How To Grow Basil | The Guide For Growing Basil In Pots & Containers

A popular herb that has earned its way to having a household name, basil is the plant that you should certainly be adding to your container herb and vegetable garden this growing season. Fragrant, leafy, and eager to grow, this Mediterranean member of the mint family will be a wonderful addition to your garden. 

Basil is great to have on hand for culinary purposes, and it is also quite easy on the eyes, once it has started to grow. With new varieties of basil popping up each season, you are certain to find a version of this plant that you love. Take a look at our complete guide to growing basil to learn more about how to have a successful basil harvest this year!

When to Plant Basil?

The best time to plant basil is about two weeks after the last spring frost date. You want to plant when the soil is between 50-70 degrees Fahrenheit – the warmer, the better. Keep in mind that without heat, the plant will not grow. At night, the temperature should not be dropping below 50 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Long Does it Take to Grow Basil?

It takes about 3-4 weeks to grow basil. The warmer the weather, the more eager your basil plants will be to flourish in your herb garden. If you plant a basil garden by the last week in April, you should expect the plants to be ready for harvest by the last week in May. 

How to Grow Basil

Basil is a quick and easy grower, which makes it a great plant for beginner and veteran gardeners alike. Whether you’re growing basil seeds, growing from a cutting, or nurturing transplants, you will be sure to have a bountiful harvest. We’ll talk about the different methods of growing basil, and which one will be the easiest for you to add to your daily routine. 

Growing Basil from Cuttings

You can take basil cuttings from a mother plant, and use them to grow new plants; this is a process referred to as propagation, in the gardening world. A plant taken from a cutting will grow more quickly than one grown from seed. 

  • Step 1: Choose a stem that has new growth
  • Step 2: Use sharp and clean scissors to snip your stems of basil 5-6 inches beneath a fresh growing tip. Be sure to cut plenty, and cut at an angle to increase water uptake
  • Step 3: Gently prune the leaves off of the lower two inches of the stem so as to avoid rotting
  • Step 4: Place the cuttings in a clean, clear glass full of room temperature water. Allow the cuttings to have plenty of direct sunlight in general; choose a sunny windowsill, or as close to a sunny window as possible, to place your cuttings in while they are growing roots.
  • Step 5: Once your stems have grown about 5 roots that are at least ½ inch in length, you can plant them in a pot! This should be in about 10-14 days.

Growing Basil from Seed

If you are growing basil from seed, you should expect to see germination within 7-10 days. While growing from seed is less successful than growing from transplant, if you wish to try it, follow the below steps:

  1. Find a pack of basil seeds at your local grocery store
  2. Sow your basil seeds indoors about 6-8 weeks before the last frost in spring.
  3. Sow seeds ¼ inches deep in seed-starting formula or nutrient rich potting soil.
  4. Keep the soil moist at 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  5. Seedlings emerge within 7-14 days after being planted. 
  6. After the last frost date, your seedlings can be transplanted to a raised bed outside, or kept in a container for better control over their growth.

Growing Basil from Transplants / Seedlings

Growing basil from transplants or seedlings is our favorite method for growing. When you start your garden with a transplant, you are already well into the growing period. This means that, with some tender love and care, lots of water, heat and direct sunlight, your basil harvest will be ready sooner than with any other growing method. You’ll know that your basil is mature enough to be transplanted when one stem has three pairs of leaves.

Growing Basil in Pots & Containers

Despite having a relatively short growing period, basil can be a finicky plant to grow. Keep in mind that this plant loves the heat – it thrives best in temperatures above 75 degrees Fahrenheit. Growing your basil in a container allows you to ensure that it is never at the risk of getting too cold; you can always relocate your entire garden as needed! If you give your basil enough heat and sunlight, it should be easy to grow throughout the season.

We love growing basil in pots because it will grow in just about any sort of container. That said, when choosing a container for your basil garden, be sure to pick one that has plenty of drainage. Additionally, as basil is prone to fungal issues, choose a pot that will allow for spacing of anywhere between 6-18 inches between individual plants. 

If you’re having trouble deciding on a container, or finding one that will properly fit your basil’s needs, consider growing with a Gardenuity Grow Bag! These bags are specially designed to help your garden flourish, and they also include our special soil and compost blends that you won’t be able to find anywhere else. 

