told me that if I trim the ends off of the bunches, they will sprout roots.


So I tried it.

fresh produce sitting on a dark wooden background
Farmers market haul with lots of basil

We ate most of the basil pictured above. I reserved a small amount in one of the jars of water. After about a week, I noticed roots sprouting! How exciting. By the way, when I store basil in water like this, I change the water about once a week or every ten days.

Basil sprouting roots in water

I then searched for a pot to plant my basil. That took a few weeks (life gets busy…). By the time I pulled my basil out of the water, the roots had gone wild.

basil sprouting roots
Cut basil with roots

I potted the basil in a pot filled with dirt and some of my lazy compost mixed in. (Here’s how to compost the lazy way.) I really should have divided this basil among a few pots. It’s a bit crowded below.

basil plant
Freshly planted basil cuttings
basil growing in a pot
Pot of basil

As the basil sat in the water and later grew in the pot above, it started to flower in several spots. Just pinch these off as soon as you see them—ideally when tiny, tightly closed up and green but if you miss those, pinch off when open and white. I keep my plant in a sunny kitchen greenhouse window but due to glare there, took the pic outside. I made homemade pasta this week and topped it with pesto made with most of this basil. I did leave several leaves though and will trim a bit to propagate more for another pot. The pesto tasted delicious.


While much more finicky than basil, rosemary also works. I’ve had better luck with fresh rosemary I’ve cut from a friend’s mature rosemary bush. Store-bought hasn’t worked nearly as well—but it’s still worth a try if you have some on hand. You only have a sprig or two to lose and possibly an entire rosemary hedge to gain (eventually).

Green onions

This same trick works extremely well with green onions. After cutting off and eating the green part, put the white part—do not trim the bottom—in a jar of water. The green onion below regrew for over a month in my window before slowing down a bit. After you have some roots, replant the onions in soil, indoors or out.

green onion regrowing in a jar of water
green onions stubs that have regrown outside in the soil
I cut these back, they regrow

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14 Replies to “How to Grow Free Basil from Cuttings”

  1. Basil, spring onion and leek all grow super fast, which is great for continuous supply. I don’t have a garden so all these plants sit on my kitchen window sill. I’ve just started to regrow celery but that seems to take much longer, and despite some green bits appearing, I’m not sure of my success yet!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      Leeks, eh? I’ll try that too. Do you snip off mostly green parts or do you get some white too? Thanks for the idea 🙂 I love leeks.

      1. I leave a little bit of green before rooting, just like with spring onions. I’m not particularly green-fingered so when I find something super easy to regrow, I stick with it. 🙂

      2. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        Thanks for the info! I’m going to buy a leek this weekend at the farmers market 🙂

  2. Wow that looks amazing, I’m definitely going to try that this weekend- perfect for my tiny city balcony! I love your blog, it is so inspiring 🙂 I’ve just started mine, it’s about promoting the farm-to-table concept here in Sydney!

    1. The Zero-Waste Chef says: Reply

      The basil should do well out there. Thanks for the kind words about my blog. I love the name of yours (but I can’t find it)! Food plays such a huge role in addressing climate change (and so many other social problems).

      1. Oh no, thanks for telling me I will need to try and fix that! Here is the link if you are interested

        Yes it’s the start of spring as well so it should do well this time of year!

  3. […] via How to Grow Basil from Cuttings — The Zero-Waste Chef […]

    1. I was wondering why you take to pluck the flowers?

      1. The Zero-Waste Chef says:

        Hi Marie,
        Plucking the flowers keeps the plant from going to seed and encourages new growth. The sooner you get them, the better.
        ~ Anne Marie

  4. I purchased a small potted basil plant at my grocery store this year. I soon repotted it and it did well in a sunny window for several months. However, it eventually started failing so I tried snipping some leaves to propagate in water but they never grew roots. Any ideas what I did wrong??

    1. Hi Sandy,
      I’m not an expert gardener but I know the basil can take some time to sprout (maybe a month). If you haven’t been, I’d change the water every week or sooner if it becomes cloudy. And maybe try trimming a bit more off of the stems, especially if they are woody at all. And next time, maybe also try snipping off some sprigs while the plant is still healthy. I hope that helps.
      ~ Anne-Marie

  5. You can get nice cabbage leaves this way too! We’ve gotten some small lettuce leaves as well; our kitchen windowsill is a little water garden laboratory!

  6. Jessicka Chamberlin says: Reply

    For some reason, when I out my basil in water, it wilts. I’ve tried & and out of the fridge. My parsley does just fine on the counter. My cilantro seems to prefer being in water in the fridge. I make sure I snip the ends & everything.

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