Basil is a warm-season herb that’s popular in many recipes, including pesto. Basil is a pretty plant with a delightful fragrance and fresh flavor. It’s easy to grow in a home garden but only grows well outdoors during the summer months. Because of that, the option to grow basil in water indoors is a great option.

Even if you don’t have outdoor space for a garden or lack a green thumb for growing pots of herbs, you can grow basil in water year-round.

You can grow basil, along with several other herbs in vases of water. Not only is growing basil and other herbs in water practical, it’s also a way to create an attractive row of herbs on a sunny windowsill.

Use these tips and discover how to grow basil in water.

How To Grow Basil in Water from Cuttings

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grow basil in water to always have fresh basil any time of year.

Let’s start with the basics. To grow basil in water from a cutting, you need a six-inch cutting from a healthy sprig of basil. You also need a jar.

You can take the basil cutting from a bunch of basil you purchased at the grocery store or grew in your home garden. For best results, the cut stem should look healthy and fresh.

Remove the leaves from the bottom four-inches of the stem, leaving only the leaves on the top two-inches of the cutting. If the cutting is not fresh, re-cut a small portion off the bottom of the stem so it can absorb water.

Place the container(s) in a location where it will receive at least six-hours of sun each day. An east or south-facing window is ideal. A west-facing window that receives the hot afternoon sun may be a little too intense for the basil cutting.

Container Choice for Growing Basil in Water

Choose a wide-mouthed jar for growing basil in water. Wide-mouth jars provide more space for the leafy herb tops and make taking care of the plants a little easier.

Clear glass jars look best and are the typical choice, however, they are not the best choice.

Algae will form quicker in clear glass jars than in opaque jars. The good news is, if you want to use a clear glass jar such as a mason jar, there are a couple of ways to avoid the algae problem.

You can combat the algae problem by changing the water frequently. You can also paint the side of the jar that is facing the outside of the window with a dark paint color to prevent the sunlight from shining through to the water. Taping a piece of dark construction paper on the backside of the clear jar will also prevent the sunlight from hitting the water.

Best Water for Growing Basil Hydroponically

Always use tap water for growing basil in a jar of water. Tap water contains minerals that the herb cutting needs whereas distilled water has all the minerals removed.

Fill a separate container with tap water and allow it to sit in the same area as your basil plant for a few hours before changing the water in the growing jar. This allows the tap water to reach the same temperature as the water the herb cutting is in and prevents plant shock.

Change the water every two to three days. New roots will appear in about three weeks.

Growing Basil in Water from Seed

Dumping a few basil seeds in water and expecting them to grow is a bad idea. When you place basil seeds in water, they begin to swell and form a gelatinous mass.

You can sprout the seeds in a damp paper towel and then place the sprouted seeds in a tiny amount of water. Use something small like a cap from a water bottle with just a few drops of water in it. Place it in a bright location but not in direct sunlight until the seedling is two to three inches tall.

You can also start basil seedlings in rock wool, which you can purchase on Amazon.

My favorite way to grow basil in water is to use an AeroGarden. Any size AeroGarden works for growing basil, but my favorite model is an AeroGarden Harvest that you can pick up on Amazon. The Harvest provides enough room for the basil to grow both tall and bushy. It also provides a lot of room for the roots to thrive.

Another option that I haven’t yet tried but really want to try is the Culinary Herb Bottle Garden Kit from Urban Leaf.

Pro Tip: One of the best things about growing basil from seed is that you can grow many different varieties of basil. Here are some of my favorite basil varieties that I picked up from True Leaf Market:

Problems With Growing Basil in Water

Growing basil in water is almost problem-free but requires diligent water changes to prevent algae growth.

If the water gets too hot in the sun, it will cook the basil cutting, so you will have to be mindful of that.

Benefits Of Growing Basil in Water

Growing basil in water provides you with a steady supply of fresh herbs through the winter. Snip off each leaf as soon as it reaches maturity to encourage the stem to produce new leaves at the top.

The basil cutting will grow for months (sometimes indefinitely) in a jar of water when properly cared for. If desired, you can transplant the cutting directly into a container of soil or outdoor vegetable garden in the Spring.

Another benefit of growing basil in water is that there’s no messy soil to deal with, and you don’t have to remember to water and feed the soil frequently.

You can grow basil cuttings in a small glass jar which takes up less space than a planter filled with potting soil.

You also save money by not having to buy potting soil for your basil plants.

How To Maintain a Basil Plant that is Growing in Water

It’s easy to grow basil in water, but there are a few maintenance tips to keep in mind to keep your basil plant thriving.

  • Do not let the leaves touch the water. They will turn dark and be inedible.
  • Feed the basil cutting once a month. Create a weak emulsion of your favorite organic plant food. Allow the fertilized water to sit for a few hours to reach room temperature and to ensure the plant food is thoroughly dissolved and mixed in the water. Use this nutrient-rich water to replace the old when it’s time to change the basil water. I personally use and recommend MaxiGro, which you can get on Amazon.
  • Snip a small amount off the bottom of the stem a couple of times during the winter so the stem will be able to absorb plenty of water. Make the cut at an angle to increase the surface space of the cut.

If you follow the tips in this article, you’re sure to have success growing basil in water. Enjoy your fresh basil!

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2 Comments

  1. Hi,

    I have never been able to successfully grow basil…even in aerogarden 🙁

    I want to try again but this time, I just want to use the Amber mason jar I have. I would change the water every 3 days and use a few clipping from the grocery store plants they sell in the produce department. I noticed you mentioned feeding the basil once a month. Would the aerogarden liquid food work, and if so, how many drops would I use in a 32oz jar? Also, if I’m changing the water every 3 days, I will be dumping out the water with food in it. Will 3 days with the food be enough? Sorry for all the questions, I’m just hoping to finally be successful. Thanks for your help in advance.

    1. Hi Cathy,

      Thanks so much for your comment. I’m sorry to hear about your trouble with growing basil, even in an AeroGarden. Did the seeds not germinate, or what type of problem did you have with it? I actually have an AeroGarden full of basil right now that I harvest a bit from every day. I’ll hopefully publish that article fairly soon, so stay tuned.

      But with the mason jar method, if you’re starting with a cutting, you just need to change the water every few days until the roots start growing, which may take a few weeks. You do need to use nutrients during that time. Once the roots start growing, you don’t need to change the water as often – just when it starts to get low.

      I think AeroGarden nutrients work well for anything hydroponic. What I do to know how much nutrients to use is go by how much I would put in an AeroGarden. For instance, in an AeroGarden Sprout, you put in 5 cups of water, and 1 of the capfuls of food from the small bottle of nutrients. So I mix up 5 cups of water/nutrient mix at a time, and put a capful of nutrients in the water. You won’t need all of the water at a time, so put the extra water in a sealed jar in a cabinet so the light doesn’t get to it. You can then use it the next time you need to change/add water. If you don’t have a place to put the extra water, then use a half a capful of nutrients, just eyeballing it.

      BTW, I’ve just started to use amber colored mason jars myself. I’m experimenting with growing lettuce in one right now and will probably do more later once I see how it works. I like them because they block out enough light so algae shouldn’t be a problem, but you can see the water level, the roots, etc. which makes it nice!

      I hope this helps!

      Rebecca

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