Growing Thai Basil from Supermarket Cuttings

Do you love Thai Basil? Me too. I love the stuff. But basil can be a bit of a struggle to grow from seed. And even when it isn't, it takes longer than this method does ! Try Growing Thai Basil from supermarket cuttings - the quick and easy way.

Is Thai Basil different from Sweet Basil?

Yes they are different, and they do look and taste different. Thai Basil has slender leaves with purple stems and its flowers are purple. Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum), which is more well-known, has more delicate leaves and pale green stems. It tends to be associated with Italian cuisine. Thai basil (basilicum var. thyrsiflora) is a varietal of Sweet Basil and it tastes quite different. More associated with Vietnamese cooker, Thai Basil has a slightly spicy flavour which is reminiscent of liquorice, which may be why it's sometimes known as liquorice or anise basil. 

Growing Thai Basil from supermarket

Why grow from cuttings rather than from seed?

In reality I do both. However the first year I did this, it was because I'd forgotten to sow my seeds in Spring. So I bought a pack of Thai Basil from the supermarket and stuck it in water. How much quicker this is! The stems start to root within a couple of weeks usually. So if you do this at the beginning of Spring you start with a larger plants at the beginning of the season rather than tiny seedlings. 

It is always cheaper to grow herbs from seed and Thai Basil Seeds are widely available. Growing both ways means you have lots of Thai Basil to enjoy. Growing from seed also means that you know the variety of basil you are growing, like Siam Queen or Horapha Nanum, whereas when you buy cut Thai Basil you're guessing which particular variety it is. If you do grow from seed, make sure you start the seeds in a quality seedling mix to avoid rotting seeds and other problems.

Growing Thai BasilGrowing from a bunch of supermarket Thai Basil is still cheaper than buying the plants. In a typical bunch of basil you'd expect to get at least 12 stems which could potentially turn into 12 new plants.

Improving your Chances of Success

There are a few things you can do to ensure your propagation is successful. If you are buying Thai Basil in the supermarket, it will have a 'best before' date on it. Buy the freshest you can. I have successfully grown it from an outdated pack reduced to 10p, however the success rate of the stems was far lower than with a fresh pack.

When you get the stems home, pinch out the flowers and take off the lower leaves, just leaving the top ones. If any of the stems look a bit wilted and sad, I take those out too. This is all lovely in a salad later, so nothing is wasted.

Growing Thai Basil from Supermarket Cuttings

1. Bring home your fresh Thai Basil. As soon as you get it home, pinch out the flowers, remove the lower leaves, discard any that don't look good at this stage and pop the rest in a jar of water.

2. Put the jar in a light place, like a windowsill. 

3. Change the water each day. If you notice some stems that are obviously not going to make it in the coming days, remove them so they don't start rotting in the water.

4. Within a week to 10 days you should start seeing tiny roots appearing on the stems.

Rooting Thai Basil

5. When the roots are large enough to plant, maybe 3 weeks from when you originally put the stems in water or maybe longer, remove them from the water.

6. You now have 2 choices. You can either grow them on by popping them directly into a pot with potting soil, or you can carry on growing them in water hydroponically. If you do the latter, I pop some Clay Pebbles into the pot to protect the roots and encourage them to develop, then feed them with a Hydronic Nutrients Solution.

Thai basil potted on

7. Within a few more days you will start to see small leaves developing. Then you simply grow on more until they're big enough to harvest. Fabulous!

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