Scared of Growing Basil? Here’s How You Can Grow Basil In Pots For Everyday Harvest

BOO! It’s basil…

Okay in all seriousness, basil is a popular herb grown in pots that is a staple to cooking and delicious pesto. And it is one of the easiest herbs to grow anywhere, other than mint, of course.

If you’re wondering why you should start growing basil in pots, you should be wondering why you shouldn’t grow basil in pots! Seriously, there is nothing like going to your herb garden and plucking a few leaves of basil and adding it to anything you’re cooking. Pizza, soup, even basil syrup, it’s perfect for anything.

With 1 [one] well-pruned plant, you get 1/2 cup of fresh basil a week! Basil will not stop growing for anything and will supply you for all summer. Way cheaper than what they charge for those prepackaged herbs at the grocery store.

Psst: You might want to get your “Gardeners Dictionary” for this! If you don’t have one, you might be a little lost with the terms! Alright, lets get to growing basil!

Aerial view of seed starting cells with tiny basil seedlings of different colors

What’s The Best Variety of Basil For Me?

When people think of growing basil, Italian varieties like “Genovese” sweet basil come to mind. While Genovese is great basil to grow in pots, it’s only one of the vast amounts of varieties of basil to grow! Grow different types of basil to try out their flavors and find out which basil is best for you.

If your go-to easy meal is fresh-made pasta, growing sweet basil is for you. Sweet basil is best to add some spicy clove flavor in Italian dishes and pesto. Some varieties include ‘Genovese’, ‘Italian Large Leaf’ and ‘Lettuce Leaf’ [Which is GIGANTIC!!].

If you enjoy Asian dishes like Vietnamese pho, Thai basil is essential. Thai basil varieties like “Siam Queen” are perfect for adding anise-clove-like flavor to curries, broths, noodle dishes. They’re gorgeous as an accent with their purple flowers.

Another variety that I recommend is Lemon Basil. It’s like a citrus-flavored explosion in a leaf! You could add it to your summer salads, punchy lemonades, and chicken and fish to make it hit just that much harder.

basil seedlings in biodegradeable pots on window sill

What’s The Better Basil? Seeds or Plants?

Like most herbs, it’s debatable whether you should grow basil from seed or plants.

If you live in a short growing climate, like growing basil indoors, or forgot your frost dates, you might want to grow basil in pots from bought plants. Growing basil from plants gets you to harvest faster because bought basil will usually be almost mature or outgrow its pot.

However, if you remember your frost dates, have a longer growing season, or want a rare variety, you’ll want to try growing basil in pots from seed. With growing basil from seeds, you can try out different types that you might not find in nurseries, like lettuce leaf!

How to Grow Basil From Plants in Pots

You can buy basil plants from almost any nursery or home improvement store. Even some grocery stores sell basil in pots! Most varieties you’ll see will either be Italian sweet basil, Thai basil, and Purple basil. So not a large variety. However, germinating and fostering the plant will already be done for you. All you need to focus on is harvesting and taking care of your basil plants.

From my experience, the basil found in grocery stores isn’t as flavorful or aromatic as nursery basil. The leaves often look a little flimsy as well compared to nurseries, so buy your basil at your local nursery!

After Buying Your Basil Plant

When you get your basil from the store, repot it. Most of the time, bought basil plants are in tiny 3-inch pots that are too small! Make sure you repot your basil plant the right way, so you don’t accidentally kill it!

After you repot your plant and give it a little drink of water, prune it. From experience, basil plants from the nursery are a bit too spindly when you get them.

To encourage vigorous growth, prune the stem near the offshoots. This causes the stems to grow as separate stalks and create a busier, more productive plant.

You can either store or propagate the cuttings if they’re long enough! I’ll discuss how to propagate basil from cuttings and store basil later in this article.

basil seeds in biodegradeable pots on window sill

How to Start Basil Indoors

From experience, growing basil in pots is slow. So you’ll want to start your plants indoors 8 weeks before your last frost date.

Sowing basil indoors is pretty straightforward. Sow 2 to 3 seeds in a 3-inch pot, cover the seeds with 1/2 inch potting soil, lightly spray it with water, and the basil plants should sprout in a week.

You put a few seeds instead of one because you can’t guarantee that every one of them is germination material. Some may be flukes. You can always thin out too many plants, but you can’t grow more out of dead ones.

Another way to start basil seeds indoors is to use the paper towel method. Germinate the seeds in a paper towel, then transfer the germinated seeds into pots full of rich potting soil. When the weather has consistent days over 60 degrees, start hardening off your seedlings for a few weeks.

Requirements For Growing Basil In Pots

Basil flourishes in warm weather and is an annual. So regardless of where you grow your basil in pots, you’ll need to wait until frost pasts and the weather warms up.

How Much Sun Does Basil Need?

Basil is a plant that loves the sun and needs 6 hours of sun a day. When you are growing your basil on your patio or balcony, make sure it’s in a location that gets the morning sun but isn’t at the mercy of the scorching afternoon heat. If you can’t move it to a place that gets morning sun and afternoon shade, make sure to water your basil more often.

