Growing Basil

growing basil in a pot

Plant a mix of different types of basil (in this case, sweet basil, spicy globe basil, and Thai basil) in a large, colorful pot. Not only will it look lovely sitting on the deck or patio, but it will also put a range of flavors at your fingertips.

In the Garden

A woody, branching plant, basil is a warm-weather annual that grows very fast in 80- to 90-degree weather. When growing basil, note that two or three plants will yield plenty of fresh basil for a family of four — unless you plan to make pesto. (To make and freeze a winter’s supply of pesto, plant a dozen or more.) Many gardeners mix various types of basil in their flower beds, where it is ready for a quick harvest anytime. It is also great for containers.

Soil, Planting, and Care

Sweet basil plants in herb garden

You can grow a lot of basil in a vegetable garden, where it is handy for a big harvest to make pesto. This is sweet basil.

Basil needs 6 to 8 hours of sun; in the South and Southwest, it benefits from afternoon shade. Set out plants at least 2 weeks after the last frost in spring; summer planting is okay, too. Space at the distance recommended on the label, which is generally 12 to 18 inches apart. Plants are very frost sensitive, so keep plants protected in case of a late cold spell. Basil likes rich, moist, but well-drained soil with a pH of 6 to 7. Because basil is harvested continually for lots of leaves, it needs a little fertilizer. When planting, add plenty of organic nutrients from compost, blood meal, or cottonseed meal to the soil. Feed with Bonnie Herb, Vegetable & Flower Plant Food every couple of weeks to help keep tender new leaves coming on as you pinch back the stem tips.

If planting in a container, use a large pot to keep the plants from drying out quickly in hot weather. You may also want to add a water-retaining polymer to the potting soil to keep the soil evenly moist and extend the time between waterings.

Troubleshooting

Thai basil with purple blooms or flowers

Basil wants to bloom as summer progresses. To keep the plant lush, pinch off the bloom stems as they appear. This Thai basil has purple blooms.

Occasionally, basil is bothered by aphids, slugs, or Japanese beetles. However, the biggest threat is poor drainage, so to avoid root rot, plant in a well-drained location. Also, don’t let it get too dry, or growth may be stunted. If your plants get away from you to the point at which they are making seeds and have stopped growing, shear off the top third of the stems and fertilize with liquid fertilizer. Never cut the woody part of the stem, or the plant won’t sprout back.

Harvest and Storage

Purple basil in a terra cotta pot in the garden near an outdoor living area

Basil can be a beautiful addition to the garden and landscape. This pot of purple basil provides height, color, and flavor in a patio-side garden bed.

Harvest basil leaves by pinching them from the stems anytime after the young plants have reached a height of 6 to 8 inches. Pinch the leaves from the tips of the stems to encourage the plant to branch and make more leaves. Try to keep the stems pinched even if you don’t use the leaves; otherwise, the plant will begin to flower and make seeds, and will stop producing leaves. At the first prediction of even the lightest frost, go ahead and harvest all your basil because it will quickly turn black in cold weather. Make easy work of this by cutting the entire plants off at ground level, then pick off the best leaves. You can dry basil leaves, but freezing it or using it in vinegar best preserves the herb’s flavor. You can also use it to flavor oils and pesto, which should be kept refrigerated or frozen. (Don’t keep fresh leaves in the refrigerator, though, as they will turn brown.)

You can also keep cut stems fresh for a few days by putting the cut ends in water just like a cut flower. They will add a fresh basil fragrance to the air.

Uses

For the fullest flavor, add fresh basil to dishes within the last 5 or 10 minutes of cooking time. Use fresh basil in tomato dishes, soups, salads, sauces, and pasta. Its flavor blends well with parsley, rosemary, oregano, thyme, and sage.

Download our How to Grow Herbs instructions. They are in .PDF format.

FAQs

When I pick basil leaves, do I pluck them from the top or the bottom of the stem?

Basil, like many herbs, is grown for its foliage, not fruit or flowers. Anything you can do to encourage new leaves, such as fertilizing or pruning, is a good idea. Picking leaves is also pruning, so you can stimulate your plant to grow while harvesting. Always cut leaves from the top of the plant. Instead of cutting individual leaves, pinch out the top of the stem. This should include the small new leaves or a flower stalk and a pair of full-size leaves growing below the tip. You can also cut low enough to include several pairs of leaves if you need a lot of basil. Just be sure that your cut is on a light-colored stem that is relatively young. The older woody portions may not sprout new growth.

What can I do to save my basil from frost?

