How to Grow Basil: Planting, Growing & Harvesting

Basil classifies as warm weather and fragrant herb, that works well for Italian dishes, and even meals such as homemade pesto. The best time to plant seeds or perform a transplant would be after the winter season passes through the year. Using this approach will provide an exceptional harvest, in just a few weeks. Maintain the yield to ensure the plant maintains optimal growth.

The most common type of basil plant would be the sweet basil variation of the plant. Other common examples include purple basil, lemon basil, Thai basil and more. Basil is simple to grow and only thrives well during the summer months. Also, the plant thrives once the soil has warmed, which makes it essential that you plan the planting process accordingly.

For those who are planning or preparing pesto meals, consider growing many plants. However, for other purposes, one or two basil plants should suffice.

If your garden or patio lacks plants, then you should consider basil. After all, the taste of homemade pesto is always unique, and purchasing individual packs of basil can be highly inconvenient.

Sweet basil, the most common basil variation with a subtle flavour, is a plant that grows 1 to 2 feet high, and often has glossy leaves with slight occurrences of white flowers. Classified as one of the most common plants in gardens, basil is ideal for improving your tomato dishes, salads and more. Here are some of the key factors about how to grow basil:

When to Plant Basil

  • Consider starting the planting process indoors a few weeks before the spring frost
  • The best conditions for planting outside would when the soil has warmed up to about 50°F (10°C). Also, ensure that you regulate the night temperatures because the extreme cold can kill the plants
  • Let the plants grow, and without adequate warmth, the plants won’t achieve optimal growth
  • On average, the plant should receive 7 to 9 hours of water each day, but can also perform well in partial sun
  • The soil should be moist and well-drained to allow for optimal growth
  • The plant grows well when put in raised beds, containers that will ensure optimal growth
  • If you plan to cook the basil, avoid using products such as insecticides, and grow them away from high traffic areas

Cooking with Basil

As one of the most widely used herbs, basil works well with various other condiments including eggplants, peppers, tomatoes and more. Thus, making meals such as pizza sauces, pestos and spaghetti sauces becomes a breeze. Also, basil is ideal for meat meals, where you can combine it with other products such as garlic, chives and more. 

Fresh basil also works well with salads. Consider using the lime-scented cultivars when preparing salads.Basil plants can grow as perennial plants, especially in USDA zones such as zone10. The plant is an annual plant that might only survive up until the first frost before requiring replacement. 

basil pasta

The plant is ready for harvesting in between the first two to three months when grown using seeds. Frequent harvesting or poor pruning of the plant will compromise the development of fresh leaves.

You can also step your basil from blooming, by removing the top sections of the leaves when the plant achieves the 6-inch height. However, if the plant produces flowers, then it might produce seeds soon, and fail to achieve optimal plant growth. Once the basil plant produces seed, the flavour of the leaves might reduce, so never be afraid to prune the plant early enough. The flowers are also edible, so you might even get a few new plants. 

The size of the plant will depend on various factors, including the growing conditions and the plant species. For instance, the sweet basil species can achieve heights of 6 feet tall but usually grows to about 3 feet in most gardens. Pinching and continually cutting basil will make it bushy, with excessive leaves. The plant also has 6-inch dwarf variations, which grow well in pots.


Basil grows best in conditions where it can receive 6 to 7 hours of sun each day. The plant will experience a few numbers of health complications, thus making it sturdier. This is the case, except in overly hot climates where the plant requires adequate shade. 


Basil thrives in well-drained and moist soil. It would be great if you would also improve the quality of the ground using compost or well-prepared mulch.


Ensure that the basil plant receives water regularly and that the soil is also well-drained. Apply mulch on top of the ground, to help retain moisture and promote optimal plant growth. 

Temperature and Humidity

Basil is a plant that thrives well in warm conditions. However, never plant when the temperatures are freezing, because this can affect plant growth. Consider starting the growth process indoors, a few weeks before the last spring frost duration. 

The plant is also sensitive to temperature changes and can be the first plant in your garden to die in the summer. You can improve the lifespan of the plant using row covers, especially when an issue such as frost threatens the plant development. However, never allow the row cover to make contact with the leaves. Any occurrence of frost on the row cover might easily compromise the health of the leaves. 


Since you might be harvesting the leaves from your basil plants, consider applying fertilizer for optimal growth. Using an all-purpose fertilizer will help promote optimal plant growth and development.

Potting and Repotting

You can grow basil plants indoors using seeds, seedlings and various types of cutting from your garden plants. Also, ensure the plants receive adequate sunlight and warmth for the best growth results. A poorly grown basil plant is likely to have pale green leaves.

Types of Basil

There are various types of basil, with the common ones being:

  • Genovese – this type has large leaves than sweet basil and often has exceptional flavour
  • Mexican spice or cinnamon – full of green foliage with a unique scent to make it an excellent food condiment
  • Red Rubin – this type maintains a purple colour throughout the season with a unique flavour, and can also be used to improve the taste of vinegar
  • Lemon – this type offers a fresh and lemony flavour to pesto, but it has small leaves which are not easy to harvest.

How to Harvest Basil

Begin using the leaves as soon as the plant is large enough to spare some. Collect from the tops of the branches, cutting off several inches. Handle basil delicately so as not to bruise and blacken the leaves.

It is also possible to air dry basil using small and loose bunches. Furthermore, the basil will maintain the best flavour quality when frozen. The process of freezing basil is simple. The first step is to put prepare clean leaves and put them in a food processor. Then add some water as required to produce a thick puree for the cooking process. You can then transfer the puree into ice cube trays and then freeze them accordingly.

How to Grow Basil FAQ?

What is the specific technique for harvesting basil?

Similar to many herbs out there, basil is mainly grown for its foliage, rather than fruit. Thus, any approach that will improve the growth of leaves should be useful. Among some of these crucial techniques include pruning, using fertilizer and more. Also, consider cutting the leaves from the top section of the plant, rather than individual leaves. Using this approach should encourage optimal development of various parts of the plant.

How can I save my basil from frost?

If the frost occurs early, and light then cover the plants using a blanket or sheet. The best approach is to use place stakes in the ground close to the plant, such that the leaves don’t make contact with the covering. Then, weight the edge of the cover using some brick and stones. Uncover the area as soon as the temperature increases past 40 degrees. Furthermore, cutting the basil branches and placing them in some water can also be an excellent idea, because they can last for up to seven days.

How do I care for indoor plants of basil?

You should expect the plant to drop some leaves or perhaps wilt, as it undergoes the transition to the indoors. Observe the plant for any issues such as spider mites, bugs and more, which are the common issues that can affect herbs. Since you want to consume the leaves, using pesticides and insecticides is not recommended. Consider misting the plants daily to improve humidity and decrease the occurrence of spider mites.

Final Verdict

Growing a fresh supply of basil can be a great way to access herbs conveniently and free. Before you can grow basil, you should know that it requires certain conditions to achieve the best plant growth results. Whether you want to prepare pizza sauces, pestos and spaghetti sauces, basil makes up for an exceptional food condiment.

The plant grows well in moist and warm conditions, with well-drained soil. Also, the planting process should occur both in pots, or perhaps outdoors in your garden. However, you might have to regulate the weather conditions, because basil is prone to issues such as frost.