Basil is a popular, fragrant herb with a variety of culinary uses. There are actually over 100 varieties of basil that all have slightly different tastes, from Italian sweet basil to Thai spicy basil. Most basil plants grow easily in outdoor gardens, and with a few minor alterations, you can grow basil indoors without much hassle, as well. Sufficient amounts of sun and water are the key ingredients in getting your basil to thrive no matter where you plant it.
EditStarting from Seed
- Purchase basil seeds from a reliable source. Visit your local nursery or garden store to pick out basil seeds you’d like to plant, or you can buy them online. You can often buy a packet containing over 100 seeds at a very low price.
- If you’re buying the seeds online, do some research to find out which websites have the best seeds.
- Use coarse, well-draining soil to plant the seeds in. Basil needs nutrient-rich soil that is able to drain water easily in order to grow into a healthy plant. You can find well-draining potting soil at a garden store, as well as online.
- Fill ¾ of a container with the soil. The container should offer sufficient drainage and can be made of clay, plastic, stone, or concrete. Use a spray bottle filled with water to give the soil a little moisture before filling the container up with soil so that it’s not quite full.
- Look for drainage holes in the bottom regardless of the material. These are critical to ensure good drainage and a healthy plant. Be sure to use a tray underneath your pot to prevent water from coming out of the holes and leaking all over.
- A regular clay pot is a popular option, or seedling trays made of plastic.
- Scatter the seeds into the container of soil. If you’re using small seedling trays, try to place about 3 seeds in each tray. If you’re using a larger pot, scatter 5-7 seeds on top of the soil, placing them evenly apart from one another.
- It’s important to plant more than 1 seed in each tray in case some of them don’t end up sprouting.
- Aim for spreading the seeds about apart from one another.
- You don’t need to press the seeds into the soil.
- Cover the seeds with a sprinkling of dry soil. You don’t need to add a thick layer, just enough to cover the seeds you’ve just planted—a layer of roughly . This will be just thick enough to protect the seeds while also helping them grow.
- Avoid packing down the soil once it’s in the container.
- Add additional moisture to the soil using a spray bottle. Use a spray bottle filled with water to spray the soil with a little bit more moisture—especially the added top layer. If you don’t have a spray bottle, run your hands under a faucet or dip them in a cup of water and sprinkle the water over the soil using your fingers.
- Place the pot or container on top of a tray to catch any water that leaks out.
- You can place a piece of plastic over the container or pot to lock in moisture.
- Place the container in a sunny spot indoors. Basil thrives in full sun but needs at least 6 hours of sunlight each day to grow properly. The best spot to set up your basil plant would be near a well-lit, warm window.
- Be careful if you’re setting the basil directly onto the windowsill. The glass window can cause the basil plant to become too warm or too cold more quickly than usual.
- If you are in the northern hemisphere, a south-facing window typically works best. If you don’t have a space in your house that gets at least 6 hours of sun a day, consider using a supplemental light source.
- Watch your basil seeds germinate after 5-10 days. The exact amount of time it takes for your seeds to sprout will depend on the amount of sunlight they get, the soil temperature, and the available moisture. Be patient and continue to keep the seeds moist and warm.
EditCaring for the Basil
- Water the basil from its base twice a week to keep it well-hydrated. Instead of pouring water directly onto the leaves and stem of the plant, pour water right at the soil line. This way, the roots are able to absorb water from the base, and you avoid dripping wet leaves.
- Test the dampness by sticking your finger into the soil about deep. If the soil feels dry even at this depth, lightly water the plant.
- Use an artificial light source to provide additional care. If you cannot provide enough natural sunlight for your basil, use fluorescent grow lights or specially designed high-intensity lights instead. Basil plants receiving no natural light should receive 10 to 12 hours of artificial light.
- Keep standard fluorescent lights roughly away from the tops of your plants, and keep high output and compact fluorescent lamps above the plants.
- High-intensity lights should be above plants.
- Check the plant’s pH levels once a month. A good pH level is usually between 6.0 and 7.5. You can maintain this pH by using organic fertilizer found at your local garden store, or online. Simply mix the organic fertilizer into the soil, and test the soil using pH strips.
- Since basil is primarily used for culinary purposes, many non-organic fertilizers may pose a potential risk.
- Simulate a natural habitat by running a fan. Direct an electric fan toward the plant, allowing it to rustle the leaves for at least 2 hours a day. Doing this prevents the air around the plant from getting too stagnant and works like an outdoor breeze would.
- Put the fan on the lowest setting.
- Thin your plants out once the seedlings have 2 pairs of leaves. The plants should be apart to ensure adequate room for growth. You can either thin them out by snipping the basil off at soil level or by removing the basil by the root.
- Use your fingers or a wooden popsicle stick or tongue depressor to carefully dig the soil away from the base of a seedling.
- Slide the tongue depressor under the developing roots or carefully “wiggle” the seedling, roots and all, out of the soil with your fingers after it is exposed.
- Replant the removed seedling in another pot or in the same pot away from any other seedling, if desired.
- Pinch off the tops once the seedlings reach in height. Once your plant has 3 sets of leaves, it’s ready to be pruned. You can use sharp scissors to make the cut right above the set of leaves.
- Pinching the tops off will encourage better leaf growth and will prevent your basil from becoming “leggy.”
- Prune the basil every couple of weeks. Focus on removing leaves that are weak, stunted, or otherwise damaged. Leaves you prune from your basil plant are still good to eat.
- Water your basil plant if it starts to wilt. Wilting is usually a sign that your basil plant is thirsty, so water the soil and then let the water soak through before adding any more. It’s also a good idea to move the plant out of any sunlight for a few hours while it recharges. after wilting
- After watering and moving the plant out of the sun, you should see it start to look healthier after about 4 hours.
- Snip off any dead leaves with clean pruning shears, if necessary.
EditHarvesting the Leaves
- Harvest your basil before it flowers. This gives you the freshest, biggest leaves to work with. If your basil plant has started flowering, pinch off the flowers to help redirect the energy back to growing basil leaves.
- The flowers will be visible, making it easy to spot when the plant has started flowering.
- Pick off the leaves when you need small amounts of basil. You can use your fingers to pinch the leaves off, or you can use sharp scissors to cut them. Picking off a few leaves won’t harm the plant in any way.
- Try not to remove more than a third of the leaves on the plant unless you plan to harvest all of it. This helps ensure your plant has enough energy to keep growing.
- Cut right above where 2 large leaves meet for larger amounts. This will give you a stem’s worth of basil leaves. Cutting above the leaves allows new growth to continue, which will preserve your basil plant for a longer stretch of time.
- Cutting stems just below a pair of leaves may prevent the stem from growing further.
- If you put plastic over the soil right after planting, remove it once you see seedlings pop up through the soil.
- Rotate the containers as the plants grow to keep them from leaning in one direction.
EditThings You’ll Need
- Basil seeds
- Nutrient-rich soil
- Pot or container
- Spray bottle
- Artificial lighting (optional)
- Electric fan
- Test strips for pH testing
- Grow Parsley
- Grow Basil
- Grow Herbs Indoors Under Lights
- Grow an Herb Garden Indoors Year Round
- Grow Rosemary Indoors
EditSources and Citations
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