How to Grow Grocery Store Basil
Dozens of new Basil plants for cheap
Dividing a pot of supermarket Basil can give you dozens of new, healthy plants.
There are a few ways to grow Basil but sometimes sowing seed or taking cuttings can for some be more work than its worth. Especially when you can buy a brand new Basil plant every time you go to the supermarket for as low as £1.25. That’s actually less than a packet of seeds and a lot more convenient.
I was pondering all of this while standing in the herb section of my local grocery store. So many people buy those little pots of basil and left in the container they can even regrow a bit before having to be replaced. Even so, they don’t last very long but what if the plants inside could be divided and grown on individually? Would they survive? Would they be strong? Would it be easy? I’m delighted to say that the answer to these questions is yes!
Can you actually grow supermarket herbs?
Live herbs purchased from grocery stores are grown in very controlled conditions and are monitored from seed to shopping trolley to ensure optimum growth. Basically, they’re used to the good life but are grown in such dense plantings that the compost can’t sustain life for long.
My philosophy with plants is that even if one is sickly or grown in an unusual way that it still wants to live. That’s what living things do…LIVE. So I took a pot of Basil from the herb section shelf, handed over a few coins and then took it home to divide. I didn’t know if they’d survive or not but I could hear those strong young plants begging for more root space so I thought I’d at least try.
How to Split Supermarket Basil into Individual Plants
1 pot of Basil purchased from the shop
Rich potting compost – multipurpose will work
Small individual pots – toilet paper rolls are perfect
A warm window sill, greenhouse, or conservatory
Step 1: Rip the Basil in Two
Take the Basil out of the pot and gently pull the compost/root-ball into two pieces. I say gently but in reality you’re going to have to rip through some roots. Using a slow but firm action in this step helps minimise damage. Also try your hardest to not damage the stems of your plants.
Step 2: Plant up the Healthiest
Take up one half and have a look at the cross-section of plants. You’ll see that some plants are bigger and stronger than others and these are the ones that you want to target. Gently pull and tease these larger plants out not worrying as much about the smaller ones. Take each decent Basil plant and tuck it up into its own pot, ensuring that it’s not planted any deeper in the compost than it was in the original pot.
I actually planted some of the weaker ones in communal pots to see if they’d grow too. They did but are smaller than their siblings. Even so, they’re healthy and growing beautiful green leaves.
Step 3: Pinch out the Growing Tips
Once all of your plants are potted up, pinch out the growing tips. This means to remove the top of the plant down to where you see the last leaf node coming out of the stem (this is just above where the two seed leaves may still be on each plant – see above photo).
Removing the top of the plant will give the plant the opportunity to focus energy on developing a good root system rather than trying to support all of those luxurious leaves. The best part of this step is that you can use all of those growing tips to make a nice pesto that very day.
Step 4: Water your plants well
Then place them in a warm conservatory, window sill, or greenhouse and keep them well watered. Basil does not like the cold so choose the warmest room in your home if you don’t have access to a greenhouse. Recovery time took 20 days from the day they were potted up to the day I started hardening them off. ‘Hardening off’ involves setting the plants outside in the day and then taking them back indoors at night. After a week of this, your plants should be accustomed to the outside temperature and can survive growing in the garden.
And that’s pretty much it as far as growing on the plants on to this stage. Aftercare of Basil in the garden is to keep it in full sun with moist roots and the more you pick those growing tips the more it will produce. Just one of these supermarket plants should keep you in basil for the rest of the summer and that’s not bad for a £1.25 investment!