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The Complete Guide: How to Grow Basil from Seeds or Cuttings

  • Bob Styer
  • Herbs
Three Basil Plants Growing In Terra Cotta Pots.

Here it is, your complete guide to how to grow basil from seeds or cuttings.  The hardest part about growing basil is deciding what type to grow.  We list some of the most flavorful and aromatic varieties to make it easier.  Let’s get started…

Would you like to learn about other herbs? Check out our post “The Complete Guides to Growing Culinary Herbs” for links to those articles.

Table Of Contents
  1. What is Basil?
  2. Two Reasons Why We Like Basil So Much
  3. Types of Basil
  4. Preparing the Soil
  5. Basil Seeds to Help You Get Started
  6. How to Grow Basil from Seeds
  7. Accessories to Help With Growing Basil Seeds
  8. Growing Basil from Cuttings
  9. Growing Basil in Pots
  10. Caring for Basil
  11. Harvesting Basil Leaves
  12. How to Harvest Basil Seeds
  13. Storing Fresh Basil
  14. How to Dry Fresh Basil
  15. Basil Companion Plants
  16. Basil Diseases
  17. Products to Fight Basil Pests and Diseases
  18. Basil Pests
  19. Final Thoughts
  20. Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Basil
A nice crop of basil growing in a wooden raised bed.
Basil is so easy to grow; plant the seeds and you could get a crop like this.

What is Basil?

This herb may have originally come from India, Asia, or Africa.  Most varieties are annuals, with a few perennials available. A member of the mint family, It has many uses in Italian, Thai, Vietnamese, and Indonesian cuisine.

Basil prefers 6 – 8 hours of daily sunlight, and it’s perfectly happy growing in pots or in the herb garden.  With so many colors and flavors of this annual herb, you’ll surely find one or several that you’ll like.

When one of our grandsons was about two years old, he would ask, “Papa, can I have some basil?”  We would walk out to our herb pots, pinch off a few leaves of basil and some sprigs of parsley and have our morning salad.  Now he’s old enough to pinch off his own basil and parsley.

I would hate to imagine a world without the Margherita pizza, Caprese salad, or basil pesto.  Let’s all give thanks for basil!

Two Reasons Why We Like Basil So Much

A Caprese salad with basil leaves, tomatoes, and fresh mozzarella
A fresh Caprese salad
A Margherita pizza fresh out of the oven
A Margherita pizza right out of the oven

Types of Basil

Botanists estimate there are 50 – 150 species of basil.  Most of the culinary basils originated from sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum.

The colors of several basil types make them a decorative addition to garden beds or pots kept inside.

The Ocimum genus also includes some shrubs and non-woody perennials.  Since there are so many flavorful varieties of basil it was difficult to shorten this list:

Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilicum)

This is the basil you’ll usually find fresh or dried in supermarkets.  The leaves are bright green with curved edges, and the flavor is sweet with notes of mint, pepper, and anise.  The plant grows 12 – 24 inches tall.

Genovese Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese’)

Also known as Italian basil, the leaves are dark green, large, and more pointy than sweet basil.  The leaves have the flavors of mint and cloves.  The plant’s mature height is 24 inches.

Greek Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Greek’)

This is one of the smallest varieties of basil. It grows only eight inches tall with small pointed leaves.

Cinnamon Basil (.Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’)

The mild, sweet cinnamon flavor of this type goes well with fruit.  Cinnamon basil stems are reddish purple with pink flowers.

Cardinal Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Cardinal’)

This basil has a strong, spicy aroma with the most beautiful basil flower.  The blooms are deep red and tightly clustered.  The plants grow 30 inches tall and have a strong spicy scent.

Thai Basil (Ocimum basilicum thyrsiflora)

Its pointed, smaller leaves have a flavor like spicy anise.  Thai basil is a great decorative plant with dark green leaves and purple flowers.

African Blue Basil (Ocimum kilimandscharicum x basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)

Most experts believe this is a hybrid of dark opal and camphor basils.   If this plant doesn’t freeze, it will grow as a perennial.  If you like tall plants, this one grows up to four feet tall.

