How to grow basil from shop bought to save money all summer long

The best ways to propagate and replant to transform supermarket pots and packets of basil into thriving plants

Basil plant in terracotta style pot
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you're anything like us, learning how to grow basil from shop bought will be a game changer. We've all been there - you buy a little pot of the tasty herb from a supermarket thinking it'll last forever and within a few weeks (if you're lucky), it's stripped of leaves and withering away. And if you've bought a packet? Well, we've all been disappointed in how quickly those turn brown.

Growing basil is not just for those with herb gardens anymore. Like with how to grow ginger from shop bought, we've spoken to the experts to find out how to turn a piddly supermarket pot or packet into something that that'll keep giving and giving.

How to grow basil from shop bought

'Luckily, growing your own herbs doesn’t necessarily mean you have to buy seeds and start from scratch,' says Daniel Carruthers, Grow Your Own Expert, Cultivar Greenhouses

'Propagating your own basil from a packet or small plant bought from the supermarket is simple, fun and rewarding, and it’ll save you money in the future! Basil is a moisture-loving herb, so water propagation is the best approach.' Here's how to do that yourself...

Daniel Carruthers sat at table
Daniel Carruthers

Daniel Carruthers is a passionate gardener and grow-your-own guru whose love of gardening began over a decade ago when he left his career as a London chef to move to the Welsh countryside and begin a new venture in the greenhouse industry. Fast forward to present day, and Daniel now enjoys many hours in his greenhouse nurturing a wide range of fruit, veg and herbs, from crop to the kitchen. Among his favourite fruit and veg to grow and cook are tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers, and asparagus.

How to propagate basil

What you'll need

  • A basil plant or packet- any store bought option will do, like these from Ocado
  • Secateurs - these Amazon ones are highly rated
  • Compost - if you don't have any to hand, this Miracle-Gro will work well
  • Plant pot - ensure you choose ones with draining holes, like these Amazon versions

1. Take your cuttings

Basil leaves in glass bowl on white wooden table

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Like with how to propagate lavender, cuttings are the very first step. 'If you are using a plant, take a cutting two to four inches from a tender stem with three or more nodes (the place where a new leaf will emerge),' explains Daniel.

If you're dealing with a packet of cut basil, don't fret as you should be able to propagate these, too. 'If you’re using a packet, simply strip the leaves from the bottom couple of inches of the stem.'

2. Place in a jar of water

Basil plant with roots growing in jug filled with water

(Image credit: Getty Images)

'Then, all you have to do is place it in a jar with around two inches of clean water, which you should change every few days, and place it on a sunny windowsill for a couple of weeks until roots begin to develop,' says Daniel.

3. Plant in compost

Basil and parsley planted in decorative tins

(Image credit: Future PLC/Colin Poole)

As with how to grow a lemon tree from a seed, the next step is taking the cuttings into a pot. 'Once it has developed a root system, you can plant your basil in fertile compost in a pot with a drainage hole,' says Daniel. 

'Basil will happily live on your kitchen windowsill, or you can gradually acclimatise it to the outdoors by putting it outside on warm, sunny days and bringing it back inside overnight. After a couple of weeks of repeating this process, you can transfer it outside to a sunny, sheltered spot permanently.'

4. Reap the rewards

Basil plant in terracotta style pot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Learning how to grow basil form shop bought really couldn't be easier. That's just about all you have to do before you can sit back and enjoy your crop.

'Harvest regularly to encourage bushy growth by gently pinching off leaves at the stem, and enjoy its beautiful fresh flavour and fragrance,' concludes Daniel.

How to improve your shop bought basil plant

Basil plant in white pot on stone worktop beside wooden cutting board

(Image credit: Future PLC/David Parmiter)

Interior designer Leanne Kilroy recently shared on her Instagram how she turned a standard pot of basil from shop bought into a thriving, healthy herb. So if you're not looking to get into propagating, here's how she transformed a supermarket buy into something much more impressive.

'I've been growing indoor, store-bought basil this way for a few years now,' explains Leanne. 'I discovered it by accident when I stuck my basil pot in a big bowl of water in a desperate attempt to keep it alive while we went away for a week one summer. When we came home, not only had the basil survived, it was thriving!'

'I always repot store-bought basil into a larger pot with more soil (so it has room to grow) and drainage holes on the bottom (so it can drink).'

'Then I stick the pot in a large saucer or bowl of water, and keep that saucer topped up. That's it!'


How do you keep fresh basil alive?

'When it comes to caring for your basil, remember that they are thirsty plants so require plenty of watering, but you should always water basil in the morning, as it hates going to bed with wet feet,' instructs Daniel from Cultivar.

'Never water from above,' adds designer Leanne. 'And when you need to use your basil, do not pluck the leaves off. Cut the stem you want to use just above where a leaf is growing. This will encourage new, bushier growth.'

Finally, know how to take care of pests. 'To get rid of whitefly and other little pests, simply spray with soapy water,' says Leanne.

How long do basil plants last?

How long is a piece of string! But Leanne Kilroy has certainly made her shop bought basil last an awful lot longer than we thought possible.

'If your basil has grown out of its pot, feel free to repot it into an even bigger pot with more soil as it'll just keep growing,' she explains. 'I've found that basil plants have a certain lifespan and I seem to be able to keep mine thriving for about 4 - 5 months or all summer.'

Thea Babington-Stitt
Managing Editor

Thea Babington-Stitt is the Managing Editor for Ideal Home. Thea has been working across some of the UK’s leading interiors titles for around 10 years.

She started working on these magazines and websites after graduating from City University London with a Masters in Magazine Journalism. Before moving to Ideal Home, Thea was News and Features Editor at Homes & Gardens, LivingEtc and Country Homes & Interiors.