How to Care for Your Basil Plant
The secret to good cooking is using fresh ingredients, particularly herbs. There's one herb that's pretty popular for culinary uses: basil. It smells wonderful and tastes even better. Learn how to care for your Basil plant.
Basil, in a nutshell, is the most perfect herb. It goes well with Bloody Marys, pasta, pizzas, salads, and Thai curries. OK, we’re getting hungry, but the point is it’s a versatile herb to use in cooking and making aromatic oils. No wonder it’s one of the most popular herbs grown indoors and an excellent plant for beginners.
Technically known as Ocimum basilicum, Basil is a fragrant warm-weather plant that is easy to grow. It originated from India, and it’s a member of the mint family. The most common type of Basil is Sweet Basil. Growing Basil indoors is quite different from the usual care guide of growing Basil outdoors. It will require fertilizing, a healthy pH level, lots of sunlight, and the proper soil type.
Fun Fact: Basil is a rich source of vitamins A, B6, C, and K. It’s also a great source of minerals such as iron, manganese, and magnesium.
CREDIT: LACEY JOHNSON / THE SPRUCE
One thing you should know that since Basil is an annual (a plant that has a life cycle of one year), it grows extremely quickly. It would only take 3 to 4 weeks for a Basil to grow from seed to harvest. Additionally, it requires frequent repotting. Every part of the plant is edible, from its glossy leaves and spikes of white flowers.
Learning how to plant Basil is pretty simple, considering it’s one of the easiest herbs to grow. Here’s everything you need to know to grow Basil in pots from seed.
- Basil Seeds
- Seed Starting Mix
- Spray Mister
- Starter Pots
- Starting Container With Plastic Dome
Step 1: Prepare your starter pots by adding a slightly moistened seed starter mix to about ½ to 1 inch below the top of your container.
Step 2: Add Basil seeds to each pot. It’s best to place a few extra seeds in the center of your pot and to each pot so that you can choose the strongest plants once it sprouts. The reason behind this is some seeds won’t grow.
Step 3: Cover seeds with a thin layer of dry seed starter mix, approximately ¼ inch.
Step 4: Gently water your Basil seeds.
Step 5: It’s important to control humidity. It’s recommended to keep a humidity level between 40–60%. To do this, place your Basil in a shallow pan and plastic wrap. You can also use a specialized plastic starting container with a plastic dome.
Step 6: Basil is a warm-weather annual, place it in a warm location where the temperature is between 80–90°F.
Step 7: After 7 to 10 days, you will notice that Basil seedlings begin to emerge. Remove it from the plastic wrap and place the pot in a sunny area. Continue to keep the soil moist with frequent misting. Once it produces leaves, it’s time to choose the strongest seedling in each pot. These seedlings will be your main Basil seedling.
Step 8: Wait until your Basil seedlings are at least 3 inches tall with two sets of true leaves before transplantation. You can feed your plant with a weak fertilizer solution to boost nutrition.
Here’s everything else you need to know on how to care for your Basil plant.
|Botanical Name||Ocimum basilicum|
|Common Name||Basil, Sweet Basil, and Thai Basil.|
|Plant Size||Basil grows between 30 to 130 cm tall. Its leaves can grow 3 to 11 cm long and 1 to 6 cm broad.|
|Types of Basil Plants||African Blue Basil
Spicy Globe Basil
Thai Sweet Basil
|Sunlight||Basil grows best with at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun every day.|
|Water||Basil likes to stay moist and requires to be watered deeply regularly, but make sure its soil is well-drained.|
|Humidity||Keep your humidity level between 40–60%.|
|Temperature||Basil likes warmer temperatures between 50°F–80°F.|
|Toxicity||Basil is non-toxic to animals and humans.|
|Food||Indoor Basil plants require very little to no fertilization. However, if you choose to add fertilizer, feed it only a very weak liquid solution every 3 to 4 weeks.|
|Pests and Problems||Similar to other houseplants, Basil is prone to aphids, particularly if grown indoors. You might encounter beetles and slugs if you choose to grow your Basil plant outdoors. To eliminate these pests, it’s recommended to cover your entire plant with a soap solution of two teaspoons of dishwashing liquid to a full gallon of water.|
|Omysa Plant Care Tip||Harvest your Basil plant often to encourage new growth.|
CREDIT: LACEY JOHNSON / THE SPRUCE
Basil Plant Care Tips
When growing Basil indoors, it’s important to consider the lighting since this plant requires at least six hours of full sunlight each day. You can use fluorescent lights to grow your Basil, but it will need about 10 hours of light every day for healthy growth.