The leaves have scents of camphor, peppers, mint, and cloves.  It pairs well with meats, rice, and vegetables.  Finding African blue basil seeds is rare, but cuttings and plants are available.

Spicy Globe Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Pistou’)

Also known as pistou basil, this is another small variety.  As the name suggests, the small leaves have a strong spicy flavor.

Holy Basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

Also known as tulsi, it’s better to cook holy basil since it’s bitter when raw.  The leaves have a spicy, sweet musky scent favored in Indian cuisine. It also has many religious and medicinal uses. 

Lemon Basil (Ocimum basilicum citriodorum)

This basil is becoming more popular because of its pleasant lemon flavor.  The leaves are light green, and the plant grows 12 – 18 inches tall.

Lime Basil (Ocimum americanum)

This type makes a great pairing with lemon basil.  The narrow, bright green leaves have a mild, sweet lime flavor.   The plants grow 16 – 24 inches tall.

Napolitano Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Neapolitan’)

Also known as lettuce leaf basil or Italian large leaf basil.  This type only grows about a foot tall but has large leaves like lettuce.

At four inches wide and 6 – 10 inches long, they work well in salads.  The leaves have a flavor like sweet basil.

Dark Opal Purple Basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Dark Opal’)

This one has distinct purple leaves.  The aromatic leaves aren’t as sweet as other varieties but have a stronger clove taste.

About 20% of the plants grow with variegated or green leaves.  This makes a nice color combination with the purple leaves.  The mature plants are 18 inches tall.

Please Note:

When growing more than one type of basil, be aware that the plants will cross-pollinate.  This only applies if you let the plants flower.  If you plan on having basil flowers, grow the different varieties at least 150 feet from each other.

Preparing the Soil

Basil is native to warm climates, so if you’re planting it outside, ensure the soil is warm and the last frost has passed.

The well-draining soil should be nutrient-rich and moist.  Adding compost makes it more fertile and improves drainage.  The soil pH should be 6.0 – 7.0.

To learn more about soil testing, see our article.

Basil Seeds to Help You Get Started

Gardeners Basics, Basil Seeds for Planting Home Garden - 8 Variety Herb Pack Genovese, Large Leaf, Lemon, Thai, Red Rubin, Cinnamon, Sweet and Purple Opal Basil Herb Seeds for Indoors & Outdoors
Gardeners Basics, Basil Seeds for Planting Home Garden - 8 Variety Herb Pack Genovese, Large Leaf, Lemon, Thai, Red Rubin, Cinnamon, Sweet and Purple Opal Basil Herb Seeds for Indoors & Outdoors
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Gardeners Basics, Basil Seeds for Planting Home Garden Herbs - 5 Variety Herb Pack Thai, Lemon, Cinnamon, Sweet and Dark Opal Basil Seeds Herb Seeds for Indoors, Outdoors, Hydroponics & Aquaponic
Gardeners Basics, Basil Seeds for Planting Home Garden Herbs - 5 Variety Herb Pack Thai, Lemon, Cinnamon, Sweet and Dark Opal Basil Seeds Herb Seeds for Indoors, Outdoors, Hydroponics & Aquaponic
$9.95
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Seed Needs, Culinary Basil Herb Seed Packet Collection (8 Individual Basil Seed Varieties for Planting) Non-GMO & Untreated
Seed Needs, Culinary Basil Herb Seed Packet Collection (8 Individual Basil Seed Varieties for Planting) Non-GMO & Untreated
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Gaea's Blessing Seeds - Sweet Basil Seeds - Non-GMO Large Leaf Italian Heirloom Genovese Pesto Open-Pollinated High Yield 87% Germination Rate (Single Pack)
Gaea's Blessing Seeds - Sweet Basil Seeds - Non-GMO Large Leaf Italian Heirloom Genovese Pesto Open-Pollinated High Yield 87% Germination Rate (Single Pack)
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TKE Farms & Gardens - Genovese Basil Seeds for Planting, 1 Gram 600+ Heirloom Seeds, Non-GMO, Instructions Included, Ocimum basilicum, Qty 1
TKE Farms & Gardens - Genovese Basil Seeds for Planting, 1 Gram 600+ Heirloom Seeds, Non-GMO, Instructions Included, Ocimum basilicum, Qty 1
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Gardeners Basics, Lemon Basil Seeds for Planting Herbs - Heirloom Non-GMO Herb Plant Seeds for Home Herb Garden Indoors, Outdoors, and Hydroponics
Gardeners Basics, Lemon Basil Seeds for Planting Herbs - Heirloom Non-GMO Herb Plant Seeds for Home Herb Garden Indoors, Outdoors, and Hydroponics
$4.85
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How to Grow Basil from Seeds

