How to grow Basil

Ocimum basilicum

To produce high quality basil, grow it in full sun in warm, well-drained soil.
Pinch or cut the leaves off as required, but always from the top. When the plants begin to produce flowers, pinch those out as soon as possible to encourage more leafy growth. Thin to strongest plants.
If growing Basil in containers or indoor pots then add a small amount of fertilizer every month or so.
Water every week (more often if growing in outdoor containers or indoors).
When watering your Basil make sure to water at the base of the plant avoiding showering the leaves and stems.

Basil is an annual and its goal is to flower. If you let it, it will cease leaf production. It is best to cut the entire plant back by half from the top when it is mature and starting to form buds to encourage is to grow more leaves—merely pinching the tips will cause it to simply try and grow more flowering branches.

Growing Basil from seed

Cover with finely sieved compost. Can be planted indoors.

Sow at a depth of approx. 0.12 inches (0.3 cm) and aim for a distance of at least 0.5 inches (1.27 cm) between Basil plants. For optimal germination, soil temperature should be a minimum of 15°C / 59°F.

By our calculations*, you should look at sowing Basil about 20 days before your last frost date .

Transplanting Basil

Most basils are tender annuals which are easy to grow, but are very susceptible to cold weather. They should be planted in late spring after all danger of frost is past, soil temperature is warm, and nighttime temperatures are above 15 C or 60 F. Can be grown in containers in full sun. Temperatures below 8 C or 45 F can kill the plants.

There are a very few perennial types of basil types: African Blue basil (O. kilimandscharicum × basilicum) a sterile hybrid, and Thai holy basil (o. Sanctum, O. tenuiflorum) are two popular types of perennial basil

Basil is tender, so ensure you wait until all danger of frost has passed in your area before considering planting outside - as a guideline, the minimum temperature outside should be approximately 15°C / 59°F.

By our calculations*, you should look at planting out Basil about 40 days after your last frost date.

Harvesting Basil

To preserve basil, you can either dry or freeze it.

Air drying Basil
To dry basil without a dehydrating machine, simply hang upside-down in small bunches in a cool, dark place. check that they are ready by crumbling a little in your fingers – if ready put into small airtight jars to keep until use.

Freezing Basil:
Pack ice cube trays with basil leaves and then cover with hot water (the hot water should blanch the basil quickly and keep the colour nice and green). Place in the freezer for at least 24 hours, then place in freezer bags and store to defrost when required.
Alternatively, blend basil leaves in a food processor with oil to a smooth paste consistency, then pour into ice cube trays. After 24 hours, remove from the trays and place into freezer bags and store frozen until required.

After the seedlings have their first six leaves, prune to above the second set.

Every time a branch has six to eight leaves, repeat pruning the branches back to their first set of leaves. The best time to harvest is right when the plant starts to bud (before the flowers bloom). Basil is most pungent when it is fresh.3

Seed Saving Basil

Basil does self-pollinate, although cross-pollination with other basil plants via insects will typically produce stronger offspring. If you are pinching basil flowers off, by mid-August allow some plants to go to flower. Harvest the seed when the flower stalk is dry.

How long does Basil take to grow?

These estimates for how long Basil takes to sprout, grow and harvest are from real observations from real gardeners, right around the world.

Days to Germination How long does it take Basil to germinate?
7 days

Average 7 days | Min 1 days | Max 19 days (1476)

Days to Transplant How long until I can plant out Basil?
+ 41 days

Average 41 days | Min 1 days | Max 111 days (388)

Days to Maturity How long until Basil is ready for harvest / bloom?
+ 79 days

Average 79 days | Min 1 days | Max 228 days (532)

Total Growing Days How long does it take to grow Basil?
= 127 days

When should I plant Basil?

Our when to plant Basil estimates are relative to your last frost date.

When to sow The number of days to sow Basil before or after your last frost date.
20 days before Last Frost Date
When to plant out The number of days to plant out Basil before or after your last frost date.
40 days after Last Frost Date

Basil Etymology

The word basil means “king” in Greek – it is believed to have grown above the spot where St. Constantine and Helen discovered the Holy Cross.

Believed to be an abbreviation of Basilikon phuton, Greek for “kingly herb”

Basil Folklore & Trivia

Jewish folklore says that basil adds strength while fasting.
The Oxford English Dictionary quotes speculations that basil may have been used in “some royal unguent, bath, or medicine”.

Said to promote peace and harmony between lovers. A container of basil placed outside a woman’s window is said to attract courtship.

put a pot of basil on the balcony as a tacit sign that you are ready to receive a suitor 1

Whoever has a better vocabulary of cuss words let him/her plant the basil…because it will only grow if cussed out properly1

In Ethiopia, it’s grown as a culinary herb and is also used to treat stomach upset, colic, scabies, coughs, asthma, irritated and inflamed bowel conditions, arthritis, and menstrual problems.3

Other names for Basil

Sweet Basil, Basilic

Ocimum basilicum L.

Misspellings: Sweet, Sweat, Sweat Basil


1 Old Wives’ Tales, Folklore, Myths and Legends


3 Assessment of the Microbial Effects of Some Ethiopian Aromatic Spice and Herb Hydrosols by Jemal Hussein, Chalachew Teshale, Jemal Mohammed in International Journal of Pharmacology, 2011

4 Smiling Gardener’s chart

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