Let’s be honest: everyone has a favorite herb. But that may change once you’ve grown (and tasted) ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ basil. This culinary herb is so pretty, with its creamy white margins on light green leaves, that it could go undercover as a container annual. But you won’t keep it around just for looks. The leaves have that classic basil fragrance and taste, along with a splash of lemon. But wait, there’s more: ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ doesn’t flower, so it won’t go to seed in the middle of summer.
Common name: Variegated basil
Botanical name: Ocimum x citriodorum ‘Pesto Perpetuo’
Plant type: Grow as annual in most zones
Zones: 9 to 11
Height: 1 to 3 feet
• Sun: Full sun
• Soil: Rich, well drained
• Moisture: Average
• Mulch: Mulch to preserve moisture in the soil.
• Pruning: None needed.
• Fertilizer: None needed.
• By cuttings (does not set seed)
Pests and diseases
• Vulnerable to fungal and bacterial diseases.
• May attract Japanese beetles or aphids.
• Pinch tips for a full, bushy plant. Water basil regularly.
• Consider using variegated basil to edge your vegetable garden—or even your flower garden. The beautiful bicolor leaves provide a lovely contrast to bright blooms.
• Harvest fresh leaves to use for pesto and in main dishes, soups, and marinades. The variegated leaves also make a pretty garnish. Or freeze or dry the leaves for later.
All in the family
• Basil has been cultivated for thousands of years; it is originally from Asia and Africa.
• ‘Pesto Perpetuo’ is a sport of another nonflowering basil, ‘Lesbos’. It gets its hint of lemon from the lemon basil (O. citriodora) in its parentage.
• Other herbs in the Lamiaceae (mint) family include mint, sage, lavender, thyme, rosemary, and oregano.
Where to buy
• Morning Sun Herb Farm, Vacaville, CA, 707-451-9406, www.morningsunherbfarm.com
• Fragrant Fields, Dongola, IL, 618-203-9106, www.fragrantfields.com
• Always Summer Herbs, Slippery Rock, PA, 724-735-4700, www.alwayssummerherbs.com
(Text and photo by Elizabeth Noll)