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How to Grow Basil | Complete Grow & Care Guide

Basil is a fast-growing herb that originates from southern Asia and the islands of the South Pacific. The sweet-scented, aromatic flavors make the herb a popular addition to Italian and Mediterranean cuisine and many other modern dishes nowadays.

Whether you’re looking at growing basil in a pot or your balcony garden, here is your complete guide on how to grow basil.

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How to Grow Basil Complete Grow and Care Guide

Popular Types of Basil

how to grow basil

Sweet Basil 

Also known as Ocimum basilicum, sweet basil can give you the best feeling on Earth once you picked it directly from the plant, and then cook it right away.

This is the most common variety of basil widely used in pesto’s, salads, pasta and many more staple dishes worldwide. This will most likely be the variation you find at your local grocery store. It is usually a mild green in color and cup-shaped. 

Thai Sweet Basil 

Darker and smaller than sweet basil, Thai sweet basil offers hints of licorice profiles that keep even after cooking. This type of basil is popular in Asian dishes.

Purple Basil 

Used commonly in oils and kinds of vinegar. Purple basil presents pronounced purple hues and a more bitter flavor profile. It can also look gorgeous on a salad as accents to the garnish.

Lemon Basil 

Growing in popularity, lemon basil is an excellent alternative for your fish and poultry-based dishes. 

Spicy Globe Basil 

Another cultivar of basil that grows as a compact, tidy bush with much smaller leaves. Offering a more peppery and sharp taste, spicy globe basil is also great as a garnish for fish dishes and salads.

Cinnamon Basil 

Wonderfully flavorful and spicy, cinnamon basil is a delightful alternative for grilled veggies, Asian dishes and fruit-based dishes.

Complete Guide on How to Grow Basil 

How to Grow Basil from Seed

how to grow basil from seed

Basil can take as little as 4 to 6 weeks to harvest from seed. Therefore, basil is an excellent choice for beginner gardeners. Before we look at how to grow basil, here are a few factors to consider before propagation and planting:

  • Be sure to wait at least 2 to 3 weeks after the last frost when your soil is between 50° to 70° F. You can also plant basil in Summer. Essentially the warmer, the better.
  • Basil can be planted as an indoor plant in a pot or garden outdoors, as long as the conditions remain somewhat similar throughout the process. Basil requires primarily sun for about 6 to 8 hours per day.
  • Basil can also be grown by root propagation. Cut a small section off an existing plant side-down. Place the cutting in a clear glass of water in a sunny location.

    Change the water every few days, and once you see the root has grown about 2 inches, the basil is primed for planting. 
  • If you intend on growing basil in a pot, be sure to try using a larger pot as the sun won’t dry the soil out as quickly, meaning you can water the basil less and reduce the risk of the ground being too dry for growth. 
  • Your soil should be rich in nutrients, moist and have a balanced pH level. How to grow basil successfully starts with optimal soil. You can add nutrients to your ground by using composts, mulches, or granular fertilizers.
  • Should you intend on planting multiple basil plants, space them around 12 to 18 inches apart, making sure they each receive enough sun and wind.
  • Be sure to check and water your basil regularly, especially in the hotter months. 

How to Grow Basil in a Pot

how to plant basil

Choosing the Right Basil Growing Container

Choosing the right container is an important thing to consider if you want to know how to grow basil in a pot.

Every container will surely work out such as laundry basket, kiddie pool, and much more. But, you should know that basil demands space to let the air circulate the herbs. Avoid from drying it out completely through using big containers.

Also, you may put them a little bit closer than the advised distance, 12 to 18 inches apart. Maintaining airflow between the herbs is essential since basil is vulnerable to fungus.

Utilize a high-quality of potting soil and ensure that your pot has lots of drainages. This herb does not like too much moisture, so you’d better keep the soil moist, not mushy.

Put together your starting containers and add a slightly moist seed starter mix to about an inch from the top of your container. 

Doing this by hand is recommended for smaller containers. Add a few seeds to the middle of your pot. Adding backup seeds is crucial as not every seed can germinate successfully. 

You can choose the best plant later in the process. Cover the seeds with your mix and preferably spray a light mist of water to moisten the soil gently. 

Maintain your humidity by using specialized containers or a wide pot or pan with plastic wrap as a DIY alternative.

Look for the Right Spot for Your Basil

In order to survive, basil requires a warm and sunny place. It needs 6 to 8 hours of direct light from the sun. However, if you’re living in hot places, you may desire to provide your herb some afternoon shade.

Moreover, you don’t have to rush to put it out during springtime as it requires fairly warm air and soil. You may use HPS bulbs during this season, especially if you’re worried about your herbs getting an insufficient amount of light.

How to grow basil fruitfully will be influenced by proper humidity control during these tender first steps. Place your containers in a temperate location where the sun frequents often. 

You shouldn’t need to water again until the seeds have germinated. After around 7 to 10 days, you should be able to remove the plastic wrap and prepare to move the plant over to its pot or the garden. 

Be sure to keep the soil moist after removing the plastic. Once proper leaves have started to develop, choose the best seedlings for your base and move them over to your pots using the same method you would if you were planting in your garden.

