For gardening enthusiasts looking for a low-maintenance but flavorful addition to their urban garden, look no further than Thai basil, an herb that adds a unique flavor to all Thai and Southeast Asian dishes. Plus, with its subtle licorice flavor and beautiful purple stems, Thai basil makes an excellent addition to any herb garden.
Growing plants from cuttings is a great way for urban gardeners and gardening enthusiasts of all experience levels to get started. In fact, growing Thai basil from cuttings is a cost-effective and easy way to bring the sweet and spicy flavors of this delicious herb into your kitchen. Let’s take a look at how to make your own!
How to Grow Thai Basil from Cuttings
The Different Varieties of Basil
Before you begin, it’s important to know different varieties of basil, including Thai basil and its cousins—all of them are consider the easiest herbs to grow from both cuttings and seeds. They are all members of the same family (ocimum basilicum), but Thai basil has a more distinct flavor due to its higher concentration of oils.
Thai basil is a bit more pungent, with a subtle licorice flavor. It is also smaller than sweet basil and has purple stems. As the name suggested, Thai basil is native to Southeast Asia and is a popular choice in Thai cuisine. Its leaves are thinner than other types of basil, making it great for adding to salads, soups, and stir-fries.
Sweet basil, also known as Genovese basil, is milder in flavor and is often used for making pesto. It has large leaves that are good for chopping up and adding to dishes. Cinnamon basil is an interesting variation that has a light cinnamon flavor and is often used for ornamental purposes.
Italian basil has an intense aroma with a sweet aftertaste, making it popular for flavoring sauces, pizza bases, and other Italian dishes. Italian basil leaves can also be added to salads or used as a garnish, making it a versatile herb in Western cuisine.
Now that you know the difference between these three types of basil, let’s take a look at how to grow Thai basil from cuttings and make sure it thrives.
Step 1: Collecting Your Materials
For this project, you’ll need access to:
- established Thai basil plants, preferably at least six inches tall (you can buy from any grocery store or local garden center)
- scissors or gardening shears
- rooting hormone powder or gel (optional)
- small pots with drainage holes
- potting soil mix
- glass of water
Step 2: Selecting Stems for Your Cuttings
When selecting stems from the mother plant for your cuttings, keep an eye out for young shoots that are approximately 6 inches long and have several leaves on them. If possible, select stems that come from the center of the plant as they tend to be more vigorous than outer growth.
Be sure to use sharp scissors when snipping off the stem so as not to crush the cell walls. After cutting off the desired number of stems, rinse them off in cool water before starting the rooting process. This step will remove any dirt or dust from the stems, making it easier for them to root.
Step 3: Rooting Your Cuttings
To root your Thai basil cuttings, fill up a clear glass with lukewarm water and place your freshly snipped stems inside it. Make sure each stem has its own space in the jar so as not to overcrowd them. The goal here is for them to be able to stay upright without leaning against each other or becoming tangled in one another’s foliage.
Place the jar in a sunny area but away from direct sunlight so as not to fry your delicate new plants. Change out the water every few days until small roots start emerging (this can take anywhere from 7-14 days). It’s also important during this time to keep the jar covered with either plastic wrap or a baggie in order to retain moisture and humidity levels—your plants will thank you later!
Once the root system is established, you can now move on to the next step.
Optional Alternative: Apply Rooting Hormone
At this point, you can decide whether or not you want to use rooting hormone powder or gel on your cuttings. Applying rooting hormone will help promote root growth during the propagation process so if you want extra assurance that your new plants will take root easily, feel free to use it!
Simply dip each cutting into the powder or gel before planting and then move onto the step four.
Step 4: Planting Cuttings in Small Pots
Fill each pot with potting soil mix until it’s about two thirds full then create a hole in the center of each pot big enough for one cutting. Gently press one cutting, either with small roots (step 4) or with hormone gel/powder (optional step) into the hole and then top off with additional potting soil. Gently press the stem into the soil making sure to get rid of any air pockets.
Water each pot well after planting so that the soil is evenly moist but not soggy. Place your pots in an area with indirect sunlight and mist every few days to keep humidity levels high. The cuttings will need to be kept moist, so remember to check on them regularly and water as needed. You can also mist the leaves every few days to help keep the humidity levels up.
Your Thai basil cuttings should begin rooting within 3-4 weeks, however, some may take longer depending on your climate and the time of year. During winter months, it may be necessary to place the pots in a sunny windowsill or under artificial lights to keep the cuttings warm and encourage root growth.
If done correctly, you should be able to see new root growth in as little as three weeks. Once they’ve rooted and grown a few inches tall, it’s time to either move your Thai basil plants to larger pots or into the garden, or harvest them for use in your favorite Thai dishes!
Step 5: Planting Thai Basil in the Garden
Thai basil is a hardy plant that does well in full sun and a wide range of soil types. However, it does best in well-drained, loamy soils that are slightly acidic. Before planting in your garden, make sure to work the soil and add plenty of organic matter for better drainage, and don’t forget to amend the soil with some compost or aged manure to give your plants an extra boost of nutrition.
Thai basil is an annual herb, so it’s best to plant your cuttings in the early spring as soon as danger of frost has passed. The good rule of thumb is to check for the last frost date in your area before planting.
Plant the cuttings about 12-18 inches apart so they have enough space to grow comfortably. Water the newly planted cuttings regularly and provide protection from excessive wind and hot temperatures.
You can fertilize your Thai basil plants every few weeks during the growing season with a balanced, organic fertilizer to ensure that they get all of the nutrition they need.
Once established, your plants should be able to tolerate hot temperatures and short periods of drought. Just make sure to water them in between dry spells and provide some shade if necessary.
Harvest the leaves regularly to encourage bushier plants, or wait until they are fully mature to harvest entire stems for use in recipes. Young leaves can be used fresh in recipes, while older leaves can be dried or frozen for later use.
Step 6: Harvesting and Storing Thai Basil
You can start harvesting your Thai basil as soon as the plants are 6-8 inches tall. Harvest the leaves regularly to encourage bushier plants and clip off any pink flowers that appear in order to keep the plant producing more leaves.
To store Thai basil, simply wrap the sprigs in a damp paper towels and place them in an airtight container or plastic bag. The leaves will keep for up to 5 days when stored this way while still remain their best flavor. Alternatively, you can freeze the leaves by removing the basil stems and laying the leaves out on a baking sheet, freezing them solid, and then transferring them to an airtight container. Frozen leaves will keep for up to 6 months.
Another option for storing Thai basil is to dry it. Hang the sprigs upside down in a warm, dry place with good air circulation and allow them to dry completely before storing in an airtight container. Dried Thai basil will keep for up to 6 months.
Growing Thai basil from cuttings is an easy and rewarding project that anyone can do! All it takes is healthy basil plant, plus a little bit of patience as you wait for your new plants to take new roots.
With its subtle licorice flavor and beautiful purple stems, growing Thai basil from cuttings is a great way for urban gardeners and gardening enthusiasts alike to add some flavor and beauty into their gardens!