Basil Growing Conditions & How To Care

This fragrant herb needs warmth and direct sunlight to truly thrive during its growing season; basil is a warm weather, summer grower through and through. The best way to monitor your basil garden is to grow it in a container. This way, you can better control the factors that aid your basil’s growth most, and keep it safe from pests and disease, too.

Ideal Soil for Growing Basil

The ideal soil for growing basil is a well-drained soil with a neutral pH. Your basil will also love receiving plenty of organic matter, such as compost, mixed in with the soil. Your plants will also thank you for keeping the soil moist, but not soggy. You can do so by adding mulch around the bases of your plants. 

How much Sun Does Basil Need?

Basil needs about 6-8 hours of full sun each day. If you are growing in the South or Southwest, allow for your basil garden to get some afternoon shade, so as not to burn the leaves. If you are growing your basil indoors, consider placing the plants in an East facing window, so as to avoid the scorching direct light of South or North-facing windows. Be sure that your plants get a minimum of 6 hours of sun each day.

Basil Watering Needs

Basil prefers to be watered at the base of the stems, and not over the leaves. Be sure to thoroughly water your garden when the soil is dry about one inch below the surface. 

Pest Prevention

Pests that enjoy your basil harvest as much as you do will likely include spider mites, whiteflies and aphids. Sometimes a strong jet of water to the basil leaves is all you need to be rid of these pests. If there is an infestation that sets in, clip off the affected parts of your plant as soon as possible.

Basil is particularly prone to fungus, as well. You can avoid any fungal issues with your basil by keeping them growing in a well-ventilated area that is not too humid.

Grow Pro Basil Growing Tips

  • If you’re limited on space or only growing basil in pots or containers, consider the spicy globe basil variety. This plant tends to form a small, mounding habit and doesn’t require too much space.
  • If you are growing your basil indoors, you can add a fan to the room that your plants are growing in to help them steer clear of fungus. 
  • Although basil does like organic matter in its soil, it’s best to limit the amount of extra plant food that you add to this plant’s soil – avoid over-fertilizing!
  • Basil can be a natural deterrent to pests like mosquitos.
  • In order for your basil to grow in a nice, bushy fashion, you’ll need to pinch it back from the time the plant is about four inches tall. You can do so by gently taking off the top leaves about once a week.
  • It’s best to harvest your basil leaves in the morning. When you do this, the flavor will be bright, and the leaves will be extra juicy!

Types of Basil

  • Boxwood Basil: This plant can grow up to 12 inches wide and 12 inches tall! It is great for landscaping, as well as for growing in containers.
  • Genovese Basil: This is a traditional heirloom Italian type of basil, with a pronounced anise flavor, a recognizable clove fragrance, and large leaves. This type of basil is perfect for your next pesto recipe. 
  • Lemon Basil: Lemon Basil has that fresh lemony scent, with a sweet flavor to boot. The tartness on the finish is what makes this basil plant a must-have in your garden. 
  • Sweet Basil: This is one of the most popular types of basil. Known for its licorice flavor and clove scent, sweet basil is great for salads, pizza, sandwiches, and craft cocktails.
  • Purple Basil: Purple basil is known for its stunning purple-bronze leaves and its licorice flavor. This basil plant can grow up to 24 inches tall, making it a lovely addition to your herb garden. 

Best Companion Plants for Basil

Basil does well when planted near other plants that don’t require exorbitant amounts of water in order to survive. Basil is also a desirable companion plant for many other plants because its fragrant scent naturally repels pests. 

When planting basil, it will do well with the following companion plants:

  • Cabbage
  • Tomatoes
  • Asparagus
  • Chamomile
  • Chives
  • Oregano
  • Peppers
  • Root Veggies
  • Beans
  • Eggplant
  • Marigolds

You should also avoid planting basil near rue, fennel or sage. Keep in mind that basil prefers to grow near vegetables, as opposed to growing near other herbs. 

Basil Growing Stages

As basil has a short and sweet growing period, don’t be alarmed when your plant shoots up and is ready for harvest relatively quickly. Take a look at the below growing stages for basil so that you know what to expect once you’ve planted your garden.

Getting Settled

If you’re growing your basil from transplants, give the plants about a week to adapt to their new environment. Transplanting can be a shock, but with a little TLC and patience, you are sure to be on the road to success with your new garden. 

