How To Grow Lots of Basil

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How to Grow Basil

Three Methods:

Basil is easy to grow, and transforms ordinary meals into culinary treasures! Fresh basil not only tastes better than dried, it actually tastesdifferent, almost as if it were not the same herb. This article outlines how to plant and harvest basil.


Starting Seeds

  1. Choose the kind of basil you wish to grow.Basil comes in many different varieties, each of which have a unique flavor and smell. Read up on different types of basil and pick out one - or several - that appeal to you, then order the seeds or buy them at a garden store. Here are a few ideas:
    • Cinnamon basil really does smell like the sweet spice, and it also has unusually beautiful and fragrant flowers.
    • Lemon basil actually contains citral, an aromatic compound found in citrus fruit, and smells very lemony.
    • Purple basil is often grown for decoration, as well as its scent and flowers.
    • There are perennial basils which come back year after year, like African Blue Basil (which has pretty blue veins on its leaves) and Thai Basil, while most other varieties are annuals, which you'll have to plant year after year.
    • Globe and Greek basil are much more difficult to grow, but form pretty little bushes which stay well-contained.
  2. Start seed indoors four to six weeks before last frost.Basil needs warm air and sun to do well, so it's often easiest to start the seeds indoors instead of risking that they'll get damaged by frost.
    • If you live in a hot climate, you can start the seeds outside instead.
    • To figure out when the last frost will be, consult an almanac or talk with other gardeners in your area.
  3. Prepare seed containers.Fill flats or individual seed containers with a mixture of equal parts perlite, vermiculite, and peat. Press the mixture slightly to eliminate air pockets. Dampen the mixture with water so it's ready to provide the right environment for the basil seeds to germinate.
  4. Plant the seeds.Drop one to two seeds into each container. Cover them lightly with soil. Cover containers with clear plastic kitchen wrap, so they stay moist. Leave the containers in a sunny window. Twice daily, remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the containers with more water.
    • It is important to keep your basil seeds warm after you plant them. You might consider using a heat mat or an overhead lamp to keep them warm.
  5. Remove the plastic wrap when the sprouts emerge.When you see the first green tendrils push up through the soil, it's time to remove the plastic wrap. Keep watering the sprouts twice daily, never letting the soil dry out. When the plants become a few inches tall and their leaves mature, it's time to transplant them to a larger container.

Caring for Basil

  1. Transplant the basil plants.Once two sets of leaves have formed, basil can be planted into the garden or permanent containers. Basil does not tolerate frost so don't plant too early. It's best to put basil somewhere where it will get a good deal of sunshine and have well-drained soil.
    • To plant the basil in the garden, dig holes spaced at least 1 foot (0.3 m) apart. Place the roots in the holes and place soil around the stems. Pat down soil around the plants to eliminate air pockets.
    • If you want to plant the basil in a container, make sure it's large enough to accommodate the number of plants you're growing; they need to be planted 1 foot (0.3 m) apart, since they grow quite large.
  2. Keep the soil damp, but not soaked.Basil does best in well-drained soil, and should not be subjected to standing water. Water the mature basil plants once a day, in the morning, so the water has time to soak in and evaporate rather than sitting on the plants overnight.
  3. Pinch off flower heads.When you see flower buds, pinch them and two pairs of leaves under them off. Flowers blooming create a hormone change which dramatically reduces the flavor of the leaves, as well as reducing the amount of foliage which grows. This is called "bolting" and is more likely to happen when there's extra sunshine. You'll notice that if you leave the flowers, the plant will become lanky and the leaves won't be as full or tasty.
  4. Watch for pests and mold.Basil plants are attractive to Japanese beetles; the best way to control these pests is to pick them off the plants by hand.If your plants show signs of mold growth, they may not be getting adequate sunlight, or they may be too close together. Weed out the smaller plants to give the larger ones more space.

