How to Grow and Care for Basil 


Basil is a popular herb known for its sweet, spicy, and slightly pungent aroma and flavor. It’s commonly used in Italian and Thai cuisine and adds a fresh, aromatic twist to salads, pasta dishes, and more.

If you’re looking to grow or propagate basil at home or in your garden, here’s what you need to know.

About Basil

basil herb plants

Its scientific name is (Ocimum Basilicum) and is native to Southeast Asia and Central Africa. Basil is a member of the mint family (Lamiaceae) with around 150 different species you might come across. Not all varieties of basil are used for culinary purposes. There are popular types of basil that are commonly used.

It is one of the most fuss-free herbs to grow and you can grow basil both indoors and outdoors. Basil thrives in well-draining soil of any kind that can hold in moisture. A good idea would be to add compost or composted manure to help keep the soil moist.

Basil is one of the most popular herbs and has many culinary and health benefits.

Improves flavorBasil is among the most popular food seasonings in the world. It greatly improves the aroma as well as the flavor of any dish.
AntioxidantHoly basil has good amounts of antioxidants to keep the body away from harmful chemicals in food. It also reduces any chance of cancer cell growth.
Eliminates infectionBasil extracts are known to be great antibacterial and antifungal agents that eliminate infection and promote faster healing of any wound.
Lowers blood sugarDoctors state that a good amount of basil in the diet greatly reduces the chances of diabetes as well as weight gain, and hypertension.  
Lowers cholesterolAnother benefit of basil to health is that it lowers cholesterol since it improves metabolism. Improved metabolism reduces sugar, body fats, and even stress.
Great skincare agentBasil extracts also serve as excellent skin care agents. While it has anti-inflammatory and antibacterial characteristics, it also aids in keeping the skin free from scars, acne, eczema, and other skin problems.

Basil Life Cycle

The life cycle of a basil plant has 3 main stages:

  1. Juvenile stage – During this stage, the basil plant will grow up to 12 inches in height and produce leaves.
  2. Transition stage – The growth of leaves tends to slow down during this stage and will benefit from pruning. Prune your basil plant twice, once every week and a half or so.
  3. Productive stage – Flowers will bloom and hinder the leaves from growing. If flowers are pinched immediately the leaves will tend to grow.

Growing Basil from Seeds – Indoors

growing basil from seed

Basil can be easily grown from seeds and is ready to harvest. It’s an annual herb that grows quickly from seed to flowering and goes to seed again in a few months. Annuals last only one growing season. If you plant your basil in spring, it will be ready by summer for harvest and will continue to grow from 4 to 6 months.

If you decide to grow basil from seeds indoors, you can sow your seeds anytime. Simply scatter some basil seeds over the potting mix and place the planter near a sunny window for light. The other option would be to place the seeds in their planter under some grow lights to provide that warmth and sufficient light needed.

If planting your seeds outdoors, sow the seeds in late spring so that the seedlings can be transplanted in summer.

Basil seeds would take 7-10 days to germinate and would be matured and ready for you to harvest in 3 -4 weeks. A handy tip to speed up seed germination is to soak basil seeds in warm water overnight. The best temperature for basil seed germination is 70 – 75F (21 – 24C) as it is an herb that loves heat. Using a seedling heat mat will provide the right temperature for germination.

Growing Basil from Seeds – Outdoors

growing basil outdoors

Basil seeds can be store-bought or harvested from the flowers. This is important when basil is an annual herb meaning seeds need to be saved and replanted for the next year.

Allow one of your basil plants to flower at the end of the season. Remember to keep a 150 feet distance between varieties of basil to prevent cross-pollination. When the flower matures, it will drop its petals. There will be green carpels in which seeds will be maturing. Initially, seeds will be green which then becomes brown and eventually black. To harvest the seeds, follow these steps:

  1. Choose the healthiest plants and gently tap the seed head over a plate, your palm, or a plastic container to catch the seeds. Seeds that are mature and ready will drop loosely. You can also cut off the entire carpel into a bowl or bag to shake and collect seeds.
  2. Separate the seeds from the seed head. Rub the dried carpels into a bowl or give them a good shake in a bag. Use a sieve to remove plant material.
  3. Dry the seeds thoroughly to avoid any mold or fungus building up by drying them on a tray in a warm place.
  4. Store in a dry container.

When growing basil seeds outdoors, the ideal time would be late spring and early summer, a couple of weeks after the last frost when the soil is beginning to warm up. Basil seeds do best when sown a ¼ inch deep and 1 inch apart. Water well but ensure there is no water logging and that the soil is well draining. Seedlings can be transplanted in summer after the solstice.

How to Propagate Basil

basil plant in container

Basil can be easily propagated from cuttings which can be planted straight into the soil or placed in water to encourage root growth.

Plant cuttings need to be a 4 – 6 inches long stem and cut by using a sterilized knife or scissors. Cut the stem at an angle just under a leaf node (the place on the stem where the leaves will emerge). Remove leaves on the bottom 1/3 of the stem before planting.

Planting Basil Cuttings in Soil

With the soil conditions, it is important that the soil has good permeability where water doesn’t pile up and the soil is aerated. The soil should not be dry and should be constantly moist. Plant the cutting into moist soil and press the soil around the stem to make sure there is good soil and stem contact and support. Water the plant as required.

Rooting Basil Cuttings

Rooting basil in water is straightforward. Place the cut end of the cuttings in a vase of water. It will take 2 – 3 weeks for roots to emerge. Transfer the rooted basil to the ground with at least 6-to-8-inch depth. Each rooted basil should be at least 8 to 10 inches apart to allow for proper aeration, sunlight, and ground nutrition.

