The aromatic oils in basil (Ocimum basilicum) release the spicy fragrance of cinnamon, anise, clove, or lemon.
This easy-to-grow annual herb has green or purple leaves, and some cultivars have ruffled or serrated edges. All are attractive planted in containers, perennial beds, and kitchen gardens. Basil adds flavor to pasta, pesto, jams, vinegars, salads, and teas. Originally from Asia and Africa, this herb needs plenty of warm weather-the slightest frost damages it.
Common name: Basil, sweet basil
Botanical names: Ocimum basilicum
Plant type: Herb
Height: 8 to 36 inches
Zones: Annual good for Zones 3 to 11
Family: Lamiaceae (Mint)
- Sun: Full sun
- Soil: Well-drained soil amended with organic matter
- Moisture: Evenly moist
- Mulch: Apply a thin layer of compost to conserve moisture.
- Fertilizer: None required unless the soil is very poor
- Pruning: Remove flower heads and pinch growing tips to encourage bushy growth and maintain best flavor in the leaves.
- ‘Dark Opal' (pictured) has dark purple leaves. Garnish rice and salads with this basil for a colorful accent. Grows 12 to 24 inches tall.
- ‘Cinnamon' has serrated green leaves with a spicy tang and pink to purple flowers. Grows 18 to 30 inches tall.
- ‘Purple Ruffles' has curled, purple leaves with a clove scent. An All-America Selections winner, it's an attractive contrast to green foliage in the perennial border. Grows 12 to 24 inches tall.
- ‘Siam Queen' has green leaves with a licorice fragrance. Highly ornamental, this All-America Selections winner has large violet flowers that contrast with the green foliage. Grows 30 inches tall.
- ‘Spicy Globe' has tiny, green leaves and is slow to go to seed. It has a distinct globe shape and grows 6 inches tall.
- Garden notes
- Because basil is temperature-sensitive, plant out of harsh winds and in warm soil.
- Plant successively to have a good crop all summer.
- Basil easily cross-pollinates with other basil plants, so keep cultivars separated by several feet so plants grow true to seed.
- Basil leaves are difficult to dry. Instead, wash and dry leaves, cover each side with oil to keep them from sticking together, and freeze in a freezer bag.
- Slugs, white fly, and red spider mites may attack basil.
- Damping-off may occur during germination when soil is cool.
- Fusarium wilt causes leaf drop.
- In early spring, sow seeds indoors four to six weeks before last frost, then transplant outside in a sheltered spot when danger of frost is gone. Place plants about 6 inches apart.
- In regions where nighttime temperatures stay above 55ºF, plant seeds directly in the soil.
All in the family
- Examples of the Lamiaceae family include sage (Salvia spp.), thyme (Thymus spp.), English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), mint (Mentha spp.), catmint (Nepeta spp.), and oregano (Origanum spp.). The stems are square or angled, and they have aromatic leaves.
Text by Mary Pestel, photo courtesy of Seed Savers Exchange, www.seedsavers.org.
Saturday, March 19, 2011 1:50 AM
This has a sweet smell,I use it in massage therapy.
Monday, March 21, 2011 4:44 PM
What a beautiful plant. Does it stay purple when you cook with it? Just wondering.
Tuesday, March 22, 2011 6:14 PM
can you grow this in a pot? is it an annual?
Friday, July 01, 2011 10:31 PM
i grow the green sweet basil in pots and set them close to my entrences to keep flies to a minimum.
Tuesday, July 05, 2011 9:09 PM
Your Basil plant is beautiful!
I grow sweet basil and they grow beautifully at beginning and pests somehow get to them. I used citrous solution on them to keep bugs down. However, it turns dark after pinched for use. I don't know the cause of it but I would like to know if there is any way to prevent it.
Wednesday, February 08, 2012 8:53 AM
@ lschweigert: just curious how the basil controls flies? Never heard or read that anywhere. Is it only the sweet basil? I'd like to hear more about that from you or anyone else that knows anything about this. Thanks.
Good article. I'm just getting into basils and have some started inside already. I picked up a couple more things from reading this but wish there was some info on how to avoid or get rid of pests or fungus. Still a good read though.
Friday, February 10, 2012 2:17 PM
I love basil in cooking . I have never tried growing it my own . If i did it would be on a very sheltered patio with not much sun until late in the morning and then it gets sweltering hot in the afternoon. I have no windowsills I could Put it on to start it growing. Any suggestions would be welcome!! Thank-You Gardeners
Friday, February 10, 2012 6:07 PM
I don't know where you are at but here in Michigan (zone 5) I've got mine started under shop lights in the basement. I have 3 healthy little plants going right now. I don't know how much experience you have with seeds but it's pretty simple and this is my first try with them indoors.
It grows well in containers so you could bring/move it in out of the hottest part of the day. You could also add other herbs to the container and have your own portable herb garden. Pinch them back before they go to seed and to keep them small and bushy. Add parsley, rosemary, oregano, and thyme looks nice trailing over the sides. I believe sage will take the hotter temps but I won't swear to it. Chives and mint should be grown separately so they won't blend flavors.
There are many articles and I can try to answer any more questions for you.
Thursday, January 31, 2013 2:54 PM
where are the free test samples or tools