Q. My winter basil cuttings die when I transfer them from water to soil. Why?
Propagation of basil (Ocimum basilicum) from cuttings in water is the easy part. Giving basil what it needs during winter is not so simple. For optimal growth, basil requires full sun about 6 hours of bright light a day, along with warm temperatures. During the low light of winter in the Northeast, supplemental lighting is necessary. Place fluorescent tubes about 6-8 inches directly above the plants. As the plants grow you will have to raise the light higher. Supplemental light is not as strong as bright sunlight, and so a longer period of light is required; some references call for 12 hours a day, others recommend 14-16.
When growing plants from cuttings, make sure to change out the water daily or every other day to keep the water clean and plants healthy. Roots from cuttings usually start in about 8 days; in two weeks the plant should be ready for transplanting into potting soil.
When transplanting, trim plants to about 6 inches, then plant into 4-inch pots, using fresh potting mixture that is well-drained. Once the cuttings are transplanted and growing well, don't overwater.
Indoor seedlings need good air circulation and ventilation; a small fan will create a gentle breeze in the room. The breeze makes young plants stronger, and stockier.
If you need more information on supplemental light setup for growing indoor plants email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more about basil and tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Libguides.
For tips on a variety of gardening topics, see our Plant Information Guides.
- Courtesy of NYBG Plant Information Service