The best way to grow basil from seed is to start it indoors 6 – 8 weeks before the last frost.  Basil seeds, peat seed trays or pots, seed starting mix, and water are the only things needed.

Before planting basil seeds in the garden, first soak them overnight in warm water.  Try to space the seeds on the surface 3 – 4 inches apart.

Press the seeds into the soil since they only need to be 1/8 – 1/4 inch deep.  Once the seeds sprout, you can thin them 3 – 4 inches apart.  Always keep the soil moist.

Starting Basil Seeds Early

  • Soak the seeds overnight in warm water. The seeds have a gelatinous coating after soaking.
  • Fill the seed trays or pots with seed starting mix.
  • If the seeds are fresh, plant one in each cell or pot.  Plant 2 – 3 seeds per cell if they’re over a year old.
  • Since the seeds are tiny, lay them on the soil and then push them down.  They shouldn’t be more than ¼ inch deep.
  • Mist the soil now, and mist it again when it needs moistening.  Pouring water on the cells will displace the seeds.
  • The seeds germinate 7 – 10 days after planting.  If the seeds take longer than that, move the trays to a warmer area or put them on a heating mat.  Seeds also fail to sprout if they’re too wet or too old.

What Happens After the Seeds Sprout?

The basil seedlings come up showing two semicircular leaves called “cotyledons.”  The true leaves form after the cotyledons and look like baby basil leaves.

  • Once the seeds sprout, position a grow light a few inches above the basil seedlings.  A fluorescent light will work if you don’t have a grow light.
  • Keep the light on for 12 hours daily, and move it higher as the seedlings grow.
  • Set up an oscillating fan on low to blow across the seedlings.  Run it for an hour at first and increase the time as the seedlings grow.  Eventually, it can stay on as long as the lights.  The extra air helps to prevent diseases.
  • Always keep the soil moist but don’t overwater it.
  • When true leaves form, feed the seedlings with weak organic fertilizer.
  • If you planted more than one seed in each cell, thin out the weaker plants when they’re a few inches tall.  To avoid damaging any roots, don’t thin the plants by pulling them out.  Snip off the extra plants with micro shears.

The Next Steps are Hardening and Transplanting

When the seedlings are at least 3 inches tall, it’s time to harden them.  This is an important step, so don’t skip it.  Plants growing indoors need hardening to survive life outside.

  • Move the seedlings outside and put them in a shady spot for a few hours.
  • Expose the seedlings to the sun for about an hour.
  • Leave the seedlings outside for longer periods daily.  That way, they have more exposure to sunlight.
  • Hardening can take two weeks.  Once the plants can handle sunlight for a whole day, they’re ready for the garden or bigger pots.

In the garden, plants should be 6 to 12 inches apart.  Ensure that distance between the plants to allow air to circulate.

Transplanting is easy since you grew the plants in peat trays or pots.  You can plant the whole containers without removing the seedlings.  Be sure to keep the plants well-watered.