Common Problems When Growing Basil

basil plant in pot

When growing your own basil plants, it’s important to take the following factors into consideration:


Basil grows more effectively in temperatures of 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit with a good amount of sunlight. Exposure to lower or higher temperatures can cause discoloration on the leaves and may tend to slow down the growth of the plant.

Changing Temperatures

Changing temperatures can impede the growth of basil and can even cause leaf discoloration. Avoid this by planting or propagating the plant after winter or after the summer. If not, make sure to plant the basil in a portable container or pot that can be moved from place to place to regulate temperature.


Basil loves well-drained but moist ground which makes it a little tricky to balance. One way around this is to water regularly. You can also watch the topsoil and water only when the topsoil seems dry. Having some mulch or composted soil helps maintain moisture.

Overwatering will cause root rot where the plant looks limp with drooping branches and wilted leaves with yellowish leaves at the base of the plant. This becomes difficult to fix. Try moving your basil to a warmer area with indirect sunlight to allow the soil to dry. A rule of thumb would be to water your basil with around 1 inch of water a week.


Bad drainage will cause waterlogging issues. Waterlogging or filling up the soil with water can produce leggy stems and a lesser number of leaves for the plant. A good way to proper drainage is to till the soil regularly for proper aeration and water absorption. When planting in a container or pot, make sure to have holes at its base for water drainage.

Too Much or Too Little Fertilizer

growing conditions for roses

Depending on where you are growing your basil, you can have fertilizer. If you’re growing the plant in an area with less moisture, sunlight, and even space, a good amount of fertilizer would be beneficial.

Otherwise, you can just use less if the plant is in a good environment. Also, it would be great to check the labels of the package to know the appropriate amount of fertilizer to be used.

Insufficient Sunlight

Basil needs at least 6 hours of direct sunlight daily. Without sufficient sunlight, your basil leaves will brown and curl. A good amount of sunlight can also promote faster growth and development of leaves for the plant. If you’re not having enough sunlight, you can either use artificial UV light or simply prune the plant and transfer it to a location with better sun exposure.


Basil can usually be harvested within 3 to 4 weeks. Cuttings, however, can have earlier harvesting periods. What’s important to bear in mind is the number of leaves left after harvesting.

Make sure to leave behind 3 or 4 leaves on the plant after harvesting. This will ensure proper growth and regrow new leaves. When harvesting, break off the large leaves on the top and leave the smaller leaves towards the bottom.

Leggy Stems and Less Leaves

One reason common reason for leggy stems and a lesser number of leaves out of basil leaves is the lack of regular pruning and harvests. Prune or trim the top of the plants to avoid flower growth and to promote.

Brown Spots on the Leaves

Any change in color on the leaves can be caused by extremely low or high temperatures. Simply make sure that the plant is not exposed to temperatures beyond 50 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit.

Infestations and Pests

Pests such as aphids, mites, and flies can feed on the leaves of the plant. For such cases, use recommended pesticides and spray on the leaf areas where the pests converge such as under the leaves. An alternative to pesticides is the soapy water solution or insecticidal soap.

Basil Flowers (not a problem, but pinch them off)

christmas basil plant

Basil flowers are totally edible but if you are growing your basil plant for its leaves, then pinch or cut the flowers off just above the set of leaves below the bud, with the whole stem, as soon as they appear.

Flowers are part of the natural life cycle and usually bloom around the end of summer so that there will be seeds for the next spring. If flowers are not removed immediately, the basil tends to go bitter, and the plant will go to seed and eventually die.

Wrapping Up

Basil is an amazing herb to grow either indoors or outdoors and with its low maintenance and fuss-free propagating qualities, it is a gardener’s favorite. Basil has many culinary and health benefits, and it is handy to have basil available at your fingertips.

Having the information on how to grow and care for basil along with tips on problem-solving the issued basil, you will be able to have a bountiful harvest at your demand.

Basil FAQs

1. Does basil grow better in pots or in the ground?

Basil can be grown in pots or in the ground, but it grows best in a well-draining soil with plenty of sunlight.

2. Do basil come back every year?

Basil is an annual herb, which means it will not come back every year on its own. However, basil plants can be propagated from cuttings or by planting new seeds each year, allowing you to enjoy fresh basil in your garden or on your windowsill for many seasons to come.

3. Should I deadhead basil?

Deadheading basil refers to removing spent flowers and damaged leaves from the plant. While it is not necessary to deadhead basil, doing so may help encourage the plant to continue producing new growth and leaves, as well as improve the overall appearance of the plant.

4. What plants should not be planted near basil?

Basil should not be planted near plants in the Allium family, such as onions, garlic, and leeks, as they can inhibit the growth of basil. It is also generally recommended to avoid planting basil near fennel, as the two plants can cross-pollinate and alter the flavor of the basil.

5. What is the lifespan of a basil plant?

Basil is an annual herb, which means it typically only lives for one growing season. However, with proper care, basil plants can be kept alive for several months, often producing leaves for harvest until the first frost. In warmer climates, basil plants may continue to grow and produce leaves throughout the winter.

6. Do basil plants like to be crowded?

Basil plants do not like to be crowded and will generally perform better when given enough space to grow. It is generally recommended to plant basil in pots or in the ground with plenty of room for the roots to spread and the leaves to receive adequate sunlight. Overcrowding can lead to reduced growth and yield.