If the frost is early and light, cover plants with a sheet or blanket. The best way is to put stakes in the ground around the plant so that the leaves are not touching the covering. Weight the edge of the covering with stones or bricks. Uncover as soon as temperatures rise above 40 degrees. Cutting branches of basil and putting them in a vase of water is always a good idea, as they will last up to a week. If you want to preserve basil for use during the winter, puree leaves in a food processor with olive oil. Freeze the puree in ice cube trays, and then store the cubes in freezer bags. These make individual portions to be added to soups, spaghetti sauce, or any recipe calling for fresh basil.

Can I transplant my basil into a pot to bring indoors this winter?

Basil is difficult to grow indoors, but if you have a sunny window, you can give it a try. Growth will not be as robust, nor will the flavor be as good, but it is definitely better than having no fresh basil at all. In fall you may not have any choice but to transplant large plants from the garden, but it is better to start fresh with a small plant if possible. If the basil in your garden has reseeded, dig up a big seedling to transplant. If you must dig the big plant in the garden, get as much of the roots as possible and put it in a pot large enough for the growing plant, using a good quality potting mix. This will be like transplanting a garden shrub.

How do I care for an indoor pot of basil?

Expect the plant to wilt and drop leaves as it makes the transition to the indoors. Watch for signs of mealy bugs and spider mites, two common problems with indoor herbs. Because you want to eat the leaves, most pesticides are not an option. Try misting plants daily to increase humidity and decrease the likelihood of spider mites. Then if problems appear, treat with insecticidal soap or diluted dishwashing liquid.

My basil has bare stems at the top and a few ugly leaves below. What happened?

Beginning in midsummer, basil plants will bloom, make seeds, and die. That is the normal lifecycle for an annual plant like basil. Just like zinnias, marigolds, and other annuals benefit from deadheading (removing spent flowers), so will basil. Unlike showy annuals flowers, basil blooms are subtle, looking like a small bud or green cone at the top of the stem. With time, this bud will expand into several inches of insignificant white flowers. Go ahead and pinch off the flower bud as soon as it appears. Continue pinching through the latter part of summer to prevent seed set and to encourage new leafy growth.

My basil turns my fingers black. What can I do?

When harvesting basil, you will find that any bruises will turn black, including the plant juice that gets on your fingers and under your nail when pinching the stem. Use kitchen scissors to avoid the problem. If you are cutting a lot of basil, as you would at the end of the season or when you want to make pesto, wear gloves. If you already have stained fingers, use a pumice soap and/or stone on your fingers, and do the best you can with a nail brush. Otherwise, the color will wear off in a few days.

95 Comments

lisa

Hi! I bought a basil plant and it has looked great for the last 6 weeks. Lately here in south florida we have had some continuous rain. I would check the soil to make sure it is not to wet but in the last 2 weeks the leaves started to look yellow and a few of the stems are brown at the bottom but green at the top. I never really fed or fertilized it except some coffee grounds and a little stale beer.
I thought maybe it wasnt draining so I carefully took it out of the clay pot and added some gravel to fhe bottom. I loosened the roots and replanted it adding some more fresh potting soil and some alaska fish fertilizer. Do you think my plant has hope?????

Danielle Carroll

Hi Lisa,
Of course I do! You were right to replant, poor soil drainage escpecially in times of excessive rains is not good at all for basil. I hope the basil responds willingly to your care! – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Coleen Hartwig

My basil plant is very tall and it is flourishing great. I have it in a big planter on my screened in porch. I noticed that the stems are starting to get black at the bottom of the plant, should I replant it or what should I do? I’d like to keep it on my porch because I use it regularly and the dogs don’t mess with it, plus, less bugs! What do you think?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Coleen,
How long have has the basil been growing on your backporch? It may help to check the drainage in the container. Poor drainage is basil’s biggest enemy – causing the roots to rot quickly (as well as darkened stems and later leaves). Soil could remain wet longer as it is under a covered area. -danielle, Bonnie Plants

pearse

Hi
Also I have a question regarding boxwood basil. bought one last weekend. can they grow in container? it had very tiny leaves? like tiny flowers.

pearse

Hi
I have a basil plant, which I was having indoors for the last 6-8 months. i had it in my sun room and it seemed to be happy and I had been pinching it regularly for my use. for the last 1 month I didn’t do much of harvesting and behold it is now tall, limby with a few leaves on the top and none on the bottom. also it is droopy on its side.tall droopy and skinny but the leaves are bright green and all and has the same basil scent. But I saw some flowers too! does that mean it is done. i have read that it means end of its life. is there any way I could salvage this plant and keep it going. now the weather is so great outside , i would like it to grow and become bushy. is it possible.
please advise. thanks in advance

Danielle Carroll

Hi Pearse,
Harden off the plant for the transition from inside light to outside light. You may want to place it in part shady conditions for a few days gradually letting it become used to the outdoor temperatures and light. You can pinch the plant back to new, living leaves to see if it will come back for you. – danielle, Bonnie Plants