Accessories to Help With Growing Basil Seeds

Daniel's Plants Naked Pots | 100 Cell Biodegradable Seed Starter Tray | Natural Plantable For Starting Seedlings | No Peat | 100 Pack 2 Inch Square
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Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix, 8 Quarts (Pack of 2), For Use in Containers
Miracle-Gro Seed Starting Potting Mix, 8 Quarts (Pack of 2), For Use in Containers
$19.70
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2024-07-18
Espoma Organic Grow! Liquid Concentrate Plant Food - All Purpose Fertilizer for Indoor & Outdoor Plants. for Organic Gardening. 16oz Bottle Pack of one
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VIVOSUN 10'x 20.75' Seedling Heat Mat and Digital Thermostat Combo Set, UL & MET-Certified Warm Hydroponic Heating Pad for Germination, Indoor Gardening, Greenhouse
VIVOSUN 10"x 20.75" Seedling Heat Mat and Digital Thermostat Combo Set, UL & MET-Certified Warm Hydroponic Heating Pad for Germination, Indoor Gardening, Greenhouse
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driew Plant Mister Spray Bottle, 10oz 300ML Plant Mister Water Spray Bottle Plant Spray Bottle for Plants Misting Bottle Plant Water Spray Bottle Fine Mist Spray Bottle,Green
driew Plant Mister Spray Bottle, 10oz 300ML Plant Mister Water Spray Bottle Plant Spray Bottle for Plants Misting Bottle Plant Water Spray Bottle Fine Mist Spray Bottle,Green
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GooingTop LED Grow Light,6000K Full Spectrum Clip Plant Growing Lamp with White Red LEDs for Indoor Plants,5-Level Dimmable,Auto On Off Timing 4 8 12Hrs
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$25.99
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Growing Basil from Cuttings

Basil is easy to root from cuttings, but make sure you get the cuttings from young plants.  The reason is that the cuttings will be the same age as the parent plant.

So, if you take cuttings from a plant that has already blossomed, the cuttings won’t have flavorful leaves.

Try garden centers, farmers’ markets, or supermarkets to get live plants.  Basil from the supermarket often has more than one plant per small pot.

That makes it difficult to separate the roots without damaging them.  These plants aren’t suitable for transplanting, but they’re a great source of cuttings.

Starting Basil Cuttings in Water

  • Take healthy cuttings that are 4 – 6 inches long.  Cut the stems at an angle so the cut end has a larger surface area.  Make the cut below a leaf node.
  • Remove the leaves on the lower third of the stem.  These leaves are usable in the kitchen!
  • Put the cuttings in a clear glass containing a few inches of water.  If you’re using chlorinated tap water, let it air out for a day before adding the cuttings.  That’ll give the chlorine a chance to evaporate.
  • Ensure that no leaves are in the water since they could rot.
  • Change the water when it gets the least bit cloudy.
  • The cuttings will grow roots 1 – 2 inches long in about two weeks.
  • Transplant the rooted cuttings to the garden or pots.  Pre-moisten the soil before transplanting.

Starting Basil Cuttings in 4-Inch Pots

  • Fill the pots with moistened potting mix.
  • Stick fresh cuttings into the potting mix about two inches deep.  Then press the soil around them so they stay standing.
  • Cover the pots with clear plastic bags to give them higher humidity.
  • Remove the bags when needed to mist the soil so it stays moist.
  • The plants will have roots in about two weeks.  You’ll know when this happens because the plants will put out new growth.
  • Remove the plastic bags and transfer the plants to the garden or larger pots.

Growing Basil in Pots

Basil grows so well in pots that it’s the preferred method for many gardeners, including us.  It grows in almost any container that doesn’t crowd the plants.

The plants can be eight inches apart in a large pot.  Ensure they have good airflow so they don’t pick up any fungal diseases.

Select pots with drainage holes, and fill them with organic potting mix.  You can use potting soil if you mix three parts with one part of compost.  Also, add one part of perlite or vermiculite.  This makes the potting soil more fertile and improves the drainage.

