How to Take Care of Basil Plants


Basil is an annual Mediterranean herb that has a slight licorice flavor and is commonly used in Italian cooking. It is an important ingredient in tomato sauce and in Italy it signifies love. Basil originated in India where oaths were taken in courts of law on a sprig of basil. There are many different varieties of basil with different flavors such as lemon and cinnamon and some varieties are purple in color while another has tiny leaves and grows in a globe-like shape.

Step 1

Purchase basil plants and plan to plant them in the garden after all danger of frost is over. Basil will not do well in temperatures lower than 35 degrees Fahrenheit.

Step 2

Choose a sunny location where basil will be exposed to at least six hours of sun per day. Basil grows best when it has eight hours of sun each day.

Step 3

Prepare garden soil or containers for planting. Soil in a garden should be well drained and have no standing water after a rain. Pots should have drain holes with 1 inch of gravel at the bottom of the pot.

Step 4

Plant basil plants in the garden 8 to 10 inches apart. Good air circulation will prevent disease such fusarium, which will ruin the whole crop. Plant four plants equally spaced in a 10- to 12-inch container.

Step 5

Water plants well after planting and then water everyday unless it rains until the plants produce new growth. This should take eight to 10 days. After that, water when the soil feels dry. Pots will need more frequent watering as the moisture evaporates more quickly.

Step 6

Pinch off the stem right above where the top two leaves grow. Do this about five to six weeks after planting. This will encourage two stems to grow instead of just one, causing the plant to branch out and produce more leaves. Always pinch off any flowers that appear on spikes above the plant. The flavor of the plant suffers when flowers bloom.

Step 7

Harvest as needed. In mid-July pinch back half the plant. The leaves can be dried in an oven at the lowest temperature possible or microwaved between two paper towels at 1-minute intervals until dry. This will keep the leaves green. Store dried basil in air-tight containers.

Tips and Warnings

  • Slugs eat basil. To prevent them from getting to the plants sprinkle a thick layer of construction sand under each plant. The slugs will not cross over sand. Aphids also like to eat basil. Rinse them off with a spray from a garden hose or spray plants with a combination of 1 tsp. Tabasco sauce in 1 gallon of water. Always spray after a rain and rinse off before using.

Things You'll Need

  • Basil plants
  • Plastic containers
  • Garden soil
  • Gravel
  • Water
  • Oven or microwave
  • Paper towels
  • Air-tight containers


  • National Gardening Association: Growing Basil
  • University of Minnesota Extension: Basil
  • Herb Gardening: Basil
  • Basil Guide: The Complete Guide to Basil

Who Can Help

  • Examiner Philadelphia: All About Basil
Keywords: growing basil, basil care, basil growing tips

About this Author

Deborah Harding has been writing for nine years. Beginning with cooking and gardening magazines, Harding then produced a gardening and cooking newsletter and website called Prymethyme Herbs in 1998. Published books include "Kidstuff" and "Green Guide to Herb Gardening." She has a Bachelor of Music from Youngstown State University and sings professionally.