Sweet Basil

(Ocimum basilicum)

This herb is known around the world for its wonderful fragrance and flavor. The key ingredient in classic Italian pesto, Sweet Basil has big leaves that are fast and easy to grow so that you can make your own pesto to freeze for year-round use. It loves hot weather, so always wait until all danger of frost is past before planting in the garden in the spring, then harvest before the weather starts to cool down in fall. Great for containers, but be sure to keep watered. If you were to grow only one herb, this should probably be it. Dried basil just doesn’t have the aromatic quality of the fresh leaves, which are often added at the last minute to many Asian dishes.

  • Type warm season annual
  • Planting time after last spring frost
  • Features large, aromatic leaves
  • Light full sun
  • Soil fertile, well drained but moist
  • Spacing 18 inches
  • Plant size 24 to 30 inches tall, 18 inches wide
  • Garden use containers, herb beds, flower beds
  • Culinary use Asian and Italian dishes

Some Bonnie Plants varieties may not be available in your local area, due to different variables in certain regions. Also, if any variety is a limited, regional variety it will be noted on the pertinent variety page.

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At a glance
Nutrition Information

Light requirements: Full sun is ideal, but plants can grow in part shade.

Planting: Space 8 to 18 inches apart, depending on type. (Read the stick tag that comes with the plant for specific spacing recommendations.)

Soil requirements: Plants grow best in rich, moist but well-drained soil with a pH of 6.0 to 7.0. Work organic matter into soil before planting to add fertility and improve moisture retention. In containers, use premium quality potting soil.

Water requirements: Keep soil consistently moist through the growing season. Add a mulch layer to slow water evaporation from soil. In containers, water whenever the top inch of soil is dry.

Frost-fighting plan: Basil is very frost-tender and damaged by temperatures below 40º F. Use a frost blanket to protect newly planted seedlings from late spring frosts or prolong the fall growing season.

Common issues: Pinch flower buds to keep plants from bolting. Once flowers form, leaf flavor changes. Pests to watch out for: aphids, slugs, Japanese beetles, and earwigs. Fungal diseases sometimes occur in humid climates, and root rot is common in poorly drained soil.

Growing tips: Pinch or prune basil plants as they grow to promote branching and bushiness. Never cut into the woody parts of a stem; plants won’t resprout.

Harvesting: Pick leaves at any point in the growing season. Choose individual leaves, or snip leafy stems to the length you desire.

Storage: Cut basil stems and place in water like a fresh bouquet. They’ll last for weeks, provided you remove any leaves below the water line and change water regularly. Never place basil in the refrigerator; the cold air damages leaves. Preserve basil by freezing or in herbal vinegars.

For more information, visit the Basil page in our How to Grow section.

Nutrition Facts

5 leaves, fresh:
  • Calories: 1
  • Carbohydrates: 0g
  • Dietary fiber: 0g
  • Sugars: 0g
  • Protein: 0g
  • Vitamin A: 3% DV
  • Vitamin C: 1%
  • Vitamin K: 13%
  • Vitamin B6: 0%
  • Folate: 0%
  • Potassium: 0%
  • Manganese: 1%

Nutritional Information

Packed with Vitamin K, fresh basil helps with blood clotting and aids in bone strength. Used medicinally for its antioxidants and antibacterial properties, basil oil provides an immune system boost and combats aging and skin ailments. A member of the mint family, basil is native to India, Asia, and Africa, and its sweet aroma often infuses Mediterranean dishes. To maintain flavor and color when cooking with fresh basil, mix in the bright green leaves during the last few minutes. You can also crush the leaves with a mortar and pestle to maximize the herb’s hearty flavor. Basil freezes well; just wash and dry thoroughly before tightly sealing in freezer bags.