Kristy

Hi I just purchased a sweet basil plant from home depot .Is there multiple plants in one pot? there doesnt seem to be a main stem or is it buried ?thanks for info

Danielle Carroll

Hello Kristy,
There are multiple plants in the pot! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Hurley

I bought my first Bonnie sweet basil plant a month ago when it was still cool in the day and freezing at night. It has been in doors at a south facing window. Now it has started to warm up out side( 70-80) and within the first 30 minutes of being in the sun it wilts all the way to the soil. I bring it back inside and it springs back up. I have tried watering before going out but still has the same result. Also, now that it is inside all the time, the leaves are droopy.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Hurley,
Sounds like your basil plant needs to be hardened off. After growing inside for a month, the full sun was a lot for the basil to handle when it was used to lower light conditions. To harden off a plant that has been growing inside, gradually get it used to the outdoors by putting it in the part shade during the day – expose the basil to the sun a few hours increasing the sun exposure everyday until it is planted outside. Seedlings started indoors must be hardened off as well. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Hurley

Thanks for the reply. I kinda figured thats what it was but since it has done that the plant is not as firm and perky as it once was on the inside. It is very droopy. Not quite a wilt but on the verge.

Danielle Carroll

I hope it perks back up for you…harden it off for a couple of days before placing it in the full sun where it will eventually go; it ok to pinch the top of the plant back if the bottom is perky and the top is droopy- Danielle, Bonnie Plants

chris

I live in South Florida.
Started 40 beautiful basil plants from seed, and transplanted them into an 18″ ceramic pot. They are in my screened pool enclosure. They’ve been doing well for 2 weeks, but the last 3 days, I am noticing 4-5 are dead each morning. It looks like the stems are being cut at the bottom.

It looks like a critter is gnawing at the base of the plant, but I have no critters. Have you ever seen this with Basil?

Palm Beach

Danielle Carroll

Hi Chris,
I would guess that the transplants are about 6 – 8 weeks old or so? Are the stems turning a blackish color on the stem at the damaged area? If so, overwatering or lack of drainage could be the problem. Make sure that the ceramic pot has plenty of drainage and that a good potting mix is used. If the stem does not look discolored, but is just broken off at the base, keep your eye on the plant. If larger critters can not get in, insect critters can. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Neal

Hey Bonnie,

I left for the weekend and my roomste watered my basil for me. He uses garden soil in his boxes and I use potting mix. For that reason I tend to water more. He didn’t water mine much while I was gone and I noticed I was getting brown spots on some of leaves. I try not to water the leaves, only the roots, but is this due to lack of water or burning from the sun? I jumped the gun after a couple days and pinched the leaves that had browned but I don’t want this to happen again. Ideas?

Danielle Carroll

Hi Neal,
You did exactly what you should’ve done by pruning out the leaves with spots. Pruning will make the basil bushier with more lateral shoots…which means more pesto! Hard to say what the brown spots were from as there are many possibilities – from bacterial spots, fungal spots, cold damage, even insects. Watering only the roots is a good sustainable habit. Keeping the basil healthy is your best defense against all pests, so don’t forget to pinch it back and fertilize regularly! – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Nabu

What is causing my purple basils to turn green? Even the Amethyst blue seedlings have green leaves. I know light is not a factor since they are exposed to morning sun until midday.

Mary Beth

Hi Nabu,
Are these seeds that you saved yourself? It sounds like the basil might have cross-pollinated (the parent plant). If not, let us know. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Nabu

Thanks Mary Beth. I bought the Amethyst blue seeds online. My other purple basils are mature plants from a local gardener. I can’t seem to maintain their purple color even with adequate light exposure. I live in the tropics.

Jong

Hi. A couple of weeks ago I bought a bunch of Bonnie Plant herbs at Home Depot including a variety of Basil (Sweet, Thai, Cinnamon and Boxwood). I planted them in 12″ Misco self-watering planters and used Miracle-Gro Moisture Control Potting Soil. Following instructions, I watered them from the top for the first week and then starting from the second week I watered them from the bottom by filling the reservoirs at the bottom. With the other herbs I bought I noticed that the reservoirs did not empty every day, but with the Basil plants the reservoirs empty daily so I water them daily. Is this really necessary? What would happen if I did not refill the water reservoirs every day? The Basil plants are growing really well.
The Thai Basil was already flowering when I bought it and didn’t seem to be spreading much but after pinching off the flowers, they started spreading nicely. The Cinnamon (Vietnamese) Basil also started forming flowers early but since my parents like that Basil in their instant noodles I tend to harvest that the most. Neither the Sweet or Boxwood Basil have formed flowers yet but they have been spreading well.
Anyway they seem to be doing pretty well so I don’t want to do anything that would stop their rapid growth but the whole point of getting the self-watering planters (and the moisture control potting soil) was so that I would not have to water daily.

