Tips for Growing Basil from the Supermarket (Plants for Free!)
Keep pots of basil alive by planting the strongest plants into their own pots. Growing basil from the supermarket is easy and by splitting them you’ll have dozens of plants that will thrive all year long.
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I’m going to let you in on a little secret. The pots of herbs that you find at the supermarket are designed to die. It wasn’t over or under watering that did it! Basil, coriander, and even the thyme aren’t meant to last more than a couple of weeks. It’s because each pot is seeded with dozens of plants rather than just one. There’s no space in that tiny pot for dozens of plants to live so they run out of nutrients and die.
There’s also another secret that I want to share with you. It’s easy to beat the system and keep supermarket basil alive. All you need to do is separate out the strongest plants, pot them on individually, and grow them on. I’m going to show you how.
Can you grow supermarket basil?
Live herb plants from the supermarket start their lives in very controlled conditions. Everything about their early life is monitored, from humidity to temperature, moisture, and nutrients. It’s a commercial greenhouse method that produces lush green growth and supermarket standards but not hardiness. The poor little plants grow in such dense plantings that the compost can’t sustain life for long.
It’s not too late to save your basil though. If you separate out the best plants and grow them on you’ll have fresh basil all throughout the growing months. I’ve grown my basil this way for years and even some of the saddest looking plants rebound.
The Secret to Growing Supermarket Basil
Use these instructions for growing basil from the supermarket for fresh basil all summer long. The DIY involves dividing supermarket basil into individual plants and growing them in their own pots.
- 1 pot of basil from the supermarket
- Organic potting mix suitable for vegetables
- Small individual pots – toilet paper rolls are perfect
- A warm window sill, greenhouse, or conservatory
Step 1: Rip the Supermarket Basil Plant in Two
The full DIY video for this gardening tip is above. Begin by taking the basil out of the pot and gently pulling 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 minimize damage. Also, try your hardest to not damage the stems of your plants. When you’re separating the plants try to handle the compost and roots and not the plants themselves.
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 of the young plants are bigger and stronger than others. These are the ones that you ideally want to grow on individually. Gently pull and tease these larger plants out and use the smaller ones for your next meal. Take each decent basil plant and tuck it up into its own pot. Make sure that it’s not planted any deeper in the compost than it was in the original pot.
Step 3: Pinch out the Growing Tips
Once all of your plants are potted up, pinch out the growing tips. This means removing the top of the plant down to just above the last leaf node. That’s a place on the stem where leaves are growing from. This exercise is meant to remove all but a few leaves from the plant. Removing them will make the plant focus energy on developing a good root system. The best part of this step is that you can use all of those growing tips to make a nice pesto that very day. It also encourages a stronger and bushier plant.
Step 4: Water the plants well
Now place the plants in a warm conservatory, window sill, or greenhouse and keep them well watered. Basil doesn’t like the cold or too dry so make sure to keep them cozy. Recovery time took twenty days from the day I potted them up to the day I started hardening them off. Hardening off involves setting the plants outside during the day and then taking them back indoors at night. After a few weeks of this, your plants should be accustomed to the outside temperature. This is an important step before planting them outside.
That’s pretty much it as far as growing basil from the supermarket. Just keep your plants keep it in full sun with moist roots. The more you pick those growing tips the more the plant will produce. Just one of these supermarket plants should keep you in basil for the rest of the summer. Not bad for a £1.25 investment. Watch the video below to see how it’s done. The volume is a little low on this video so turn up your dial to hear what’s going on.
More Herb Growing Inspiration
- Tips for Growing Coriander from the Supermarket
- How to Propagate Rosemary from Cuttings
- Thrifty Ways to Get Plants for Free
Wonderful stuff. I’m potting in today first time. When sales drop in the supermarkets, will the price follow, or will they start selling single larger healthier plants at £1.25? I’d they do, I suggest everyone buy seeds and DIY.
Thank you so much for this information!
I have a specific question: are there any additional steps I should take as I am in the SW desert area in the US?
I’d suggest growing your basil in autumn to spring to avoid most of the heat. Keep them well-watered, out of scorching sunlight and they should grow just fine :)
Hi. I’ve separated my plant, but it wasn’t very healthy so hoping for good results. My question is, do you feed the plant or just water it?
If you’re using fresh potting mix (bagged compost) then you don’t need to add any additional feed in the first year. Basil is a perennial if kept indoors and will benefit from a dressing of fresh compost the second year, and every year after. If you can get your hands on organic house-plant food, it would be a good option too.
Hi, so I wanted to split my supermarket coriander plant and I followed the same method which you did for the basil, will this be ok? Should I do the same phase of keeping indoors for 20 days and then hardening, or can my coriander just go straight outdoors? What should I do with coriander in the winter? Thanks!
You can try but coriander goes to seed with any amount of stress sent its way. It’s quicker and easier to just grow it from seed. Use this method for supermarket parsley, basil, mint, and thyme though.
Corriander or cilantro does better in cooler weather. We are high desert here in CA and the frost does not effect them. The hot weather makes them want to bolt or go to seed. They are not really meant for long term.
Thanks so much, I’m trying this today. I was wondering do you carry on pinching off the small leaves as they grow?
I let them grow on to full size after the first pruning and planting :)
How often should the basil be watered once all these steps are completed? Also, can the basil thrive if kept indoors and I never harden them off?
Works really well for supermarket parsley too. I tried it 2 years ago and have had parsley plants popping up all over my veggie plot since. The gift that keeps on giving. ?
Thank you, thank you, thank you. So much valuable information on what I did wrong. Try, try again. Wish for me a better new year.
Try again Claire :)
I love this idea so much! I always buy supermarket basil for cooking but I’m always sad that it never lasts. I’m definitely going to try dividing up the plant. Thank you!
Tanya, what beautiful stuff you do! Thanksmuch. One day am going to land up in IoM and look up your farm.
This is a great idea, Tanja, I will be trying it!
Thanks for all your work on this blog as well as your soap and cosmetics work!
Karen in France