Propagating herbs, or, How to turn one plant into ten

I, probably like most of you, love a good pesto. The tastes of fresh basil, pine nuts and garlic come together in a smooth , green paste that coats each piece of pasta in a rich cloak of flavor – ah, what a glorious meal.

But who has that much basil lying around? You could buy it. But store bought basil is usually wilted, covered with pesticides, and expensive. Or you could grow it yourself. But giving one plant a haircut might give you enough pesto to feed your baby. Or your goldfish.

What if I have five or six plants, you might ask me. And I’d tell you that’s a great idea. Herbs can be hard to grow from seed, though. Plants can be expensive to buy. And ultimately, nothing will give you the satisfaction of growing your own plants, we all know that.

Propagating herbs like basil is easy – a piece of cake, really. It’s as simple as cutting a stem, putting it in water and then planting it.

Last year we had multiple basil plants – Thai basil and genovese. Over the winter, we took some cuttings and tried to keep them alive. Sometime during January, we lost most of them – but one little sweet basil survived in my neighbor’s house. Now it’s overgrowing its pot so S took a couple of cuttings and sat them in a glass of water in the windowsill. As expected, they grew lovely roots. Now we’ve got two nice little potted basil plants that look thrilled to be alive.

We also bought basil plants this year, a cinnamon basil and a Thai basil. A mistake I made last year was to not pinch off the stems early enough or often enough. Pinching off encourages more side shoots, leading to bushy growth and ultimately, more herbs for your cooking. As I was pinching off, I found myself with a bunch of basil stems and nowhere to put them. It wasn’t enough to cook with, but composting them seemed like a big waste. I popped them in a glass of water, and lo and behold – roots!

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They are now happily potted up, sitting in my kitchen window. The parent plants are sending out plenty of new growth, I have 4 new plants, and they smell fantastic.

Propagating your herbs is an inexpensive, quick way to multiply your plants. It’s a win-win for everyone.

Make sure you pinch or cut neatly without crushing the stem. Also make sure that you cut right above a leaf node, where one stem meets two leaves. This ensures that the plant sends out two shoots in the place of one. And be patient – roots can take a week or two to grow.

What plants do you propagate?

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