Danielle Carroll

Hi Jong,
If the basil plants are emptying the water and the soil is not staying soggy, I would keep watering as you are. If you notice that the soil stays extremely wet, you may want it to try out just a touch before adding more water. – Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Cassidy

Hi! I was wondering, when Basil flowers, do the leaves stop growing back?

Danielle Carroll

Hello Cassidy,
Basil is an annual herb. When it starts to flower, it is finishing up its life cycle and setting seeds. Yes, it will stop growing. You can pinch the flowers back as this article explains. This will keep the plant going. With all the new leaves, you may want to try some basil pesto. You can freeze it too! -Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Kim

I just planted some great looking Sweet Basil transplants. I’m in southern OK. I’m looking at the weather and they are forecasting a low of 34 in a few days. Should I dig them up and bring them in? Can I cover with black plastic the day before? Any ideas? Our high today is 80 so I thought I was safe.

I thought I would share something about growing sweet basil in a very low – 10% – humidity environment. In the middle of summer the leaves started to curl and wilt – even with watering. I was getting to the point of over watering so I started lightly misting the leaves after dark (10 pm) and that fixed it. Of course it got afternoon shade but the dry air seemed to bother it.

Thanks
Kim

Danielle Carroll

Hi Kim,
Great thinking! Basil does not tolerate frosts and freezes. They will need to be covered- I have used 2 liter coke bottle, blankets, and makeshift greenhouses to get plants warm at night. Just remember to take them off when weather warms the following day.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Fatema

Hi. I have not been able to give my basil sun for around a month. It is sown from the seeds in a starter kit. Is it dead or can I hope it will grow in the summer? Please let me know. Thanks.

Danielle Carroll

Hello Fatema,
It’s hard for me to tell if it is dead. If there is a stem and leaves…it is alive. If there once was stem and leaves and now there is nothing, it is likely dead. If it is still alive, you may consider getting some additional lighting for the seedlings.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

Mai Vue

Hi Bonnie. I live in Central Texas and recently planted some sweet basil from retail seeds I purchased. It’s going on week four now and my plants have grown to about one and a half inch tall. I have it growing on my window sill. However I am concerned that it may not be the best idea to place it there at this time of the season as it is still pretty cool and the plant soil feels cool upon touch. Average temperature is between 55-60 degrees on a daily basis from when I had began to plant them. This is my first time planting basil and I am wondering if the low temperature is slowing down it’s growth? the tiny plants are beginning to sprout four leaves per bunch but I am wondering if it should be in a better growth stage by now. I have noticed tiny brown spots on some of the baby leaves which my instincts tell me something is not going right! I live in a studio apartment and have no other area to place them except the windowsill for maximum light exposure. Also, do you reccomend that I take the plants outside and try to expose it to direct sunlight? Most of the time because of how my window is faced, it doesn’t recieve direct sunlight. It recieves more sunlight shade instead. Also I will eventually be using fertilizer to help assist it’s growth and was planning to begin fertilizer treatments this week. Any overall suggestions on my concerns for growing it?

Danielle Carroll

Hello Mai,

You have hit the nail on the head….it’s all about the light and soil temperatures. Basil is a warm season vegetable and grows well in warm soils. Light is crucial for new seedlings. You may see skinny seedlings reaching for light if they do not have enough. Additional light sources are usually needed as most windowsills are not sunny enough to support seedling growth. You will find specifics on starting from seed in this extension publication from Texas A and M Univeristy.
-Danielle, Bonnie Plants

maria gayapa

i can’t seem to grow basil…i live in california and it grows really tall but then it turns yellow..should i be pruning the leaves at a certain height or something…i know i should be cutting the flowers so it won’t bloom..i’ve been trying to grow basil forever and so far not successful….

Mary Beth

Hi Maria,
How/where are you growing it? When you read the step-by-step instructions in this article and tabs within, what doesn’t correlate? If you are growing in a container, make sure it has drainage holes. In either ground or pot, make sure you do not overwater, as that is sometimes shown in leaf coloration. The yellow leaf clue may be telling you that it needs fertilizing. Also, if you are in extreme heat and a very sunny spot, it may benefit from a little afternoon shade for relief. I’ve seen the leaves “bleached out” and burned from extreme sun as well. See if any of those points give you clues and let’s figure this out together. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Casey Terminello

THANK YOU for saying basil may need some afternoon shade in certain areas. I killed pot after pot of basil until I realized it needed protection from the afternoon sun here in California.

Mary Beth

Hi Casey,
Thank you for writing! In extreme temps or intense sun, even the most “sun-loving” plants may need a little respite, right? Hope you had better success with your basil the second time. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

kisha

I was so excited when I purchased both greek and sweet basil. Unfortunately one cold night seems to have brough both down to nothingness. I brought them in hoping to save them but that didn’t help. When I cut them down the steems were still green on the inside. But still nothing. I gave in I took them back out because the lityle nats in the plant were annoying. Will I be staring from scratch in the spring/summer.