As we have mentioned that to encourage new growth, you should harvest your Basil plant more often. To do this, simply pinch off the stem right above where a pair of leaves are growing. Make sure to cut off several inches, approximately 6 to 8 inches. It’s also advised to handle it delicately so as not to bruise and blacken the leaves. Eventually, two more stems will start to grow, which means twice the leaves next time you harvest.
In case you end up with too much Basil, which is unavoidable, you can freeze it. To do this, puree leaves in a blender or food processor. You can add water as needed to make a thick puree. Then, pour the puree into ice-cube trays and freeze. You can use it within five months. Another alternative to store Basil is to dry them out by hanging upside-down in a cool, dark, and dry location, but this technique won’t guarantee that its flavor will be the same.
Here’s a detailed explanation of how to care for your Basil plant, from sunlight requirement to common problems and its solutions.
First, on our list on how to care for your Basil plant is to put it in a location where it can get at least 6 to 8 hours of full sun every day. It can also grow fluorescent lights, but it will need about 10 hours of light every day for healthy growth.
For young Basil plants, it’s best to put it in a location where it can get partial sun until they surpass the seedling stage.
Common Problem: If the leaves of your mature Basil plant becomes discolored, this means it’s not getting enough light.
Solution: Anything less than full sun will greatly affect the growth of your Basil plant. It’s best to provide them the right amount of light to grow well.
Next, on our list on how to care for your Basil plant is to water it deeply regularly, especially if it’s growing in containers. However, be sure its soil is well-drained. Water your Basil plant at least 1 inch of water every week if you’re growing it outdoors.
Remember to only water the plant when the soil doesn’t feel wet 1 inch down.
Common Problem: If the leaves of your Basil plant are turning yellow, this could mean that you are overwatering your plant. If the leaves of your Basil plant are turning brown and wilting, this could mean that you are underwatering your plant.
Solution: Overwatering or underwatering your Basil plant deprives it of oxygen. It could also cause the leaves to droop and fall off. To check if you are overwatering your plant, check if the soil is wet. If it is, then your Basil plant is receiving too much water. If the tip of the plant feels dry to the touch and it breaks off if bent, your Basil plant needs more water.
Humidity & Temperature
Adding to our list on how to care for your Basil plant is to keep its area’s humidity between 40–60%. You can increase the humidity in its spot by misting it often, placing it near a humidifier, or by using a pebble tray.
It prefers temperatures between 50°F–80°F. Basil is very sensitive to frost, so it’s recommended to harvest your Basil beforehand, as the cold temperatures will kill your plants. Avoid placing your plant near air conditioning vents, doors, and drafty areas.
Basil is non-toxic to animals and humans.
Another on our list on how to care for your Basil plant is to feed it only a very weak liquid solution every 3 to 4 weeks. You can also use an all-purpose fertilizer. This will guarantee that new leaves will grow continuously.
Remember to follow the recommended amount of fertilizer and schedule to avoid fertilizer burn or plant burn.
Pests & Other Problems
Drooping leaves in your Basil plant can indicate diseases and insect infestations, such as aphids, cutworms, mites, and whiteflies. To prevent infestations, use a garden fabric over your Basil during the day. However, if it can’t be avoided anymore, eliminate aphids and spider mites by using horticultural oils and soaps. You can also spray off the insects with water. For cutworms, lift your Basil plant and check the roots.
Your Basil plant is also prone to fusarium wilt and root rot. Unfortunately, there is no cure for fusarium wilt except to plant a disease-resistant Basil plant. For root rot, simply avoid overwatering your Basil plant.
That’s a wrap on how to care for your Basil plant. Basil leaves are delicious in compotes and fresh fruit salads. You can also use it as a staple ingredient in Thai and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s also great in pizza sauce, ratatouille, and spaghetti sauce. Its flavor blends well with oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, and thyme.
So growing your own Basil plant is pretty convenient. Plus, its plant care is really easy. Give it a try. We know you got this!
Grow your plant knowledge. Check out our Plant Care blog to learn more about different houseplants and tips on how to keep your plants alive and healthy.