Harvesting and Using Basil

  1. Harvest and prune.As the plant matures, pinch off the top two pairs of leaves once a stalk reaches a reasonable height. If you look closely, at the base of every leaf are two tiny little leaves that will grow outwards if the stem growing between them is cut off. Cut close to those tiny leaves, but be sure not to damage them.
    • Pinching encourages the plant's energy to be directed into its stronger stems and leaves. This helps the plants grow bushy.
    • Don't pinch on the lower part of the stem, or the basil plants will grow tall and reedy. You want them to get bushy, so pinch from the top.
  2. Store the basil in the refrigerator.You'll probably have more basil than you could possibly eat fresh, so plan on storing some in the fridge. Wash the leaves, dry them well, and wrap them in paper towels. Place them in a food storage container with an airtight lid.
  3. Freeze the basil.Freezing the leaves whole doesn't work very well, but if you puree it first or turn it into pesto before freezing, then you can store you basil in the freezer for months. Place the basil in a blender with a little water, lemon juice, and/or olive oil. Puree it until smooth, then put it in a food storage bag and freeze until you need it.

Community Q&A

  • Question
    Will the basil plant continue to grow if the stem was cut off below the bottom leaves?

    Professional Gardener
    Andrew Carberry has been working with school gardens and farm to school programs since 2008. He was the Arkansas state lead for the National Farm to School Network for 5 years.
    Professional Gardener
    Expert Answer
    This will likely kill the plant since it has no remaining leaves. There is a chance it could sprout a few leaves from the stem below where it was cut off.
  • Question
    How deep should the soil be when planting basil in a pot?

    Professional Gardener
    Andrew Carberry has been working with school gardens and farm to school programs since 2008. He was the Arkansas state lead for the National Farm to School Network for 5 years.
    Professional Gardener
    Expert Answer
    You should have at least 6 inches of soil, ideally a foot for a healthy plant.
  • Question
    Can I plant the flower buds that I cut off the top of the basil plants?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, but the flowers have to be completely dry and full of seeds. It would also be better to shake the seeds out of the flowers, and then planting the seeds (as opposed to planting the flowers with the seeds in them).
  • Question
    I am having a hard time getting the seeds to germinate. What is the best method?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    The seeds should be only slightly buried, so perhaps you are putting them too deeply into the potting medium. Don't overwater but keep the medium moist. The instructions above state to water twice a day, but you can also try watering every other day instead. Also, check that the seeds are in date.
  • Question
    When buying starter basil, there a 5 or 6 individual plants in the container. Should I separate these into individuals or plant it whole with the root ball intact?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    I have separated my basil several times and gotten 5-7 plants for the price of one and all my plants grew strong and healthy. I planted them in pots outdoors.
  • Question
    Does basil need sunlight, and if so, how many hours does it need each day?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Basil needs sunlight to grow. It needs at least 4 to 5 hours of sunlight each day.
  • Question
    Does basil grow best when it is planted alone and away from other plants?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    Yes, this is true. Basil plants are solitary plants. They grow better without any other kinds of plants surrounding them or growing in the same vicinity.
  • Question
    If I keep a basil plant in the sunlight in a window and water and trim it, will it grow?
    wikiHow Contributor
    Community Answer
    As long as it's getting enough sunlight in the window and it doesn't get over watered or allowed to dry out, it should grow just fine.
  • Question
    Will the leaves grow back if I cut them off?
    Top Answerer
    Yes, and basil becomes bushier if you prune it throughout.
  • Question
    Will the flowers of my basil plant produce seeds?
    Top Answerer
    Yes, if you leave the basil plant.
Unanswered Questions
  • I bought a basil plant at the store. The base of plant is firmly packaged in a plastic wrap, with only the opening for the basil to grow. Do I remove this plastic and re-pot the plant?
  • What other insects are known for damaging basil plants?
  • How can I mix my interest of harvesting basil leaves and collecting seeds for the next season?
  • I'm having a hard time when germinating basil seeds, it is still possible for the seeds to germinate even its already planted in soil for a couple of weeks? Please tell me how?
  • What do I do during the night when using the method described?
Ask a Question
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Quick Summary

To plant basil, fill a seed container with perlite, vermiculite, and peat, dampen it with water, and drop in 1-2 seeds. Cover them with a bit of soil, wrap the container in plastic wrap, and place it in a sunny window. Sprinkle it with water twice a day. Remove the plastic wrap when a sprout emerges and move the plant to a garden or permanent container, watering every morning. Pinch off flower heads when they bloom and pick off any Japanese beetles you see. To harvest, cut off the top 2 pairs of leaves at a time, rinse, and enjoy!