Mary Beth

Hello Kisha,

Unfortunately it sounds like the cold has gotten both of your plants and you will have to start over this spring. All basils react negatively to the cold; they are warm weather plants. I have some in my greenhouse now that we were running cold and the basil plants haven’t grown like they are supposed to. To take care of the gnats, watch how much you are watering. Fungus gnats have a tendency to flock to wet soils. If you can keep the soils drier, it should help with the gnats. Let us know if there is anything else we can do for you. Thanks for your patronage. ~ Freeman at Bonnie Plants

FIRST TIME GARDENER

Hi! I was wondering, how long does it take a basil plant to grow from a seed to the point where I can actually see it? I live in Houston and although it’s december, it’s only windy, a bit cold, but sunny. Should I start planting the seeds, and if I should, when should I be expecting to see the plant POP through the soil, or only see a small part of it? Please reply soon! THANK YOU!

Mary Beth

Hi First Time Gardener,
Basil is really easy to grow…in the right conditions. As you can see from this article, it prefers the heat and sun of spring and summer. It will blacken at first, and then die, when temperatures hit the 30s. If you are growing indoors with a seed-starting kit, that’s another story! It should take under a week to see the first little sprouts appear. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

BelenDelSol

Hello!
I Love Basil and want my kitchen to smell like it so I just bought my first Bonnie Basil plant!
Though on the 2nd or 3rd day I already noticed black spots on the leafs. Now my plant i has black holes in them and is turning yellow! =/
Can I still save my little plant? Any tips? Should I cut all of the damaged leafs with holes?

Thanks in advance!

Mary Beth

Hi Belen,
As you might have seen from other commenters here, basil will blacken when temperatures are too cold. Yellowing can sometimes result from overwatering, in addition to lack of water. I know you are excited to have fresh basil in your home, so let’s figure this out! Do you have it in your kitchen or outside? Is it in a cold or drafty spot? Do make sure you have it in a container with holes in the bottom for good drainage. Basil will sprout new leaves after cutting back on the stem, so not to worry once it’s in better sun and soil conditions. If you are in a warm climate, it is best to grow it outside in full sun, perhaps on the patio in a pot near the kitchen door.~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Belen Hervera

Hi Marie,
Well, I live in an apartment so I do not have a patio, I keep my basil plant by the window with lots of sun. I live in Miami, fl so the weather is hot and humid but I do keep it quite cold in my home so maybe that is the first problem. I also have not been able to buy fertilizer for the plant, does a basil even need fertilizer?
The leaves have contibued to be yellow with black patches, should I cut those off, buy fertilizer and maybe try to keep it right outside my door during the day? By doing this can my plant still be saved?

Thanks for all of your help!

Mary Beth

Hi Belen Hervera,

A basil plant does need fertilizer. When the plants get to the store they only have a small amount of fertilizer left in them. We recommend using the Bonnie Plants Fertilizer in the green jug. If you follow the recommendations on the jug it should green your plant back up and bring it back. Pull off all of the leaves with the black spots and discard them. Once you get the fertilizer on it, it should start sprouting new leaves and look pretty again. ~ Freeman at Bonnie Plants

victor

would like to tranfer my basil plant into a larger container. Right now it has several plants in a cluster type. When i do the tranferring, do i plant them individually into several containers or do i keep them ( the plants) as they are in a cluster??

Mary Beth

Hi Victor,
It sounds like you have several plants within one container. You can separate them into individual containers if you are careful with the stems and root ball, or you can simply transfer to a larger container with more soil as one clump. Basil can sometimes grow into a large shrub with a woody, thick stem in warm summer climates and it may be hard to divide. For the most basil from your plant(s), though, use it often and stems will branch out from the last snipped point. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Beth

Hello!

I recently brought my herbs inside due to the chilly fall temperature. (including basil). Many of the leaves had developed back spots. I removed most of the spotted or discolored leaves, and the plants have been looking much healthier. However, I am concerned because I have suddenly noticed several hard, tiny, black specks scattered on the table underneath the plant. At first I thought it was dirt, but soon realized that it had a different, rounder, and harder consistency than the dirt. The specks remind me of the black vanilla bean specs found in vanilla ice cream, but are just a bit larger. Should I be concerned that they are some sort of fungus, mite, or dropping/casing ….. or is this most likely basil seeds that are falling from the plant? Thanks for your help!

