How To Grow Basil

With this super-easy guide, you’ll learn how to grow basil, propagate it, chop it, freeze it, and more. It’s so simple, and unlimited fresh herbs are just a few cuttings away.

herb garden basil in bucket

Basil is a common herb that can easily be propagated, as I’ll show you in this post. The basil will take root, grow greener leaves, and produce more foliage to flavor your favorite dishes – all without much effort on your part. Basil is one of the many members of the Mint family, and is one of those plants that grows almost anywhere, and needs minimal care. It was the very first herb I ever planted, and has been the star of my herb garden ever since. In this post, you’ll also learn how to use, chop, freeze, and get the most out of your basil plants.

gardening tips pinching off basil plant1

How To Grow Basil In A Container

Basil is a must-have for any herb garden, and if you are a beginner, it’s the perfect herb to start with. Basil can be grown inside or outside, and requires no special attention. Basil plants are readily available during the growing season, and can be found year-round in the produce section of grocery stores.

Just follow these tips and you’ll be able to grow your own basil right in your own backyard.

  • Use large containers or pots with good drainage holes, and fertilized potting soil. Or if you prefer, use regular potting soil and add liquid fertilizer.
  • Don’t place basil plants outside until after the last frost.
  • Place the container where it gets at least 6 hours of full sun per day.
  • Water the growing basil regularly so the soil has plenty of moisture.
  • Basil is a plant that benefits from being “pinched back” – you can see a visual of what that means in the photo above. By pruning the leaves on a regular basis, and using the pinch method, your plants will grow wide and thick, instead of tall and spindly. 
  • Watch out for aphids, Japanese beetles, pests, and other insects because they love the newest and most tender leaves.
  • If you prefer to plant basil in the ground, make sure it has plenty of sunlight, well-drained soil, a layer of compost, followed by a layer of mulch.

By following these simple tips, you will soon harvest basil with fresh and lovely leaves, perfect for cooking and preserving.

Best Types of Basil To Grow

  • Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum)
  • Licorice or Thai basil
  • Lemon basil
  • Genovese basil
  • Greek basil
  • Holy basil
  • Red Rubin basil
basil leaves on cutting board propagating basil pin

*Some links lead to websites where I am an affiliate. Click HERE for my disclosure statement. 

How to Propagate Basil

Once you have mastered growing basil, it’s time to start propagating basil…and it’s actually much easier than it sounds…but what does it mean?

Propagating can be done with all basil varieties, and it’s simply the natural process that produces new plants from parent plants.

  • With your garden scissors in hand, harvest several fresh basil stems, making sure to cut low on the plant.
  • Snip each stem at an angle just under the lowest set of leaf nodes. Trim the leaves so you have a bare stem. Edited: you don’t have to trim the entire stem of basil leaves. It’s perfectly fine to leave some leaves at the top. 
basil cuttings in jars with water 2020
  • Place the snipped basil stems in jars of fresh water. It helps to change the water every few days, but I occasionally forget, and the roots still grow just fine. 
  • Roots will grow out of the stems in about two weeks. 
  • Plant the basil seedlings in small pots with fresh potting soil, and water well. You want moist soil.
  • When the basil cuttings are growing well, you can transplant them into bigger pots.
how to propagate basil roots on cuttings 2020

This is a great way to get extra basil plants to give as gifts, or to use for an indoor herb garden when the cold weather arrives. Basil is delicious in pesto, salads, sauces, and more. Here are a few of my favorite ways to use basil.

Recipes With Basil

basil cuttings in pots of soil 2020

How to Chop Basil

Chopping basil is simple and quick. Take a look at the video player, and you’ll see how to chiffonade basil in a way that will keep the basil leaves from getting bruised. The secret to chopping basil successfully is to pass the knife through the leaves only once. The up and down of a regular chopping motion will bruise the leaves and turn them dark. By stacking, rolling and slicing the basil leaves, you end up with lovely slivers of fresh, chopped basil.

how to freeze basil in ice cube tray 2020

How to Freeze Basil

If you aren’t growing basil in an indoor garden, harvesting it from a summer outdoor garden, and then preserving, is the next best thing. Freezing basil is a great way to have it on hand for cooking any time of the year.

