If I could convince you to grow one herb in your garden, it would most certainly be basil. With its lush green leaves, soft fragrance, and beautiful blooms it is the star of the herb garden. Basil is known for a wide variety of culinary and medicinal uses. It can also be used in the home to freshen the air and brighten spaces. As such, I love to grow it in my garden for as long as the growing season allows.
Did I mention, basil is also very photogenic?
Through years of trial and error, I have found that the key to a successful basil harvest is pruning and propagation. Pruning is essential for plant health, flavor, and longevity. Propagation can save you money buying more plants and increase your harvest. In this post you will find out just how easy it is to do both, and have your best basil harvest yet!
How & When to Prune
The first pruning is the most important for creating a bushy, multi-branched plant. When the young basil has developed three sets of leaves, and is over 6 inches tall, cut the main stem right above the second set of leaves (see photo below). This will make the plant more stocky and it will produce more leaves and intense flavor.
Remove any blossoms that appear by pinching them off. Prune your basil plant every two to three weeks throughout the summer. That’s all there is to it! Easy peasy!
Tip: I find a sharp pair of scissors works well for pruning basil.
How to Propagate and Grow
Plant propagation is the process of creating new plants from a variety of sources: seeds, cuttings, bulbs and other plant parts. In the case of basil, you can create new plants from your pruned stems in several easy steps.
For this you will need:
- Vessel to hold water (I like using a mason jar or small vase)
- Basil cuttings
- Liquid Plant Fertilizer (optional, but highly recommended)
Step 1. Fill a vessel with water and add a drop of liquid fertilizer. The fertilizer will encourage strong root growth.
Step 2. Prep your basil cuttings for propagation by stripping off the bottom set of leaves.
The stem that sits in water should be free of leaves so that bacteria does not form during the rooting process. The leaves you removed can be used for cooking or drying.
Step 3. Place cuttings into prepared water vessel. You should see roots starting to develop after 7-11 days. Replace with fresh water every 3 days (no need for more liquid fertilizer) .
Keep the stems in the water until they have about an inch of root growth (see roots on the left pictured below). Some stems will develop roots faster than others. Those that take more time to develop roots can be left in water for an additional 3 days. If roots don’t develop after this point, discard the stems.
Step 4. Time to plant! Pick out your stems with the strongest roots. These will get planted first.
Gently place your rooted basil stems in the soil, covering the roots completely and packing soil down firmly. Carefully water, using a fine mist, until the roots have grown enough to support the plant.
Step 5. Enjoy your best basil harvest ever! 🙂