Plant Development

Within two weeks after planting your transplants, you should expect to see lots of new growth! As this plant is generally ready for harvest around 3-4 weeks after planting, you will have fully matured plants at this time. 

It’s Time to Harvest

You will know that it is time to harvest your basil when the plants are about 6-8 inches tall. You can harvest your basil plants as you go during the growing period. Be sure to gently pull off the top leaves of the plant throughout the growing season, so as to guide the plant to grow in nice and bushy. 

I Waited too Long, Now What?

If you wait too long to harvest your basil, the plant will grow flower buds. Once your basil flowers, the leaves will become significantly more bitter to the taste.

How to Harvest Basil

Basil is a plant that needs to be regularly harvested in order to encourage continuous growth throughout the summer season. Take a look a the simple steps below to learn how to properly harvest your fresh basil:

  1. Wait until your plant is about 6-8 inches tall. Be sure not to allow your plants to grow over 8 inches without a proper trim
  2. Pinch off individual basil leaves at the stem whenever possible
  3. To remove stems of basil for larger-scale harvesting, find a clean and sharp pair of scissors or garden shears
  4. Clip from the top-down, being careful to leave at least ⅓ of the plant to continue growing

When to Harvest Basil

Harvest your plant once it has reached a height between 6-8 inches, and don’t wait until it’s taller than 8 inches to harvest! You should aim to harvest just below leaf nodes, especially when you are trimming off stems. Avoid harvesting your basil once the plant has flowered. 

How to Preserve & Store Basil

Basil leaves will wilt and turn black at a very quick rate! Be sure to be mindful when deciding how to store your basil, as this will largely affect the amount of time that you are able to enjoy your harvest. 

  • Freeze It: Freezing your basil is a great way to keep it fresh for longer. To do so, blanch the basil in boiling salt water for 15 seconds, drain it, and place it into ice water to quickly cool it down. You can then toss it into a blender with just a touch of olive oil. From there, pour the purée in ice cubes trays, freeze them, and once frozen, place the cubes in tupperware or reusable bags where they will stay fresh for up to a year.
  • Place it in a Glass of Water: Place your freshly cut basil stems into a vase or a jar of fresh water, and then place that in the fridge. 
  • Dry It or Bake It:  Set your oven to the lowest heat. Next, place the basil leaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and place the sheet on the upper rack of the oven. Bake for 2-4 hours, until the leaves are nice and crumbly. From here, you can crumble up your basil and store it in a sealed container.

Basil Recipes We Love

Cooking with basil is a never-ending adventure. You can either keep the leaves whole, or chop them finely. You can also enjoy a fresh addition to your recipes by adding fresh basil leaves after cooking, or, for a more concentrated flavor, bake your recipes with fresh basil on top. Basil is not only great for your cooking needs, but it is a fantastic addition to any craft cocktail that needs a fresh touch. Take a look at some of our favorite basil recipes below.

For more inspiration regarding using up your fresh basil harvest, take a look at our article, 20 Different Ways to Enjoy Your Basil.

Questions We Commonly Get Asked

Does basil grow back after harvesting?

Yes, basil will grow back after harvesting. In fact, harvesting your basil plants regularly will encourage them to grow more fully and fervently. 

How big does basil grow?

Basil plants have the ability to grow anywhere from 4-8 inches tall. 

Why is my basil plant wilting?

Your basil plant is likely wilting from improper watering. Remember that basil likes its soil to be kept evenly moist, but never soggy. If your basil’s soil is dry 1 inch below the surface, then it needs a good, thorough watering.

How long does it take for basil to grow?

It takes basil about 3-4 weeks to fully mature. 

What are the best basil plants to grow?

There is a basil variety out there for everyone! That said, some crowd favorites are either sweet basil, or lemon basil.

What is the best way to grow basil?

The best way to grow basil is in a container or a pot! This way, you can easily and efficiently monitor its growing environment to ensure a lovely and full harvest.

Is it better to grow basil inside or outside?

If you live in a humid and cool climate, it will be better to grow your basil indoors, near a sunny window. If you live in a hot and relatively dry climate, your basil will thrive indoors or outdoors. 

Start Growing your own Basil

It is just about that time to get your basil gardens up and running! If you want to receive everything that you need for a beautiful basil garden in one fell swoop, take a look at our Container Garden Kits; these kits are tailored specially for your growing region, and will include all of the bits and pieces needed for a great basil harvest. Happy planting!