When you are growing your basil indoors, place it near a window that gets full sun. If needed, supplement that with a grow light.

What Size Pot Should I Grow My Basil In?

Different basil varieties do well in different-sized pots. Usually, the smaller the plant, the smaller the pot. From experience, basil does good in 6 to 8-inch pots. If you want to grow multiple plants in a pot, opt-out for a 12-inch pot, or 5-gallon bucket.

What Kind of Soil Does My Basil Need?

Basil flourishes in well-draining potting soil full of organic matter. A generic potting soil mix will have your basil-producing leaves all season!

How Often Should Your Water Basil In Pots?

The best time to water basil is in the morning before the afternoon sun rears its blazing head. Water your basil thoroughly when the top inch of soil is dry.

Should I Fertilize My Basil?

Like any plant, basil benefits from a tiny boost of nutrients. However, a good potting mix can supplement it for at least a few months. If your basil plant slows down in growth, you can feed it with a diluted liquid fertilizer or Epsom salt you can find in your bathroom.

The #1 Tip For Growing Basil In Pots

Pinch the leaves!!!

And pinch those leaves often around every few weeks. Pinching the leaves off causes the stems to branch off in two and creates double the stems and double the basil! It also keeps your basil from flowering too early and stimulates growth in the leaves.

Pinching the leaves is easy! Pinch the leaves close to where two baby shoots branch off in the junction between the stem and the leaves. You can store them or use them in your recipes right away!

How to Harvest Basil For Vigourus Growth

Harvesting basil is like pinching back the leaves, except you make longer cuttings! However, don’t cut more than 1/3 of the plant at a time. Like growing mint indoors!

If your basil is starting to become skinnier and grow flowers, you can either save the seeds from those flowers or cut the flowers off. Because the energy is directed towards the flower, the leaves will become smaller and a more bitter flavor with more bite than palatable.

Thankfully basil is one of the few plants that can have their bolting reversed in the early stages by having the plant cut down to 1 half!

How to Propagate Basil From Cuttings

Propagating basil from cuttings is the same as rooting mint! To propagate basil from cuttings, cut a sprig 3-4 inches long right below the node [where the leaves sprout]. Then, remove all the leaves except for the top pair. You can root your basil cuttings in two ways, in soil, and in water.

Propagating Basil Cuttings in Soil

To propagate your basil cuttings in soil, stick it in a 6 to 8-inch pot and water it lightly. Then, keep the cuttings in full shade or keep your basil by a windowsill that doesn’t get direct sun. It will take about a week for the plants to take root. When you tug lightly, and there’s a little resistance, the roots are growing. Harden off your new basil plant and feel accomplished.

Propagating Basil Cuttings in Water

Propagating basil cuttings in water is a bit easier. Place the basil cuttings in a jar of water [and make sure the water doesn’t cover the leaves], and place it near a window that gets indirect sun. Make sure that the cuttings will not fall into the water or the water dries up because that can cause the cuttings to wilt, rot, and mold.

Tiny little tip: Never propagate basil cuttings in a water bottle or container with a narrow opening. Not only is it harder to get the basil cuttings back in the bottle when there are roots in the way, but you can also bruise and break the tender roots and cause root rot! A good alternative is a clean empty mini salsa jar or small open-mouthed container.

In a week, you will start to see roots growing from the bare nodes in the water. When the roots are a few inches long, repot them in their new home, harden off the basil cuttings, and feel great.

From experience, it’s easier [and more interesting] to propagate basil cuttings water. Another perk is that you get to see the roots growing and know what’s going on!

Basil and purple basil on gray wooden background

Storing Basil to Last All Season

With all that pinching and harvesting, you’re going to have more basil than you need at the time! And wasting good basil is not worth all the work you put into it!

How to Dry Basil

You can dry your basil, grind it up, and store it in a container! There are many ways to dry basil, like hanging a bunch of basil upside down, leaving the leaves out on a baking sheet to dry, warming it in the oven, or using a dehydrator! I like drying my basil upside down because depending on the humidity leaving leaves out can take months. It’s easy to go overboard with an oven, and dehydrators get pricy.

To dry your basil, get a bunch of basil cuttings, and tie a rubber band around it. The stems shrink as they dry, so you need to make sure it stays on tight! Tie a string around the rubberband contraption, and place it in a dark temperate room, a closet, or pantry does fine! Wait a few weeks. When the leaves are so dry you can crumble them, the basil is ready to be ground up. You can store your basil in a tiny glass jar! Use it like any dried herb at the start of your cooking.

So What, Sarika?

Not so scared of basil huh? Basil, like any plant, takes trial and error, so make sure to read “Growing From Your Gardening Mistakes”. These tips and tricks are from my own experience and helped me stop killing plants by a crazy amount.

To get informational articles like these straight to your inbox, along with a monthly “Plant of the Month” Newsletter and a free gardening dictionary, subscribe to my newsletter!

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That’s all for now. Happy gardening, Till we meet again.

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My name is Sarika, and I am the founder of “The Blossoming Gardener”! Let me tell you a little bit about myself…Read more

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