Searching how to grow basil? Here, is everything you need to know about basil before growing them.
Basil is a tender perennial herb. It is used to add flavor to various dishes- many people use basil to make Caprese salads, and sprinkle it on pasta, and pizza for taste. Basil has a sweet, spicy, clove-scented flavor.
You may have bought fresh basil from the market, but it will not be as fresh as 2 sec ago hand-picked from your basil plant.
Here, you get everything you need to know about basil – how to grow, care for, and harvest basil. Interested to know about this perennial herb?
So, keep reading:
Why Should I Grow Basil
Before growing any plant- first, we should know why to plant it.
Let me tell you, basil is the most perfect herb to grow, especially in the summer. It gets easily established and produces half a cup of leaves each week.
The herb does not require much space to thrive, you just need a pot, well-drained soil, and a sunny area to have a growing basil plant.
The most common basil cultivars – are Genovese basil and sweet basil but other culinary plants like cinnamon, globe, lemon, and Thai are also readily available.
The basil is a tender perennial plant and sensitive to the winter season. So, you have to protect them in winter. May is the best season to plant basil.
So, if you have a vegetable garden – growing basil around would be a great choice.
How to Grow Basil
Basil can be planted from seeds as well as stem cuttings. From seeds, it usually takes 2 weeks to germinate and 1 month to become seedlings (5 – 6 inches taller).
However, growing from seeds is not popular. Actually, there are many cultivars that do not grow from seeds. These cultivars are developed for better adaptation, to repel diseases by breeding two or more species. If you try to grow a basil cultivar from its seeds chances are it will not grow as its parent plant or may not grow.
So, propagation from stem cuttings or division would be the best method. You can buy a small plant from a nursery or order online and plant in well-drained soil. If you have a basil plant, you can take stem cuttings and propagate multiple new plants.
When to Grow Basil
Basil herbs are very sensitive to cold weather. They do not like to stay out or grow in the winter months. So, plant them once all threats of frost are gone – maybe after 6 weeks of the last frost depending on where you live. Basil grows rapidly in warm or hot climates, especially in May.
Planting basil in early spring will give enough time to get established which results in, good production of foliage during summer.
Where to Grow Basil
As basil likes to thrive in warm temperatures, it prefers full sun to partial shade. Place your basil pot in a sunny area (windowsill or near the door) where it gets direct sunlight all day or at least till afternoon. When growing outside plant it around your veggies and flowers to enhance their flavor or scent.
How to Grow Basil from Cuttings
Instead of seeds, growing basil from cuttings will be easier.
Here is what to do:
- Take a stem cutting from a mature basil plant. The cutting should have at least 2-3 leaves on it and not too woody.
- Use gardening shears to cut the stem. Breaking or tearing stems will cause permanent damage to the plant, and broken stems also do not grow. This is because when we break the stem, the plant’s tissues get destroyed.
- Stem cutting should be at least 5 – 6 inches tall and have some leaves on it.
- Clear all the leaves from the bottom half of the cutting to grow new roots from the bottom end.
- Keep the half of the stem cut in a half-filled water bottle. Let half of the cutting emerge in the water and half above.
- Use clean water and place the water bottle in indirect sunlight. Placing the glass bottle in direct sun will heat it up.
- Change the water in every 3 to 4 days to ensure the water contains a good oxygen level.
- Dirty or staying in water for a longer time will attract mosquitoes.
- Within 2 weeks roots will start coming from the bottom end of the cutting.
- Plant this cutting in the pot or directly in the garden in favorable conditions.
- Basil is a fast grower, especially during mid-summer, it will take nearly a month to get established and produce leaves.
- Once the plant gets settled you can pick leaves any time you want.
Read: 20 Golden Rules of Watering Plants
Basil prefers moist, well-drained soil with a neutral pH level. It does not like too rich soil, I added some organic fertilizer like a banana pill, and used tea bags, in the starting, and it keeps doing well. Too much rich soil will affect flavor.