Now that the pots are ready plant the seeds, seedlings, or rooted cuttings.  That’s all there is to it.  The soil in a pot dries faster than the ground, so keep it moist with regular watering.

For more information about growing plants in pots, see our article “Growing Vegetables in Containers.”

Caring for Basil

Basil likes the sun, but it tends to bolt sooner in sweltering weather.  Please keep it in partial shade to delay bolting and pinch off the flower stalks when they form.  When flowers appear, the flavor of the leaves will change.

Keep the soil moist but not soaking wet.  Like many herbs, basil shouldn’t have fertilizer during the growing season.  Too much feeding can degrade the taste of the leaves.

To encourage bushy growth, prune 1/3 of the plant every month.  Any pruned leaves are ready to use in foods.

Harvesting Basil Leaves

You’ll start harvesting basil leaves 60 – 70 days after sowing the seeds.  Of course, the time seems shorter when starting with live plants.  The leaves are ready when the plants are 6 – 8 inches tall and have at least four sets of leaves.

Pinch off the leaves right where they join the main stem.  You can also use shears to cut off the top third or less of the plant.  Cut the stem at least ¼ inch above a leaf node.  After harvesting the leaves, the plant grows bushier over the next couple of weeks.

Basil leaves are fragile, so handle them with care.  When damaged, they can oxidize and turn black.

When flower buds form, prune them off so the plant produces tasty leaves for a longer time.  Since basil is an annual, the time will come in the fall when the leaves aren’t worth harvesting.

How to Harvest Basil Seeds

Keep the flowers on a few plants so they can go to seed. After the flowers die off, cut off the seed heads when they turn brown.  Put the seed heads in a paper bag to dry for a few more days.

Once the seed heads are completely dry, rub them together in the bag to help the seeds fall out.  You could also catch the seeds by rubbing the seed heads over a bowl.  Another way to break the seed heads in the bag is by gently using a rolling pin.

The basil seeds are small and black and easily fit through the holes in a kitchen strainer.  Running them through a strainer helps remove any large chaff mixed in with the seeds.  Gently brush or blow away any small chaff that remains after straining.

Store the seeds in envelopes or small containers.  They’ll stay viable for up to five years.

If you wait too long to cut off the seed heads, they’ll burst open and drop seeds to the ground.  These seeds will sprout in the spring if your winters aren’t freezing cold for long periods.  That way, the basil reseeds itself and won’t need replanting in the spring.

Storing Fresh Basil

Put basil sprigs in a glass or jar of water and keep them at room temperature.  Please make sure no leaves are in the water, or they’ll rot.  Change the water every couple of days, and the leaves will stay fresh for up to two weeks.  Take the leaves as needed.

If you prefer, cover the sprigs with a clear plastic bag to raise the humidity and keep dust off the leaves.

Basil doesn’t like cold temperatures, so don’t put these watered sprigs in the refrigerator.  This causes the leaves to turn black.


Storing Basil in the Freezer

Here are a few methods to freeze fresh basil:

Blanching Basil Leaves Before Freezing

  • Separate all the leaves from the stems and rinse the leaves in cold water.
  • Fill a pot with water and set it on the stove to boil.
  • Take a bowl of cold water a put some ice in it.  The bowl should have enough space left in it for the basil leaves when they’re ready.
  • When the water is boiling, put in the basil leaves and blanch them for 5 – 10 seconds.  Please don’t blanch them any longer than this.
  • Remove the pot from the burner and use a slotted spoon to remove the leaves quickly.  Put the leaves in the bowl of ice water.
  • Lay out some paper towels, separate the cooled leaves, and put them on the towels.  The leaves should be in a single layer and not overlapping.
  • Pat the leaves dry or let them dry for 10 – 15 minutes.  The leaves should be completely dry, or they’ll stick together when frozen.
  • Lay the leaves in a single layer on plates or baking sheets.  Try to keep the leaves separated.
  • Send the trays/plates to the freezer.  It won’t take long for the leaves to freeze.
  • Put the frozen leaves in air-tight freezer bags or containers and return them to the freezer.

