Are your basil starts outgrowing their seed starting pots? Then it’s time to transplant your basil seedlings into larger containers so they have enough room to grow on to their full potential.
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Why We Transplant Basil Seedlings
When you grow basil from seed, a common practice is to plant several seeds in each container. We do this for several reasons:
- To save room during the germination process.
- We may not know the germination rate of the seed
- As a safety net in case some seeds don’t sprout
- The basil seeds are tiny! It’s easy to accidentally drop a few extra seeds into your seed starting containers.
But regardless of the reason, quite often you will end up with multiple seedlings per pot.
There are two ways to deal with this:
- Pinch off the smaller seedlings and keep only the healthiest one.
- Separate the seedlings and transplant them into their own individual pots.
In this article, we show you both methods. Watch the video or scroll down to the instructions below.
Video: Separate Basil Seedlings Into Larger Pots
Watch as we separate two small basil seedlings and transplant them into larger pots so they will grow into bigger and healthier individual plants.
In this video, we first take a look at our tiny basil plant to make sure it is ready to be divided. Then we’ll remove both methods to repot the young seedlings.
How Do You Know When It’s Time Repot Seedlings?
I look for two main criteria.
- The basil has at least 2 true leaves.
- The roots are touching the bottom of the pot.
Note these are not hard and fast rules. Generally, I want to ensure the individual seedlings are strong enough to handle the transplant process. You can certainly divide up your seedlings earlier than this, just be mindful of their delicate state and be prepared if you lose a few along the way.
Method 1: Remove the Smallest Seedlings
This is the easier method of the two. Use your fingernails or small scissors to cut the smaller stems off at the soil line.
Then continue to grow the seedlings a little while longer in the remaining pot. The seedlings you pinched off will die & no longer compete for water or nutrients. In fact, they can further enrich the soil with organic matter.
Method 2: Separate the Seedlings
In this method, we will separate the root systems of the seedlings and move them each to a separate container. The goal is to separate the plants while not damaging their roots.
- Gently tap out the pot (with the seedlings and soil) into your hand or the table.
- Hold each seedling loosely by the leaves and pull them apart.
- If they don’t immediately separate, use a toothpick to untangle the roots.
The more you can keep the roots intact, the better chance you will have that they will make the transition. But don’t worry if you break off a few of the smaller roots. The younger plants are fairly resilient.
Transplant the Remaining Basil Seedlings Into Larger Containers
When you are growing herbs from seed, you will often want to transplant the young plants once or twice before they are ready for their final container or into the ground outside. As a general rule, select a pot that is at least twice the size of the root system.
Here are the general instructions to transplant a young seedling to a new container.
- Premoisten some potting mix so it is damp all the way through.
- Add a little soil to the bottom of the new container. About one inch is typcially good (or 1/3 of the pot).
- Place the separated seedling inside.
- Add soil around the roots while holding the seedling in place by its leaves. Fill the soil to the same level along the stem it was in the previous pot.
- Continue adding soil until the seedling is secure and sitting at the desired height. The soil should be about an inch from the top.
- Tap the container to help the soil settle in around the root system and remove any air pockets.
- Water it in to make sure you have good root to soil contact.
That’s it! Now your young basil seedlings are ready to go under lights and will have plenty of room to grow strong and healthy root systems!