Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is an annual herb that is part of the mint family. This sweet herb has distinctive, purple and dark green leaves, with white flowers that grow on spikes. The foliage makes this tropical plant an attractive addition to any home garden, while the flavor of the herb compliments many popular foods. Basil grows to a height of between 12 and 24 inches, according to the University of Illinois, and grows best in warm, humid conditions.
Plant seeds in the ground after all danger of frost has passed, or start them indoors a few weeks before the last frost. Basil is easily grown from seed, according to the University of Illinois. Press the seeds into the soil and keep them watered and in a warm, sunny location until they germinate. Transplant outdoors when they can be easily handled.
Choose an outdoor planting site that has rich but well-draining soil. In addition, the location should be exposed to full sunlight.
Plant the seedlings between 10 and 12 inches apart, or thin the seedlings so that they are about a foot apart if you sowed the seeds outdoors. Do this when they are a few inches tall. Keep the soil moist, but not soggy, throughout the growing season (spring to the end of summer).
Pinch off the growing tips to encourage the plant to produce more leaves, which are the most attractive and useful part of the plant. Remove the blooms shortly after they flower for the same reason, unless you want them to produce seeds for planting the next season.
Pick off the leaves any time after the first six weeks of growth for use in the kitchen. Wash the leaves, then let them dry thoroughly. Use them whole in recipes or sprinkled on fresh vegetables and fruit, such as tomatoes.