Freezing Basil Leaves Without Blanching

  • Separate all the leaves from the stems and rinse the leaves in cold water.
  • Spread the leaves on the counter or trays until the water dries completely.  You could also spread them on paper towels and pat them dry to speed up the process.  The leaves can’t have any surface water before freezing.
  • Put the dry leaves in freezer bags or airtight containers and send them to the freezer.

Freezing Basil Puree:  Perfect for Basil Pesto

  • Separate all the leaves from the stems and rinse the leaves in cold water.  Drain the leaves in a colander.
  • Fill the food processor bowl with leaves but don’t have the leaves tightly packed.
  • Add two tablespoons of olive oil to each bowl of leaves.  You could also use water instead of olive oil.  The olive oil gives basil a better flavor and keeps the leave from darkening.
  • Run the food processor on pulse until the leaves reach the desired consistency.  For basil pesto, chop the leaves into a paste.
  • Put the chopped basil into airtight containers and freeze them.  Another option is to put the chopped basil into ice cube trays, top them off with olive oil or water, and freeze them.  Once frozen, place the basil cubes into freezer bags.

Frozen basil can stay in storage for up to a year.  Add the frozen leaves or cubes to food; there’s no need to thaw them!


How to Dry Fresh Basil

Before drying basil, rinse it in cold water and dry off the surface water.  Excess moisture can cause mold when air-drying basil.

Water droplets on the leaves could cause those spots to cook in the oven, microwave, or dehydrator.  Also, drying herbs with heat evaporates more flavorful oils than air drying.

Air Drying Basil

  • Tie fresh sprigs together in small bundles.  Don’t make the bundles too large since that can restrict airflow and cause mold.  Three or four sprigs per bundle would be good.
  • Hang the bundles upside-down in a well-ventilated area out of direct sunlight.
  • The leaves should be dry in about a week.  Dry leaves will break and crumble instead of bend.
  • To continue hanging the sprigs, cover them with brown paper bags to keep out dust and light.  Cut a few slits in the sides of the bags to allow airflow.
  • To store the leaves, strip them off the stems and store them in air-tight jars or containers.

Drying Basil in the Microwave

  • Remove the leaves from the stems.
  • Place the leaves in a single layer between paper towels on a microwave-safe tray or plate.
  • Run the microwave on high three times for 30 seconds each time.
  • Check the leaves.  If they aren’t dry and crumbly, run the microwave in 10-second intervals until they’re dry.

How to Dry Basil in the Oven

  • Cover a baking tray with parchment paper.
  • Remove the fresh leaves from the stems and lay them on the parchment paper in a single layer.  Don’t let the leaves overlap because that causes uneven drying.
  • Set the oven to the lowest temperature.  That can vary depending on the oven model.
  • When the oven reaches the set temperature, put in the tray and let the leaves dry for 15 minutes.  After that time, turn off the oven and let the leaves dry in the oven for a few more hours.
  • Check the leaves after that time.  If they aren’t dry enough, turn on the oven again for 15 minutes.  Shut off the oven after 15 minutes and let the leaves continue drying for a few hours.  They should be dry after this cycle.
  • When drying any herbs in the oven, always check them to ensure they don’t scorch.

Drying Basil in a Food Dehydrator

  • Remove the leaves from the stems and lay the leaves on the dehydrator trays in a single layer.
  • Set the dehydrator to 115o F or lower.
  • The leaves should be dry in 4 – 6 hours.

Store whole dried basil leaves in air-tight containers. You can use a spice or coffee grinder to grind the leaves.  Keep in mind that whole leaves keep their flavor longer than ground leaves.

Dried basil will store for up to three years.  With proper storage, dried herbs don’t spoil; they end up losing so much flavor that they become unusable.

How do you Substitute Fresh Basil With Dried Basil?

You can use 1/3 as much dried basil in recipes that call for fresh basil.  So one teaspoon of dried basil substitutes for one tablespoon of fresh basil.

