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How to Grow a Tulsi Plant

By Barbara Fahs ; Updated September 21, 2017

Tulsi basil (Ocimum sanctum) belongs to the same genus as sweet basil, cinnamon basil, lemon basil, Thai basil and many other varieties of this culinary and medicinal herb. Tulsi is also called holy basil, and it is easy to grow from seeds. In fact, after your first year of growing this delightful clove-scented annual, don’t be surprised if you find volunteers, or “wonderful weeds,” sprouting near where last summer’s tulsi plants grew. Tulsi basil makes a delicious tea or can be used as an ingredient in other herbal tea blends, and it can help to reduce your stress level, according to a 1991 study in the Indian Journal of Pharmacology.

Fill a nursery pot or flat with a good quality potting soil in early spring. Lightly scatter seeds on the surface and then cover them with a small amount of potting soil. Pat it down gently and then give it a thorough but gentle misting of water.

Set your seeded pot or flat in an area that receives a maximum amount of sunlight every day. Be sure to keep it moist.

Thin seedlings to about 1 inch apart when they are 1 inch tall.

Transplant seedlings to the garden when they are 3 to 4 inches tall. Tulsi is tolerant of poor soil, so you needn’t amend your soil before you plant—just make sure you plant them in an area that gets plenty of sun.

Protect your young tulsi plant(s) from snails and slugs by surrounding the garden bed with diatomaceous earth or apply iron phosphate granules around the area.

Pinch off flowering tops when they appear. You can use them to make tea. Doing this will make your tulsi plant bush out and encourage more flowers, which are the best part of the plant to use in tea or any plant medicines, such as tinctures.

Dry or freeze flowering tops and leaves at the end of the tulsi’s growing season, before your first fall frost, which will kill this tender annual.


Things You Will Need

  • Tulsi basil seeds
  • Nursery pot or flat
  • Potting soil
  • Trowel


  • To make tea from your tulsi plant, pick a small handful of flowering tops and any attached leaves. Rinse them off, chop them up a bit and then drop them into a quart teapot. Pour boiling water into the pot, wait five or 10 minutes, strain and enjoy with milk, sugar or honey.
  • Your tulsi plant should not require any fertilizer during its summer growing season.
  • If basil wilt causes your tulsi plant to wilt and turn brown practically overnight, discard any affected plants immediately and wash your hands after you handle them.


  • If you plan to use this herb medicinally, first check with your doctor. Although no adverse reactions have been reported, women who are pregnant or nursing should always use caution before using any alternative medicine.

About the Author


Barbara Fahs lives on Hawaii island, where she has created Hi'iaka's Healing Herb Garden. Fahs wrote "Super Simple Guide to Creating Hawaiian Gardens" and has been a professional writer since 1984. She contributes to "Big Island Weekly," "Ke Ola" magazine and various websites. She earned her Bachelor of Arts at University of California, Santa Barbara and her Master of Arts from San Jose State University.