Is Basil Still Good After It Flowers?
Of the many basil varieties (Ocimum spp.), the leaves of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) are most commonly used for cooking. Sweet basil will flower and produce seed, though this can affect the flavor of the leaves and overall leaf production. However, you may want to allow basil plants to flower if you wish to collect seeds.
Basil is an annual plant, meaning it completes its life cycle in a single growing season.
Growing Basil Plants
Basil plants are sensitive to frost and will die off if exposed to temperatures below 40°F, so it is important to wait until temperatures have warmed to sow seeds in the garden or transplant seedlings started indoors.It is best to grow basil in soil that has a pH between 6.0 and 7.5.
Basil grows best in full sun and should be watered about once a week.
Types of Basil
There are several popular cultivars of sweet basil. Let's look at a few options.
- Genovese: The large leaves of the Genovese sweet basil cultivar (Ocimum basilicum 'Genovese') are often used to make pesto because of their spicy flavor.
- Purple Ruffles: To add color to dishes, consider a purple-leaved basil cultivar like Purple Ruffles (Ocimum basilicum '
Purple Ruffles'), which has ruffled leaves that also add texture as a garnish. * Spicy Globe: For a dwarf cultivar that's great for growing in containers, consider Spicy Globe (Ocimum basilicum 'Spicy Globe').
Does Basil Flower?
Sweet basil blooms in the summertime. This is known as bolting. A basil plant may produce white flowers, pink flowers or purple flowers, depending on the cultivar. Some basil plants can therefore be grown as ornamentals.
Like basil leaves, fresh basil flowers are edible and can be used to add flavor and color to a dish.
Flowers on Basil Plants
If you are growing basil in a homegrown herb garden to harvest their leaves for culinary purposes—for instance, for pesto—you can keep basil from flowering by removing the flower buds when they begin to develop. This allows the plant’s energy to go towards leaf growth and leaf production rather than blooming and producing seed.
While basil leaves can be harvested as needed, allowing a basil plant to flower also shortens the plant's growing season. Basil plant flowering also results in the leaves taking on a bitter flavor and woody texture, which is another reason to stop basil blooming.
If you allow a basil plant to flower, the leaves will become bitter. Doing so will also shorten the plant's growing season.
Collecting Basil Seeds
If you want to collect basil seeds to plant the next year, allow the flowers to persist on the plant. The flower heads will eventually dry up, as will the seeds.
If you want to harvest basil seeds to plant the following year, allow some of your basil plants to flower and go to seed.
Once the seed capsules are dry, you can remove the seeds inside by hand. If you store them in an airtight container at cool temperatures, basil seeds will remain viable for a few years. Basil seeds take about a week to germinate.
If you are growing multiple types of basil in your garden, you will want to make sure that there are at least 150 feet between the different cultivars to avoid cross-pollination.
Since beginning her career as a professional journalist in 2007, Nathalie Alonso has covered a myriad of topics, including arts, culture and travel, for newspapers and magazines in New York City. She holds a B.A. in American Studies from Columbia University and lives in Queens with her two cats.