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Same guy, same wife, different basil plant, new problem.

So, I managed to convince my wife that, when removing leaves from the basil plant for use in cooking, she shouldn't remove more than half of the leaves. Well, first, she removed all of the leaves from one, claiming that she thought they all had the same roots. Now, she's removed all of the bottom leaves (since they were the larger ones), leaving a long spindly stalk with just leaves at the top. I have a gut feeling that the plant's probably wasting resources on the three inches of stem before it gets to the leaves. Can I break it off just below the leaves and repot it? Or am I better off just hoping that some leaves will regrow at the bottom (which, so far, they have not despite it being a few weeks since the incident).

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Cut down half the stems to about half an inch from the top of the soil. If you get lots of new growth, then cut the rest of the lanky stems, but it sounds as if you need several basil plants in order for your wife to collect sufficient leaves for culinary use from different plants rather than practically stripping one.... Whether it needs repotting or not I don't know - if it looks root bound, then do, if it isn't, don't. Were it my plant, I'd risk cutting back all the stems, and replace if it didn't work, but its safer to do it half and half...

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Basil roots very easily. I would cut all the stems down to above their first or second joint and hope for the best. It might put out new growth. It might also be a lost cause.

Take all the cut stems and put them in a jar with water. Normally I strip the bottom leaves but you've already got that done for you! Keep the water level up and the cuttings should root in a week or two. When the roots are about 1" long you can pot them. Just don't let your wife take any more leaves until the plant is potted and established as that will stress the plants.

When the basil is growing again you want to pinch it back regularly. The smaller/younger leaves have more flavor. Wherever you pinch back, the highest leaf node / joint will split into two more stems so keeping it regularly pinched back will give a better yield.

Generally you want to leave the bigger leaves alone. Not only are they not as flavorful as the newer leaves but they will be the leaves that take in the sun and keep your plant going as it gets pinched back.

I also recommend getting more basil plants. Your wife seems to need more than one plant for her cooking. If you keep propagating more plants you will eventually have enough but you'll have to protect them from her in the mean time.

  • Just wanted to follow up that I was lazy and never got around to repotting it, but the upper growth has continued although the bottom stem never did (and has stayed fairly yellow). Not wanting to mess with a good thing, I've been letting it continue to grow. – Sean Duggan Aug 21 '16 at 18:09

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