If you wish to grow basil in your garden, make sure the seedlings are ready by slowly introducing them to harsher conditions. Try placing them in pots first or placing them in sheltered places in your garden for periods during the day, then move them inside overnight.

Transferring Your Basil from a Pot into the Garden

Transferring Your Basil from a Pot into the Garden

When temperatures reach a consistent 70°, you can move your basil plant over to your herb, flower or vegetable garden. The location has to get a lot of sunlight.

Basil thrives most with a good amount of warm morning sun and lighter shade during the midday heat peaks. Your garden bed should be at least 8 inches deep, and the soil therein should be rich in organic nutrients and have good draining. 

Using mulches and other organic materials can help. Dig a hole in your desired location and place the basil seedlings so that the root ball is level with the soil. 

Use your hands to gently cover the base slightly and adequately compact the ground with your fingers. Water the basil plants and add about 1 to 2 inches of mulch to ensure moisture conservation and reduce competitor weeds.

Quick Tips on How to Care for Basil Plant

how to care for basil plant

It’s one thing to know how to grow basil, but it is also essential to understand how to care for and maintain the plants for longevity and regular harvests.

As implied above, this herbal plant is too picky when it comes to water. It doesn’t thrive in areas which are too wet or too dry.

To determine whether you need to add water to the container or not, place your finger into the soil. When you feel any dry soil, then that’s the time you’ll need to get out your garden hose or watering can to add some water.

Please don’t use high-pressure tools like a pressure washer when watering the basil; however, you can use an electric pressure washer to clean big planters and plant containers instead.

Here are our top care tips:

  • It may seem obvious, but regular watering is very important for basil. We recommend about 1 inch of water per week per plant.

    Basil in smaller containers or pots will need more frequent watering. Water your basil in the morning to prevent frost accumulation overnight
  • Basil does not need a lot of fertilizer. Use only small amounts of light liquid fertilizer in your garden or your potted basil.
  • Harvest regularly and pick at the leaves when full to encourage growth and a fuller, more bushy plant overall.
  • Remove any flowers that might grow from the basil as soon as you notice them, as they will reduce the potency of the flavors of your basil. 

How to Harvest Basil Plant

how to harvest basil

Basil is pretty straightforward in that you can pick at the leaves that are ready as and when you need them. Even if you don’t need them, regularly harvest your basil leaves to ensure a continuous growth stimulus. 

To raise a bushy basil plant, it is significant to pinch the herb back more often. Begin pinching it right from the time that it is already 4 inches tall. Take off the top leaves.

Remember, it will be much better if you harvest this herb before it bears flowers. Indeed, a nice trick to learn, especially if you’re determined to master the procedure on growing basil in a pot.

In storing basil, you can create a ton of pesto which you can freeze in food containers. In addition to that, you can create slurry through blending basil along with some olive oil.

With that, you could create them into ice cubes and add them to stews, soups, or fish. Look at pruning your basil about every four weeks for the best flavor. 

Check out our Best Pruning Shears Review for 2021.

Simply snip the stem above where the large leaves meet, rinse and enjoy! 

Problems, Pests & Diseases

  • Fusarium Wilt – A common disease in sweet basil variants. Symptoms include stunted growth, yellowing leaves or browning spots on the leaves, twisted stems of irregular leaf dropping.

    Unfortunately, there is no guaranteed way to deal with Fusarium Wilt. Destroy affected plants and avoid planting in that area for a couple of seasons.
  • Mildew - If you notice your basil plants starting to develop a fuzzy, grey growth beneath the leaves, your plants could be suffering from Downy Mildew.

    To combat this, reduce your watering and try to improve air circulation for your affected plants.
  • Slugs, Aphids, and other Pests – Using insecticidal soaps and other well-known soapy home remedies can help with these common pests. Spray affected plants regularly to help with pest control.
  • Other common risks include root rot or mineral deficiencies.

How to Grow Basil - In Summary

  • Basil plants are easy enough to grow and can be harvested regularly.
  • They are adaptable for both indoor and outdoor environments.
  • A variety of basil plants can each add their respective flavor profiles and benefits to your dishes.
  • Conditions to grow basil are primarily flexible, and the plants themselves don’t require too much fuss and maintenance. 

Looking for other plants to add aroma to your garden? Check out our complete Agastache growing and care guide

Wrapping Up Our How to Grow Basil Guide

With these tips on how to grow basil, you can certainly raise healthy and green Basil leaves. Gone are the days when you still need to run to the supermarket just to buy something to sprinkle over your Caprese salad, Bloody Mary’s, or Thai soups.

Established basil plants are more cost-efficient than those packed basil in stores. Therefore, stop buying these packages with the label "fresh basil" and start planting your own basil plant at home!

Be sure to get creative with your dishes and look for some fantastic, fresh recipes to compliment your crisp basil. Whether you’re looking at how to grow basil in your garden or indoors, we hope you can go confidently into your grow and yield flavorful basil leaves soon. 

About the Author Mabel Vasquez

Mabel has enjoyed a long career as a horticulturist, working in nurseries and greenhouses for many years. Although she loves all plants, Mabel has developed a particular passion over the years for herb gardens and indoor plants. Mabel has since retired from her horticulture career and loves sharing her many years of experience with our audience here at Sumo Gardener.

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