How to Care for Basil Plant: The Complete Guide

Learning how to care for a basil plant will be one of the easiest things you’ll ever do. Beyond that, it’s going to also be one of the most fulfilling. This is one of the easiest herbs to grow and one of the most popular herbs around the globe.

Since it’s so delicious and used in different cuisines, we also want to have access to it all year round. Because of that, my guide on how to care for a basil plant will actually focus on how to care for potted basil and make it thrive in your house, no matter which part of the world you live in.

There is another way in which you can grow it indoors: I’m referring to growing basil hydroponically. Hydroponics is the alternative to classic agriculture, where only water and nutrients are used for growing a wide variety of plants, including all kinds of herbs and lettuce.

However, that’s a discussion for another time and maybe another article. For now, we should stick to the classic method of growing in potting soil.

Basil Varieties

Before going into this complete guide on how to care for a basil plant, let’s see which are the most frequently grown varieties around the globe.

1. Sweet basil

Sweet basil (Genovese, Italian Large Leaf) remains the most popular variety used for cooking in cuisines around the world.

2. Thai basil

Thai basil is the second most popular when it comes to cooking. As its name suggests, Thai dishes will use this variety in abundance and it’s delicious.

3. Lemon basil

Lemon basil is a nice variety to try if you want a citrusy undertone.

4. Purple basil

And if you want to grow a herb that looks absolutely gorgeous in a pot, try the purple basil variety. This is the variety that is not grown for cooking but for its looks.

These 4 basil varieties are more than enough to get you started. I’m partial to the Genovese due to its delightful aroma.

How to Grow Basil from Seed?

We can sow the basil seeds directly into the pot/container that we’ll be using for growing the plant. Try to get fusarium tested seeds. Fusarium wilt is a fungus that can cause wilting and yellow leaves.

You only need to plant 2-3 seeds per pot. Plant them 1/4 inches deep.

During germination, use a plant mister to maintain the soil moist.

The pot/container should be placed in a spot that receives 6-8 hours of sunlight. This is an extremely important aspect of any guide on how to care for basil plants. If that’s not possible, you should consider getting grow lights and keep them ON for 10 to 12 hours per day.

Basil is a herb that loves warmth so, you should grow it in temperatures that range between 70 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.

Choosing the right pot/container & soil

I recommend using an 8-inch pot because it offers the opportunity of growing an impressive bush right from the start. However, if all you have in the house is a 6-inch pot, you can definitely use it without worries.

Moreover, even plastic containers that we have in our house can be good for growing basil plants, just make sure that they have plenty of depth.

Don’t forget about drainage holes, they’re extremely important for preventing root rot.

In regards to choosing the right potting soil, get one that’s nutrient-rich, well-drained, and slightly acidic. Or use a soil that incorporates plenty of compost.

Grow Basil Plants from Cuttings

Another option is to grow basil from cuttings. It’s much faster than growing it from seed. Plus, it’s an excellent way to multiply your basil production and maybe gift some to your friends and family.

2-3 cuttings are placed in a jar with water. The jar is placed on the window sill to receive sunlight.

Change the water once every 2-3 days.

In 2-3 weeks, the cuttings will have strong-enough roots to allow transplantation.

Buy a Live Basil Plant

If you want to skip all these steps, whether they involve seeds germination or getting cuttings to grow roots, there’s a simple solution that lets you do that.

Simply buy a live basil plant, even one from the supermarket, and transplant it at home in a bigger pot/container.

You’ll have to fill in half the pot with potting soil, place the basil roots inside, and gently cover them with soil.

Water the soil and place it in a sunny spot.

How Often to Water Basil?

This is a herb that likes moist soil but not so wet that it can be described as soggy.

It means that watering it really well about once a week can be more than enough.

How often you water a basil plant also depends on how hot it gets. In the summer, it might get too hot and you might end up having to water 3 times every 2 weeks.

The important thing to pay attention to in conjuncture to watering is that the pot/container needs to have drainage holes.

Once water starts dripping from the drainage holes, that’s a clear sign that you’ve watered the plant well. That’s when it’s time to stop watering and leave your herb alone until next time.

Another way to tell that it’s time for another watering is to simply stuck your finger inside the soil. The soil should be a bit cool and a bit moist at all times.

Pruning Basil

In this guide on how to care for basil plant we’ve already covered some very important topics on how to grow the herb and how much sunlight and water it requires.

But there’s another very important topic that relates to caring for a basil plant: pruning.

You need to prune your plant for the first time when it grows about 6 inches tall (15 cm) or when it has 3-5 sets of true leaves.

After that, you should continue pruning on a regular basis once every 2 weeks. Or even once a week.

Pruning has these major advantages: it provides us with basically an unlimited supply of newly grown leaves and it postpones the apparition of basil flowers. The flowers are an indication that the growth cycle has ended and the plant will now focus on reproduction.

The first time you’re pruning basil, you need to cut off the central stem to redirect the plant to grow two central stems. You also have to keep in mind that you should be cutting more than half of the total height, right above a very small set of leaves.

The remaining plant will look small but it will grow back more bountiful than it was before.

If you feel the need for visual directions, here’s a good video that shows you exactly how to prune it.

If you follow all these tips on how to care for a basil plant, you’ll be able to grow potted basil indoors all-year round and you’re only left to experiment with as many recipes as your free time allows you to.