What You Need

how to freeze basil in olive oil

Steps For Freezing

  • Harvest your basil.
  • Chiffonade or cut with scissors.
  • Fill the sections of an ice cube tray with the sliced basil.
  • When all the bays of your ice cube tray are filled with basil, drizzle olive oil into each bay almost to the rim.
  • Freeze for 8 hours.
  • Pop the frozen olive oil/basil cubes out of the tray, and place them in a resealable freezer bag or freezer-safe container.
  • The basil cubes will last in the freezer for up to 6 months.
frozen basil in olive oil cubes

By freezing the basil in olive oil, it is so easy to grab a couple of cubes and saute with your favorite vegetables. Use them to make pasta dishes and any sort of pasta sauce. They also make great starters for soups and stews.

dried herbs in mason jars with tags

How to Dry Basil

The best way to dry basil is in the oven. See my full tutorial on drying herbs in the oven.

herbs in blue bow element (1)


Discover creative container
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Frequently Asked Questions

Caring for basil is pretty simple, but it can still be slightly daunting at first. Here are some answers to questions people have asked.

Can you grow basil from cuttings?

Yes, you can grow all-new basil plants by cutting stems off of other basil plants. That’s the very definition of propagating. You don’t have to go through the strenuous effort of trying to grow basil from seed. One basil plant can give you many new ones.

How do you propagate basil from stems?

Just follow my tips outlined above. I believe my step-by-step photos and detailed instructions will give you the confidence to propagate your own basil in your kitchen.

Can you propagate basil using basil plants from the grocery store?

Yes, the basil plants at the grocery store are the same kind you would buy from a greenhouse. You can certainly use them to propagate more basil plants in your kitchen. It will work just fine!

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  1. Can I propagate basil after it has gone to seed ?

  2. I have tried so many times but my cuttings ALWAYS die. The top leaves wilt and the bottom of the stem turns black. I’ve followed all directions from many posts and videos. I’m so frustrated. Can you include tips for what goes wrong? Much appreciated.

    1. Hi Cheryl…here are a few tips. Try putting each stem in a separate container, and make sure to change the water every day. Put them in a sunny & warm location. Make sure there are no basil leaves sitting in the water…just stems. You can also try a bit of rooting powder, but once the roots begin, change to clean water. Good luck!

  3. I love the tip on how to freeze basil! Mine often gets away from me in the summer and I need to pinch it back hard, but never know what to do with all the pinched branches. Now I can just squirrel the chopped leaves away for winter. Thanks, Ann!

  4. Tami Barrett says:

    Thank you so much, we love basil and have just started to grow one(just one right now) My question is what are some good indoor herb gardens and I think in my home I will have to use an artificial light source, can you recommend any?

  5. CT Garden Gal says:

    You said
    “Trim the leaves so you have a bare stem.
    Place the snipped basil stems in jars of fresh water.”

    The pictures immediately below the text show stems full of basil leaves being put into jars of water and when you later show the photos with the roots, the same full set of leaves are there.

    Sure, for visual purposes it probably looks a lot nicer to show a full basil stem with lush green leaves but why not show the actual method, a bare stem without leaves?

    If this is educational I feel the images should match the description.

    1. The image I think you are referring to was taken from the top down. The stems I placed in the jars of water were bare, with basil leaves on the top of each stem. The image just after the top down shot shows the bare stems, with basil leaves on the top, and roots growing out of the other end. My apologies if this was confusing.

  6. Hey how do you prune basil
    Mine is now tall and spindly
    I am a new gardener and was scared to remove or prune the basil

  7. Thank you Ann. I´ve been thinking of making an herb garden this summer. This is great information.

  8. Wow Ann This was a great learning experience, thank you!

  9. Loved this post. I have slugs and land snails; they LOVE basil. Have been reduced to growing it in a pot on the side of the house! Love the ice cube idea. And the way you chop it; great video!

    1. Left over Coffee granules helps deter the slugs and snails. They don’t like having to go over the gritty grains.

  10. Karen Happnie says:

    Awesome ice cube tray idea! thanks!!!!!!

  11. Nan, Odessa, DE says:

    One of your best blogs.

    Question – do we keep.the basil leaves that are in water in direct sun?