Mary Beth

Hi Beth,
I think your black spots and specks are two different things. You’re right; basil hates the chilly temps and will blacken if left out in the cold. Now that you have it inside, try cutting it back by a third or so and encouraging new growth in a warm, sunny windowsill. It needs a lot of direct sunlight, FYI. If you have had flower buds or flowers that developed and dried to form seed heads, you might consider getting a fresh basil plant or starting some of those seeds in fresh potting soil. And yes, it does sound like those little droppings are indeed seeds. Basil leaves lose their flavor after the plant is allowed to flower, so if your store doesn’t have a Bonnie Plants basil this time of year, try starting those seeds! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Bonnie

Hi! I have an indoor basil plant that flourished all summer, but sometime during October it all of sudden stopped drinking water and the stems have turned brown. Is this because of the colder weather? And is it dead for good or should I expect it to come back in the warmer months? Thank you!

Mary Beth

Hi Bonnie,
Nice name. :) Basil will blacken or die completely when exposed to cold, depending on how cold and for how long it is exposed. It will not survive the winter in most areas. You might have success in extending your harvest by cutting fresh stems to keep in a glass of water on a sunny windowsill; they often take root. Or, you can bring in and grow indoors if it hasn’t been hurt too badly. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Sandie

Bonnie, My sweet basil already has no leaves on it. I live in Virginia Beach. My herbs are in an outside raised garden, and we are already getting down to the mid to low 40’s at night. If I just cut my plant back a few inches from the ground, will it bloom againg next year? This is my first time trying to plant herbs, tomatoes and bell peppers. I think we’ve learned a lot and will do better next year.
Thank You
Sandie

Mary Beth

Hi Sandie,
Congratulations on your first garden! All gardeners of all experience levels continue to learn every season. Basil is an annual, meaning that it will die each year and require replanting in spring. It is very sensitive to cool temperatures; it’ll blacken, lose leaves and die back. Other herbs are perennials that will survive year to year in your Virginia climate, but basil is a warm season annual. Please join our e-newsletter group to receive seasonal advice, tips and how-to’s, and consider joining our Facebook page where we share daily advice, contests, and photos. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Mary Beth

Hi Cali,
That will depend on if your basil is grown in-ground or in containers, indoors or out. Basil likes regular watering, say every 3-4 days in the heat of summer, but does not need to stay in heavy, moist soil. Make sure it gets great drainage and doesn’t sit in a pool of water. Your pot should have drainage holes. If ever in doubt, stick your finger in the soil up to your first knuckle. If it’s semi-dry, it’s time to water. If the leaves look wilty, it’s past due for water! Hope that helps. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Megan

Thanks for all your help. I was beginning to feel embarassed to ask. One more question I have is if I trim all the leaves off now and freeze them,will it change the flavor? It’s still a range of 60-70 degrees.

Mary Beth

Hi Megan,
Never embarrassing to ask here. We are here to help. The fun thing about gardening is that we ALL learn new things each season. Your basil will be fine until lows hit the 40s, but if you pinch out the top of stems to harvest and freeze some now, you may have a little longer for new, fresh growth to emerge and get two crops. You will want to preserve the basil in oil or butter to freeze it without blackening. A few links that may help: Seasonal Wisdom on preserving herbs and Utah Extension on freezing in ice cube trays. If you like what you see here, tell your gardening friends about us and join our online Facebook fun. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

J. Cox

I bought a Bonnie Sweet Basil plant (Ocimum basilicum) a week or two ago and planted it along with peppermint and cilantro in a window box planter hanging from my backyard fence. It’s gotten good water, but has drainage. It also is at the top of the fence so gets lots of sun. It’s now late summer here and not really even getting chilly yet. The leaves look great, very healthy and big, but they have started getting purple streaks. Is there something wrong or is that normal?

Mary Beth

Hi Jennifer,
Are the streaks purple or black? Those could mean very different things. Black leaves on basil could be a number of things, namely exposure to cooler temperatures, even if very briefly. It’s very sensitive. Or, it maybe be staying too wet or moist. If the streaks are purple, there is a chance that the seed of your plant was cross-pollinated with a purple variety and is showing other traits. Let us know if it’s just healthy and purple, or the leaf is blackened and dying. Congrats on a tasty-sounding herb garden of mint and cilantro, too. ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

J. Cox

The plant looked purplish the other day but now has turned toward brownish/black. We had a short cold snap (mid 40s) the other night. I’ll try to bring the plants in at night and see if that helps. I’m going to attempt to house them inside during the winter months at our sunny window. I know that they don’t do as well inside but hopefully will survive. For now, should I pinch off these brownish/black leaves so that the healthy ones can thrive?