Going the other way, recipes that call for dried basil need three times as much fresh basil.


Basil Companion Plants

  • Marigolds are good companions since they repel nematodes, Japanese beetles, slugs, and aphids.  They also attract parasitic wasps, hoverflies, and ladybugs that prey on insect pests.  Marigolds also seem to improve basil’s flavor.
  • Nasturtiums can act as a trap crop for aphids.
  • Basil pairs well with root vegetables like potatoes, beets, and carrots.  Basil improves the flavor and repels pests in the soil.
  • Tomatoes and basil are classic companion plants.  Basil repels tomato hornworms and also improves the flavor of tomatoes.  They also like the same growing conditions.
  • Basil and garlic improve each other’s flavor.  Garlic repels whiteflies, spider mites, and aphids.
  • Bell peppers also seem to have a better flavor when grown near basil, and basil repels some pests.  The pepper plants help basil by providing some shade on hot days.
  • Asparagus attracts ladybugs, which love to eat aphids.  And in a spirit of cooperation, basil repels asparagus beetles.
  • Basil grows well with borage, cilantro, parsley, chives, oregano, dill, and chamomile.  These herbs either share the same growing conditions, repel each other’s pests, or enhance each other’s growth and flavor.

Basil competes for nutrients with thyme, rosemary, and sage.  Rue can stunt basil’s growth and make it taste bitter.

For a full list of companion planting options, see our “Companion Planting Chart.”


Basil Diseases

Neem cake is a powerful defense against nematodes and soil-borne fungi.  This fantastic organic material doubles as a fertilizer and fungicide/pesticide.

See our article “How to Save Your Plants With Neem Oil and Neem Cake” for more information.

Fusarium Wilt (Fusarium oxysporum)

A soil-borne fungus causes this disease.  The plants appear normal until they reach 6 – 12 inches tall.  The plants appear stunted at that point, and the leaves turn brown.

The fungus will block all water uptake, causing the plant to wilt and die.  Remove any infected plants and destroy them.  Treat the soil with neem cake to deter the fungus.

Bacterial Wilt (Ralstonia solanacearum)

Basil will pick up this disease if planted in ground that grew diseased tomatoes.  The bacteria proliferate in the roots and lower stem, filling them with slime.

The plants wilt, but the leaves stay green.  The bacteria remain in the ground for several years. In spite of that, neem cake can defend against it.  Pull up infected plants and destroy them.

Downy Mildew (Peronospora belbahrii)

This fungus can be airborne or spread by infected seeds.  The disease starts by yellowing the leaves; then, the yellow spots get brown spots in the middle.

Purplish-gray spores develop under the leaves and spread by the wind.  Prevent this disease by giving the plants enough space for airflow.

Also, water them at the roots, not the leaves.  Pull up and destroy any infected plants.

Gray Mold (Botrytis cinerea)

This mold often starts at cuts made when harvesting the leaves.  The mold then moves down the stem and kills leaves as it goes.  The entire plant has met its doom when it reaches the main stem.

The mold takes hold if it rains or overhead watering happens soon after cutting any sprigs.  The plants are less susceptible after 24 hours, and after 48 hours, they’re impervious to the mold. 

The solutions are don’t harvest when the plants are wet and don’t get them wet right after harvest.  Pull up any infected plants and destroy them.

Products to Fight Basil Pests and Diseases

AzaGuard Botanical Insecticide Nematicide Concentrate - 32 oz - OMRI Listed - Organic - EPA Registered. 3 Percent Azadirachtin Formulated Insect Growth Regulator (IGR) - Insect Control
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Neem Organics Orgo Neem Cake | Organic Fertilizer for Outdoor Plants, Lawn & Garden Growth | OMRI Listed for Organic Use (5 lbs)
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BioLogic Scanmask Steinernema Feltiae (Sf) Beneficial Nematodes for Natural Insect Pest Control, 5 Million Size
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Safer Home SH51703 OMRI Listed Diatomaceous Earth - Ant, Roach, Bedbug, Flea, Silverfish, Earwig, & Crawling Insect Killer
Safer Home SH51703 OMRI Listed Diatomaceous Earth - Ant, Roach, Bedbug, Flea, Silverfish, Earwig, & Crawling Insect Killer
$11.99
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2024-07-18
Beslands 5 Pcs Plastic Box 3.9' x 2.4' x 2.8' (Green)
Beslands 5 Pcs Plastic Box 3.9" x 2.4" x 2.8" (Green)
$22.99
Buy on Amazon
2024-07-18

