How to Grow Basil

Written by Réna Wienclaw

A necessary addition to many recipes like pesto and caprese sandwiches, basil is a leafy herb with a savory taste. This herb can often be found fresh in grocery stores and grows well in any warm climate with the help of full sun and water.

Planting & Care

  • Basil originates from the tropical climate of Asia and the Pacific Islands, so you'll want soil to be around 70ºF for ideal growth
  • If you want plenty of basil, start seeds indoors 6 weeks before the last frost date of your region
  • For transplanting outdoors, the soil should be at least 60ºF and optimally 70ºF
  • Plant seeds 1/4" deep and a distance of around 10-12 inches from other plants
  • Different varieties can grow anywhere between 12-24 inches tall
  • Basil needs full sun, meaning around 6-8 hours of light each day
  • The soil should be kept moist and watered more frequently during dry heat
  • To keep the herb producing, prune the tops of the shoots after several (6-8) leaves have formed.
  • Cut the flowering parts of the herb off later in it’s development to keep the basil producing leaves instead of seeds. (These flowers make great, fragrant additions to bouquets)
  • If the flowering is allowed to continue, the basil will put all of its energy into the seeds and you won’t have much herb to harvest. This may be a good problem for you if you like the appearance more than the taste!

Fun Facts & Common Claims

  • Often used as a companion plant near tomatoes to enhance the taste of these acidic fruits (but no scientific evidence backs up this common claim)
  • Used as a natural deterrent against common pests like tomato hornworms, white flies, and mosquitos
  • Purple/red basil may look prettier, but the average consensus is that sweet basil has the best flavor and is the most called for in recipes concerning basil

Personal Experience

Basil is not very picky and will do well in a spare coffee mug on a sunny kitchen windowsill. Beware though: The basil plant may begin to outgrow this in a few months and will certainly not reach it's full potential in a smaller container. This worked well for me, however, as I used it seldomly for sandwiches.

Published on September 21st 2018. Last updated 10 months ago.