Mary Beth

Hi Jennifer,
That’s exactly the culprit! Basil really dislikes those cooler temperatures. Just pinch off the damaged leaves (or pinch entire stem back to just before a new pair of leaves so it can branch out again) and bring it inside. If you can pot in a very sunny, warm window (without cool drafts), it will keep for winter. Good luck! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Melissa

If I propagate my Bonnie basil plant purchased in late spring, will the leaves still be potent on the new plant? I have a sun room and I plan on trying to propagate some plants this fall.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Melissa,

I think you’re talking about taking a cutting and growing a new plant from this cutting, right? If so, then yes, the leaves from this new plant should be similar to the plant you grew this year. Make sure to choose a spot in your sunroom that gets plenty of light and warmth. Basil is one of the more difficult herbs to grow indoors. It doesn’t like cool weather, not even a little bit. Basil prefers temperatures in at least the 70s, day and night. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

ariel

Also there are white flies that fly off of my plant whenever I harvest some of the leaves. Should I use a pesticide? I try to avoid them.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Whiteflies are a common problem on basil. Many gardeners interplant basil with marigolds and/or oregano, both of which are thought to repel whiteflies. For the flies already on your plants, you can spray with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil, both of which are organic products. Apply according to label instructions. I hope this helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Ariel,

This article from Herb Companion gives 5 ways to preserve basil, including in vinegar. In this article, the author recommends white vinegar but you could try cider vinegar as well if you prefer it. Happy preserving!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

L D Herring

Since potting new plants in May, I have yielded four 16 ounce containers of fresh pesto and expect at least three more containers before the first frost. Plants are fed every 10 days, and watered daily, especially during 100+ degree dry weather. I keep the potting soil loose and find it takes less water to keep the plants hydrated and producing. Also, all my potted plants receive about 6-8 hours of morning sunlight and are in shade by early afternoon. You haven’t lived until you make your own pesto and grille homemade pizzas outdoors….!

Judi Stanton

I live in central Texas have very large and hardy basil plants, sweet and purple. They are flowering. Can I cut back the plants as fall approaches and possibly get sweeter leaves from them again?

Wendy

Hello,

I am container gardening for the first time. I purchased the sweet basil and have noticed a white film appearing on the top of the soil and not sure what do. Any help or suggestions can be greatly appreciated. Thanks you.

Mary Beth

Hi Wendy,
I asked our Ask An Expert service just to be sure, but that mold is nothing more than heavily watered pots and airborne particles reacting with the peat in the potting soil. It will not harm the plant. Sounds like you can simply break the surface of the soil and scrape off or work back into the soil if it’s bothering you! Happy gardening, ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Ashley

I have several basil plants growing in a pot that I started from seed. They started off well, but now have thin, tough leaves that are rolled up, and bolt whenever possible (I am pinching the flowers off). Is this a watering problem? If so, is it over- or under-watering?

Mary Beth

Hi Ashley,

I shared your basil story with our Ask An Expert contact. He thinks it is a response to the heat. As long as your potting soil is well-drained and you are not keeping it too wet or letting it dry out, your watering shouldn’t be an issue. Leaf size is often related to light conditions, so your basil may be getting too much direct light. If you provide it with some shade during the hottest part of the day, perhaps all of these problems will go away. Leaf curl is a physiological condition and will correct itself as the environmental stress does. Let us know how it grows! ~Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

It is a response to stress such as heat, and most importantly water. Leaves may curl after a huge amount of rainfall or when the soil dries out. Under- or overwatering will cause leaf curl.

Ann

We planted 2 small store bought basil plants in our Florida herb garden and we are very happy with the results, but would like our basil to expand “out” not just “up”. Anyway to help this happen?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Ann,

Yes, be sure to clip the tips, especially if the plant begins to flowering. Just harvesting often from the top growth with help promote branching. You should also read our article about pinching basil flowers. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Monica

I purchased a Bonnie Sweet Basil plant last week. Today I noticed small brown grains in the drainage saucer and slightly bigger balls on the plant. I rinsed the plan off, cleaned the saucer and within an hour I noticed even bigger brown droppings in the saucer and on the counter. What is going on?

Monica

Green worms were the problem. Two big (plump, 1 inch long) and two small (thin, 1 inch long. The next morning all leaves were eaten. I removed all the worms I saw and left the plant outside.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Monica,

Thanks for buying a Sweet basil plant from us! It sounds like this plant is inside and not yet planted outside? If that’s correct, that’s probably the problem. Basil loves hot weather and grows best outdoors in full sun. Read more above about how to plant and grow basil, and that info might help you. If not, let us know. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Kendra

Hello. I this is my 1st time growing basil so I have no idea what I am doing. But they seem to be doing well. But I have a question. I have little white flowers growing on the top. Whats this mean? Also they were green and beautiful when I bought them but now they are kinda green-yellow. Please help.