Basil Pests

Neem oil is tricky to use on basil since it can burn the leaves.  Instead of pure neem oil, use products made with azadirachtin.  This is the active ingredient of neem oil separated from the other ingredients.

Azadirachtin is an effective organic insecticide.  It works well against spider mites, aphids, thrips, beetles, whiteflies, and many others.

Organic insecticidal soap is another substitute for neem oil but isn’t as effective as neem oil.

Japanese Beetles

These common pests are destructive to basil and are easy to remove by hand-picking.  Mixing neem cake with the soil repels and kills Japanese beetle grubs.

For a double-whammy, spraying with azadirachtin kills the adult beetles.  Japanese beetle traps are also effective against adult insects.

Slugs and Snails

Spread diatomaceous earth around the base of the plants.  It cuts any soft-bodied insects crawling around the plants, eventually killing them.  Slug and snail traps are also available.

Aphids, Spider Mites, and Whiteflies

Repel these pests with organic insecticidal soap or azadirachtin. A strong blast of water removes aphids and spider mites but doesn’t kill them.

Learn more about organic pest control. See our article “Top 5 Natural Pest Control Methods You Can Use Now.”

Final Thoughts

Basil is a definite contender as one of the most popular herbs worldwide.  With so many flavorful easy-to-grow varieties, it’s easy to see why it’s so well-liked.

Don’t buy expensive supermarket basil; grow your own and enjoy all the new flavors!

Frequently Asked Questions About Growing Basil

  1. Does basil grow back?

    Most basil types are annual, so they always die in late fall.  All is not lost, however, because basil will self-seed.  Let some plants grow flowers and drop their seeds.  They’ll sprout next spring as long as you don’t have extreme winters.

    African blue basil is one example that’s a perennial in warm climates.  It will also die if the winter is too cold.

  2. How long does it take to grow basil from seed?

    Basil seeds germinate 7 – 10 days after sowing.  The first leaves are ready to harvest in only 3 – 4 weeks.

  3. How tall does basil grow?

    Most basil plants grow 12 – 24 inches tall.  That includes the popular sweet, Genovese, and lemon varieties.  There are smaller varieties, like Greek basil, that only grow eight inches tall.  On the other end, African blue basil can reach four feet.

  4. Can basil grow in water?

    Basil is one of the most popular herbs for hydroponic gardening.  It’s well-suited for hydroponics because it has shallow roots and doesn’t need much space or care.

  5. Can basil grow in a pot?

    Basil is right at home growing in a pot.  That’s our personal favorite for growing basil.

  6. What grows well with basil?

    Tomatoes are an excellent companion for basil from the garden to the plate.  Basil protects tomato plants from tomato hornworms and other pests.  Other good companions include asparagus, bell peppers, garlic, borage, cilantro, parsley, chives, oregano, and chamomile.

  7. How deep do basil roots grow?

    Basil roots grow 8 – 12 inches deep.

  8. How many types of basil are there?

    The estimate is 50 – 150 species.  Getting an exact number is difficult because basil has been cultivated for centuries.  Most culinary types are sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) cultivars, not separate species.

Last update on 2024-07-18 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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Bob Styer

As a child, I hated gardening. That was mainly because Dad expected us to work in the garden every so often even though we thought play was more important. Over the years, though, I've developed a real appreciation for growing things. Whether you're growing plants for food or to enjoy their beauty, gardening can make your life better. Seize the moment!

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