    Do on growing cjives, please

    1. Hello! The basil in water can sit in direct sun, but it will root even if it isn’t! I’ve grown chives one time…let me see what I can do!

  12. Thank you for once again doing the research/work and sharing good information, I so appreciate you and look forward to seeing your emails in my in box!

  13. Amy Kaminski says:

    What a great idea to freeze the Basel. Can’t wait to try it. Also if you’re looking for a great variety to try, look, for Amazel Basel by Proven Winners brand. I tried this at the suggestion of Laura at Garden Answer last year and it is an amazing plant. You pay a little more for it but the end result is a huge plant that lasts all Summer and doesn’t get bitter after flowering. I am not affiliated with them in any way, just want to share my success with this wonderful plant.

  14. Char Morton says:

    I believe this is my first time posting but I’ve been a follower for years! I love the idea of freezing my basil! We live in the Palm Springs area so basil grows wonderfully and I usually have an over abundance. And….I can’t wait to try the making butter with my herbs!
    Thank you as always, Ann!

  15. I never thought of rooting and transplanting basil! Great tip! Thank you wonderful Ann!

  16. mARY aNNE MCWHIRTER says:

    5 stars
    Please never quit blogging…those darn advertisements that get in our way are just part of it. You are our lifeline and bring so much joy and creativity to my life. Your ideas are endless. My basil is not doing so good maybe these hints will help. Last year I made pesto…and just used it a few weeks ago …It was fabulous!
    your versatility is amazing…there is always something for everyone…..PLEASE NEVER STOP!!! WE ALL ADORE YOU!!!!!!

  17. Thanks Ann!! I’ve needed some “pointers” on growing and caring for my basil plants. I love basil on a tuna fresh! It’s one of my favorite herbs!! I’ve enjoyed your blog from the very beginning!!

    June G.

  18. I am a day or so late checking my email. As always, your posts are interesting, inspiring and the photography is lovely. That said, I just read your post from yesterday and appreciate your situation. Quite frankly, I have stopped reading many blogs because of the overwhelming advertisements but I have continued to read yours because I am one with your esthetic, lifestyle, and sensibilities. (I think I have mentioned this in the past.) Take heart, as my mother would have said, this too shall pass. I know that in the current day that is almost trite but we all adjust, don’t we? PS, I am a basil girl. I dry it, freeze it, share it. Thank you for all your hard work to make this daily read a joy.

  19. We grow basil and tomatoes every summer in our backyard. I like to make pesto and freeze it in ice cube trays. Each cube is about 1 Tablespoon. It’s great to use on pasta during the winter!

  20. Thank you for the tips! Your e-mails are always a highlight in my inbox; especially during this strange time.

  21. I recently bought my first basil plant. Your instructions are perfect!
    Thank you for everything you share and it makes my day to see onsuttonplace in my inbox.

  22. Ann,
    Thank you for all the great tips on Basil. . .my favorite Herb!
    I LOVE growing and eating Basil!
    I do freeze basil in ice cube trays and use throughout the year!
    This evening, “Mr. Ed” (the Master Gardener) & I planted our first Basil from seed.
    Fingers crossed!

  23. Hi Ann. I enjoyed your basil tips. I was wondering if you have had problems with the fungus that has been plaguing basil plants across the country for the last several years.
    There is a lot of information on the net about it, but apparently no solutions.

    1. Hi Tricia…I have never had any fungus on my basil so I’m afraid I am no help. I grow my herbs in containers that drain and dry out quickly. I’m not sure if that little bit of extra dryness has helped keep the fungus away or not. Good luck!

  24. The instructions for propagating basil are so wonderful. So much less expensive than buying more new plants. You are the greatest.

  25. Gael Fawley says:

    Ann – I just love your blog. It makes my day. Thanks for sharing all your tips and tricks!

  26. Hi Ann! What a perfect day for me! First, I was surprised with the wonderful and fun freebies you so generously graced us with today. Then I click on the title and the first thing I see is ‘All About Basil’. Just yesterday, my daughter-in-law asked me how to freeze basil. We both grew basil for the first time this summer and our yields were more than plentiful. We dried some, but neither of us knew about the freezing process. Thanks to you, now we DO! Thank you friend!