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Kendra,

Your basil plants are starting to flower. As the plant puts energy into flowering, it takes energy away from those pretty green leaves we love for cooking. You’ll need to pinch off those blooms to keep the plants producing leaves. Read our article “Basil Insists on Blooming” for more info. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Amanda

I tried planting basil on my windowsill. It’s in a pot, on a saucer. It’s been 6 weeks, maybe more and nothing’s happened except moss appearing on the soil. I watered it whenever the soil wasn’t moist since I read that you should wait til then. So what did I do wrong? And is it a lost cause?

Kelly Smith Trimble

Hi Amanda,

So you planted basil seeds? It does sound like this might be a lost cause, unfortunately. Your basil should have sprouted by now. Basil is one of the hardest herbs to grow indoors, whether by seed or starting with one of our plants, because basil really likes sun and warmth. You can grow herbs indoors, though, provided you have a sunny windowsill and the right herbs. Read our article “How to Grow Herbs Indoors” for more info. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Cliff

I have 10 of the sweet basil plants in pots….they seem to be turning a lighter shade of green, not the rich dark green that was evident when I transplanted them. Too much , not enough water? soil acidity wrong? Need more fertilizer? Any help will be apprieciated….love our basil.

Mary Beth

Hi Cliff,
Basils are fast growers and hungry feeders. Sounds like they just need a shot of Bonnie Herb & Vegetable Food. The more you water in pots, the more likely you are to leach out the nitrogen that they love. Happy gardening!
Mary Beth, Bonnie Plants

Al

Planted sweet basil this spring, breaking off the top edge of the peat pot. Plants did not do well until I dug them up and removed the remainder of the peat pot. Plants are now doing fine!

IRMA

Hi! I bought a sweet basil plant over a year ago a year ago and it hasnt died. I understand it’s an annual, but it survived last winter. I did bring it indoors. Since I heard it would die after flowering, I just left it alone (of course I still water it) and bought a new one this spring. I live in central Texas so maybe it’s a perrenial here? Please advise.

Kelly Smith

Hi Irma,

Basil is killed by frost, so if your plant hasn’t experience frost (which is possible in central Texas, especially if you brought it inside), then it can certainly live through the winter. We promote pinching the basil flowers to sustain the flavor of the leaves. After a basil plant flowers, the flavor and texture of the leaves changes. So I do think it’s a good thing that you bought a new plant, because the leaves from this first-year plant will taste much better than those from last-year’s plant. I hope this helps!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Grace

I just bought your sweet basil and it is my first time to buy a live plant. Is there a way to extend the life of the basil? Like maybe growing it indoors during autumn-winter? If possible, how? Thanks!

Kelly Smith

Hi Grace,

If you live in an area that doesn’t experience frost, then your basil plants can live through the winter, but most of us live where frost is inevitable. Some gardeners have had luck bringing their basil pots inside. Basil can be grown indoors, but it’s trickier than some other herbs. Read our article How to Grow Herbs Indoors for more info. Happy growing!

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Kristy

Hello,

I bought a Bonnie sweet basil plant last week, and it has been doing great! However, today I noticed that the leaves are looking a little droopy and I’m not sure why. The plant is in a very sunny spot, it gets about 6 to 8 hours of sun per day. Lately it has been very dry (no rain in ten days), so I have been watering once in the morning and once at night. Is this too much? Not sure what to do, please advise!

Kelly Smith

Hi Kristy,

Yes, basil likes moist soil but it sounds like you could be overwatering to compensate for the lack of rain. Most vegetables and herbs like about an inch of water per week, a little more in hot climates. You can measure how much water your plants are getting by using a rain gauge or other container. Maybe cut back on the watering a bit. You could also give your plants a boost with our Herb & Vegetable Plant Food the next time you water.

Happy growing!
Kelly, Bonnie Plants

Monica

Hi, this is my first year growing a garden, if I understand: when the weather chills, I harvest the plant completely, winter comes. My question is: next year in spring, this plant will grow up again or I will have to buy another one? Thank you

Kelly Smith

Hi Monica,

You’ll need to plant basil each year. The basil plant will die with frost and not come back. This is typically of an annual plant, as opposed to a perennial (such as rosemary, thyme, and sage) that comes back each year. I hope this helps! Let me know if you have more questions.

Kelly, Bonnie Plants

R. James

Hey there! I bought a “mexican basil” plant years ago..I sat in the back yard and completely forgot about it…It’s now dried out and the stalks are brown…..Is there anyway to save it or is just too late?

Kelly Smith

I hate to break it to you, but it sounds like it’s too late for this basil plant. Basil is a warm-season annual that is killed by frost. Most gardeners have to replant basil each year. You should pull this years-old basil up and plant some new basil plants! We offer 8 different varieties of basil if you’d like to learn more about these in our Herbs section. You can also learn more about how to grow basil on our Growing Basil page.

Happy growing!
Kelly, Bonnie Plants

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