How to Propagate Herbs in Water: AKA My Kid’s Next Science Project

We had some accidental science going on in the kitchen windowsill last week.  I cut some basil from the garden for a recipe and ended up with too much.  It was gorgeous, and I didn’t want to waste it, so I put it in a cup in the windowsill with some water figuring I’d use it in the next few days.  One of these cups:

And then I ignored it for at least a week.  I’m honestly not sure  if the fact that the stems were down there in the dark of the red cup was advantageous to the experiment, hence, the science project reference–more on that in a minute.  Last night, I pulled it out wondering how it had not died yet, since I hadn’t even given it additional water, and here is what I found:

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Roots!  It grew real, plant-nourishing roots!  I find this important for home gardeners for several reasons:

  • You can have more of what you already have.  You want three basil plants instead of one?  Go ahead and cut a few, get them to root, and plant them!
  • You can bring plants indoors for the winter without having to dig up dirt from your garden and try to transplant a gigantic plant into a container sized appropriately for indoors.
  • It’s FREE!
  • It’s a fast way to get a plant you already know you like.  Unless, you are out of red cups and have to go to Costco (this might also negate bullet point #3 and make this the most expensive herb you ever bought).
  • It’s EASY!  Make sure your cut is fresh (cut a small part of stem off RIGHT before you put it in the water-this means you’ll likely cut it twice: once outside and once after you bring it in the house to get it in water).  Give it sufficient water, and you’re all set!

A little internet research will divulge that this works with many plants, especially herbs.  So, considering that it’s September and the frost will hit all of us eventually this fall, start thinking about which of your favorite herbs you’d like growing inside this winter.  They’ll be sure to brighten your windowsill and your culinary efforts!

A note on the un-scientific method used here:

I’m planning to convince one of my children to use this as their science fair project this year repeat this little experiment a couple of times changing only one variable per time.  By which I mean that we will pick three or four different herbs from the yard and propagate them all in red cups and then we will make cuttings of those exact same herbs and propagate them in glass jars.  We may also do a third set or a secondary experiment where we add marbles or decorative glass gems because there is some indication in reading about this process that the roots like something down in the bottom of the container to stimulate them.

Here’s the difference a week can make:IMG_0745

The plant on the left was in the red cup for a week and the plant on the right was just cut and placed in water last night.  Happy experimenting!

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