Mix some proportion of sand or perlite when preparing the soil for better drainage. Sand or perlite gives micro gaps in the soil which makes water flow softly. Avoid planting too deep, just make the plant stand and cover its roots.
Basil does not need much water. Watering once a day is totally fine. If you overwater it can cause fungal diseases and root rot which stunt the plant’s growth or may kill them. The best practice is to after only when the soil looks dry. Water thoroughly once till water flows from the drainage hole. Make sure the pot has adequate drainage holes.
If you have planted basil in the garden, overwatering is not an issue, as the water flows deep in the ground. However, limited watering is always preferred.
Basil likes to grow in a warm environment for this they require at least six hours of direct sunlight. When they get less sunlight it does not grow as prolific as the full sun plants. Place your basil plant in the east-facing area for good sunlight. Make it get early morning sunlight till afternoon shade.
Basil can grow 12 to 24 inches in height depending on its variety. Plant them at least 12 to 16 inches for good growth. Planting them too close will lead to bad air circulation and may cause fungal diseases. If you’re limited to space, plant basil in containers, it thrives easily in small spaces. Consider growing spicy globe basil which tends to grow small and mound leaves.
Basil does not need much fertilization. More fertilizer will lead to loose or wilt leaves. Mixing organic fertilizer (tea bags, banana pill) with the soil, at the planting time will be sufficient.
How to Harvest basil leaves
Basils’ leaves can be harvested as per need. You can harvest basil leaves anytime you inspire to use them. Pinch off the leaves to harvest. You can also harvest leaves in bulk and store them in the freezer but why do, when you can get fresh leaves instantly.
However, harvest only two-thrid of the entire leaves, so that it keeps producing leaves continuously. Basil also blooms flowers, if you want more leaves you may pinch off flowers to redirect the plant’s energy to grow more foliage. Basil flowers are also edible and used in salads.
Common pests and Diseases
Pests do not infest basil. Many insects repel from basil scent. Basils get fungal diseases when overwater, they do not like soggy soil. Overwatering can cause fungal diseases like powdery mildew and root rot that stunt its growth and they might die. Soggy soil also causes wilt leaves, sometimes leaves also start falling.
FAQ for Growing Basil
How long will a basil plant live?
The amount of attention and care that you provide a basil plant will determine how long it lives. If it is cultivated inside, away from the harsh conditions of winter, it has a better chance of surviving for the whole six months. On the other hand, if it is cultivated in the ground, basil may survive for around four to five months in circumstances that are warm and sunny.
Why do my basil plants keep dying?
When a basil plant is on the brink of dying, it is often because the soil has been dry as a result of underwatering the plant or because the pot is too tiny and the soil has dried out too rapidly as a result of the sun and the high temperatures. To keep the plant from withering, turning brown, and eventually passing away, basil requires soil that is kept continually wet.
Should I let basil flower?
Remove the flowers from the basil plant if you are just growing it for its leaves; this will help it grow faster. If you cut back the basil flowers, the plant’s energy will be able to continue to be directed toward the creation of foliage. This will result in a bushier plant with more leaves and will also keep the amounts of essential oils in the leaves at a higher level.
What does Overwatered basil look like?
Basil that has been overwatered will first have lighter and yellower leaves, which often begin at the bottom leaves and work their way upward. After a short period of time, the leaves will begin to wilt, and you may detect an awful odour coming from the soil. The soil will be waterlogged, and if the plant is removed from its container, you will see that its roots have become mushy and are either brown or black in color.
What happens when basil doesn’t get enough sun?
When not given enough sunlight, basil rapidly loses its vibrant green colour and passes away. The mint family is where basil comes from. A deadly illness known as downy mildew may be brought on by conditions of high humidity and little sunshine. If basil is given a minimum of three to six hours of light every day, it may be cultivated in partially shaded areas.