  27. Ok. I’m so going to try this with store-bought basil! My plant died this summer on one of my trips (hubby didn’t water it enough) and I miss my basil. Have you tried making pesto? So yummy!

    1. No I’ve never made pesto…believe it or not I really don’t like it! Frozen basil would be perfect for it though.

      1. If you made your own pesto there is a good chance you’d LOVE it! The stuff in jars tastes very different. I make pesto and also freeze it in ice cube trays. A cube or two in an Italian soup or sauce add that mysterious something that amps up the flavour. Also good on a pizza crust with a little cheese for an appetizer!

  28. Thank you Ann
    Great ideas. I love basil and it smells so good. Tastes good too wonderful information.

  29. Great information, Ann. Maybe I will get motivated to try growing herbs.

  30. When do you wash and dry the basil?

  31. Perfect timing… :) My basil is growing out of control (at least I learned to snip the flowers off).
    Thank you for this post! If you don’t mind, I’d love to reblog this one on my site?

  32. Enjoyed the post on Basil. I have some in a pot on deck, was wondering how to keep during the cold winter months, now I know. I use the herb in my sauces and in canning.
    Thanks for all the information you give us.


  33. Great article! How do they do inside once winter comes? I had no idea you could propagate them. Great to know and do next year! I enjoy your posts, Ann!

  34. I have been wanting to start a herb garden and this really helps me! Thanks Ann!

  35. Irene Kimball says:

    I have planted some basil from seed and it grew in fits and starts. Yours looks so healthy. I think I may try your cutting method. Certainly more promising than waiting to see if the seeds will sprout. Thanks for the tips.

  36. I was just doing this today with some basil that I received from a friend! Perfect timing! I am making bruschetta tomorrow with my leaves that I trimmed. YUMMY! Thanks for sharing tips on freezing as well.

  37. I need to try this, I tend to kill my herbs growing in the house but maybe I could save them by taking cuttings to keep the plant going.

  38. Thank you very much for this post! Basil and Mint are two I would like to try growing. Doubtful mint can be frozen for Mojitos, though, unless you suggest otherwise.

  39. Good morning Ann, I love your blog…so refreshing …recently moved to a small house on a small lot …this spurred me on to do a kitchen garden in my kitchen ! Thank you for the tips…basil is my favorite herb – wonderful that it’s the star of the day today On Sutton Place …………smiles Anne

  40. Nan, Odessa, DE says:

    We are members of Habitat for Wildlife and have several gardens that require almost no care, to include no watering.
    I have a kitchen garden facing south with herbs. Began over 25 years ago by creating well drained soil.
    This garden grows chives, rosemary, sage, lavender, garlic chives, pineapple sage, chamomile BUT
    no basil. No wonder it dies on me! Nothing in this garden is watered and thrives. I have never had any luck with basil.
    Are you telling me that basil likes to be kept damp? I will be so happy if you would share this info!

    PS I also cannot grow a tomato – no, NO I know it needs water.
    Never would put it in this kitchen garden, I know this much. HELP!!!

  41. Thank you Ann . This is very helpful ! I love basil but didn’t realize I could propagate!!! I love all the information you give . I also live in Ohio part time ????

  42. Cute little video Ann!! Thanks????

  43. Charmaine says:

    Thank you for the tips on propagating basil. Every year, I try to save and freeze as much as I can before the frost gets my outdoor herb garden. This year, I’ll try bringing a few cuttings indoors to grow on my kitchen windowsill so I can have fresh cuttings all winter long.

  44. Didn’t know it was easy to grow Basil new plants so easy, thanks for this tip, it will be so useful for winter,

    1. Any tips on how to keep bugs away naturally? Not sure what is eating the leaves but pretty sure it’s not snails

      1. Hello! I should actually write a post on this…but if you want a completely natural way to get rid of bugs, you can use castile soap mixed with water in a spray bottle. The ratio is 2 teaspoons of soap to every quart of water. You can also add a tiny bit of cooking oil (about 1/2 teaspoon) so the mixture sticks to the leaves. It’s important to actually spray the bugs on both sides of the leaves. It’s been a few years since I had to do this…but it does work. Good luck!