Did this summary help you?
  • If seedling stems appear tall and thin, they are probably not getting enough light.
  • Water plants lightly, twice daily with warm water until well established.
  • When seeding directly in the garden, be sure to keep the very surface of the soil moist. Normal rules against over-watering say to let the soil surface dry, but watch for the depth of dryness. Seeds and seedlings that don't have deep roots can suffer from even a few hours of dry soil.
  • Basil can be grown from seed directly in the garden. Since you don't have as much of a head start this way, you might pick one of the faster-growing varieties, like Lemon Basil. On the other hand, all varieties of basil grow fast enough to become productive, they just won't have the head start.
  • When inter planted, basil is said to improve the taste of tomatoes and peppers, as well as repelling horn worms and aphids.


  • When watering, avoid getting the leaves wet, unless you are doing foliar feeding, as the leaves can spot.
  • When moving plants from indoors to the garden, make sure you gradually expose the basil to outdoor conditions to avoid transplant shock.
  • Do not overlook this opportunity to choose one of the many astounding varieties which might be most fun or useful for you

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Expert Review By:
Professional Gardener

of How to Grow Basil was reviewed by on January 27, 2019.

Views: 725,507
of readers found this articlehelpful.
25 votes - 96%
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96% of people told us that this article helped them.

Ella Kahn

Jun 20, 2019

"I got a basil planting kit for my birthday from my great aunt. I was gonna throw it away, but then I received aletter from her asking how my basil plant is doing, and she said she can't wait to see it when she comes to visit us in August. So I decided to actually plant the seeds, so as not to disappoint her! Problem was, I'd already thrown out the instruction sheet. Thankfully, wikiHow showed me exactly what to do :) Graci!"

Marianne Maggio

Jun 21, 2019

"This article was very helpful as I was unsure if I could just cut off a stem and re-plant it. I found the sentencesabout the flower tops and seed most helpful. I consider this article to be quick reference. Thanks, I did find it useful."

Sharlene Joe

May 26, 2019

"I did not know you had to let the roots grow about 2 inches before transplanting. Basil grows better by itself, andhelps with the taste of tomatoes and peppers. Also, if inter-planted, it will control achids and hornworms."


Jul 12, 2019

"I enjoyed the detailed description of the different kinds of basil. I also enjoyed the simple detail presentationof how to transplant a basil plant to a bigger area and I loved the fork trick. Awesome. Thanks a ton."

Patricia Erickson

Jun 12, 2019

"The pages from wikiHow that I've visited are very helpful. These are well-explained and simple-to-follow,especially for a new gardener such as myself. So thank you, I would recommend these pages to anyone!"

Mary Smith

Mar 22, 2019

"I received basil seeds as a gift. Now that I see how much work it is to grow basil, I'll give the seeds to someoneelse. It's so much easier to buy an already thriving basil plant from the supermarket."

Halina Peltonen

Apr 16, 2019

"Easy to understand how to plant and take care of basil. The importance of proper watering was very important toread about. The pictures were excellent. Thank you."

Say Poh Foo

Jun 29, 2019

"I'm just beginning to do gardening and my first plant is basil. I believe your step-by-step with illustrations willhelp me a lot. Thank you."

Loraine Daleo

Jun 5, 2019

"I learned a lot reading this. I didn't know they had to be 6 inches apart. I expect to have a great harvest thisyear with healthy plants."


Jul 28, 2019

"I've learned to not over fertilize my seeds. I think I've killed them because it's been at least a month (GAresident), and nothing."

Joe Green

Feb 11, 2019

"You have explained perfectly, how to care to the basil plant. It was very helpful. Moreover, the images present theparagraph well."

Hailey Pendleton

May 5, 2019

"Growing a small garden and wanted to grow basil. Helped me quite a bit. Learned how to grow, care for, and harvestmy sweet basil."


Jul 16, 2019

"The most helpful tip was to plant basil with tomatoes and peppers to improve their flavors."

Janice Stewart

Jun 7, 2019

"This is my first year growing herbs. I like the advice on how to store them."

Karen Miller

Apr 26, 2019

"Great detail and easy to follow. The pictures help greatly!"


Jun 11, 2019

"The growth of the basil was the most helpful point."

Valentine Campbell

Jun 4, 2019

"Very simple, very clear, and easy to follow."

Hailey Lincoln

May 5, 2019

"Covering it with cling wrap was helpful."

Sharon Gray

Jun 11, 2019

"Your pictures drove this home for me."

Manu Morales

Apr 26, 2019

"Helpful and clear advice.

Video: Basil, How To Grow More Than You Can Eat

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