I love free plants
Cutting Back Perennials

More Free Plants

Last year I tried to start African blue basil from stem cuttings in cutting mix and got only one small plant from all of my efforts. This year I put some stems with flowers in water to make a nice, subtle spray of lavender spikes, and left them in the vase for almost 2 weeks. By this time they were sort of bloomed out, so I was about to dump them. But I noticed that the leaves were still not wilting. Hm. Removed them from the water to find most of them were rooting!

Rooting in water usually isn't the best idea, 'cause when you take the cutting out of the water, the new roots tend to clump together. Better if you can root in some kind of rooting medium, like perlite with a little bit of peat moss mixed in, or even potting mix, so the roots can get kind of distributed through the medium. But water it was, so I have potted up 6 rooted cuttings. First I clipped out all of the flowering stems, then I set the cuttings in individual 2" diameter plastic pots, separating the roots as much as I could. Then I set the pots in a small styrofoam tray and covered them with a clear plastic bag. I kept the setup out of the sun.

After 2 days, I have uncovered the plants and 5 of the 6 are OK. The 6th is wilting, and probably won't make it.

The African blue basil parent plant in my community garden is blooming exuberantly and is about 3 feet tall and across. I am suddenly overwhelmed with basil. After years of struggling to grow the stuff, I could now make pesto twice a week if I wanted to. An amazing plant!

In any case, I now have 5 new free plants to plant at the City College garden, where the cold, windy microclimate will probably keep them much smaller, but still bigger than any other basil would be there.

If you would like to read my last summer's SF Chronicle article on African blue basil, you can do so at: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2005/07/23/HOG7FDQRSK1.DTL&hw=African+blue+basil&sn=001&sc=1000


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Well, neither am I, but you can't argue with success. Next step is to get some cuttings and put them in the mist room at the college, others in a home cutting system, and others in water, and see which win.


I stumbled across your blog while I was doing some online research. I'm not a big fan of rooting in water myself; I've never gotten particularly good results as opposed to using a rooting medium.


Dear Woody,

African blue basil is Ocimum kilimandscharicum x Ocimium basilicum 'Dark Opal'. It is an accidental hybrid between the two. The first is an African perennial shrubby basil that has a strong camphor component to its scent. The second is an ordinary annual basil with purple leaves. The result is a tender perennial plant that can become quite huge in warm, sunny places, and is even worth growing in foggy locations. Please click on the link in the post to read the entire story I wrote about it for the Chronicle.

woody katz

Great story! Exactly what is the botanical name for the African basil? Thanks.

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