Growing Basil In Pots

Basil is one of the most widely used aromatic plants in cooking, along with oregano, rosemary and chives. Growing basil at home, in pots, is anything but difficult.

Basil in pot
Basil in pot

The best soil and exposure of basil

Basil is easy to grow even in the balcony of a house as it does not require big cares.

The plant can also be cultivated in the house during winter time by taking care of placing the pot in which it is cultivated over a windowsill where it can receive a good quantity of light.

Basil prefers a light and fertile soil.

Get a large pot, better if made of terracotta, and fill it with garden soil. Depending on the size of the pot, you can decide how many plants to grow. For a family's needs, 2 or 3 plants should be more than enough.

Basil is a typical summer plant and therefore the temperature greatly affects the success of its cultivation.

Temperatures lower than 15° C (59° F) greatly slow down the growth of this plant and temperatures lower than 10° C (50° F) are often fatal.

If you grow basil at home, remember that the plant needs a lot of light but avoid placing it on the windowsill, right behind the glass.

The sunlight on the glass has a multiplying effect that could burn the leaves of the plant.

Sowing Basil in Pots

Sowing basil is done in February or March, in a warm box. Scatter a few seeds on the soil and cover with a very thin layer of potting soil.

Keep the planting soil moist by spraying water on the surface with a sprayer.

As soon as the seedlings are strong enough you can transplant them directly into the soil, if you have a small plot for your vegetable garden or, if the pot is large enough, leave them in pots if you want to grow basil on your balcony.

Space the basil plants about 30 centimeters apart and water them regularly, making sure the soil is not too wet.

The more light our plants have, the more vigorous they will grow.

 seedlings of basil in pots

Basil transplanting

Transplanting a seedling already a few centimeters tall is the easiest way to guarantee a plant that, for a long time, will give us its fragrant leaves.

Also in this case, however, it is necessary to pay much attention to changes in temperature.

It often happens that in the supermarkets are sold basil plants in pots, many people think in a long survival in the house but many are bitterly disappointed.

Generally speaking, buying basil seedlings from supermarkets is still a convenient choice compared to the fresh leaves sold in trays, but if we manage to make the plant survive then we can talk about great convenience.

If you can, by all means, buy a seedling from the garden centre and don't buy it at the supermarket.

If you do buy it at the supermarket take note of this: you will need to transplant it as soon as possible.

Supermarket basil seedlings are grown in a well-heated environment with fertilizers added to keep them beautiful and healthy looking.

In fact, however, if you don't repot the plant right away, placing it in a larger pot filled with fertile soil, within a week the plant will show signs of distress even if you continue to water it regularly.

The fact is that, once the fertilizers have been suspended, water is not enough to keep alive a plant whose root system has saturated all the available space in the small pot in which it is sold and, once brought home, the soil is irreparably impoverished and the plant perishes.

When you take the plant out of the pot, you will almost certainly notice that the roots have formed a compact and inextricable bread of soil and some roots have probably come out of the holes at the bottom of the pot in search of new space.

This is a clear sign that the plant needs to be repotted, but the fact of having such a compact loaf of soil is, from another point of view, a factor that helps us.

Basil, in all its species, has a pretty slender root system which risks to easily tear if the roots get uncovered and this could cause a delay in the subsequent rooting.

Immediately after having brought it home it is therefore good to repot it and keep it in the house, in a well light and warm place, carefully away from cold air drafts.

As healthy as it may seem, the supermarket plant is somewhat forced and therefore the period of acclimatization in the house is essential to get it through the first critical days and then allow it to vegetate regularly.

How to propagate basil from a leaf

What is shown in this video is really a very simple technique for propagating basil from a few leaves.

It is sufficient to delicately tear off a healthy leaf by taking it from the base of the stem and pulling it downwards.

If during the operation a strand of the stem is detached, even better because it will favor the rooting of the leaves.

At this point it is enough to put the leaves in a glass of water with the stem immersed in the liquid.

It is not necessary to add hormones to stimulate rooting.

After about ten days that the leaves are in water, exposed in a bright place, you will see the small roots appear.

All that remains is to transfer each leaflet into a pot with fertile, light soil, taking care not to touch the bare roots, which are very delicate indeed.

As soon as the leaf has taken root we will see a new basil plant sprout and it will give us, for a long time, its fragrant leaves.

How to reinvigorate basil

When the basil plant loses vigor it is not necessarily because of some disease.

Almost always the plant is telling us that it is suffering and that we need to take action in order to re-establish the optimal conditions for its vegetative cycle.

About the necessity of repotting to allow the root system to expand in the soil I have already written extensively a few lines above.

If the pot is already big enough, it could be that the soil has used up all the nutritional elements basil needs and therefore it is good to add an organic fertilizer to restore the fertility of the soil.

In case the leaves are sadly leaning down, losing vigor, the plant almost certainly tells us there is a scarcity of water and therefore it needs watering.

It is quite easy to ascertain this by simply feeling with a finger if the soil is dry or humid.

green basil in pot

If the problem is the lack of water, its addition has almost immediate effects and, passing from the roots to the leaves, restores the cellular tension of the plant which immediately regains vigor.

If the soil seems humid and the leaves tend more to rot than to dryness, then it could be the opposite problem, that is the plant has an excess of water.

Although basil, in the full of its vegetative activity, needs regular watering, water stagnation is a serious problem for this plant as well as for many others.

When repotting, it is always advisable to add some expanded clay on the bottom of the pot, in order to prevent the roots from being in direct contact with the water eventually present in the saucer.

Once the plant has reached a certain development, in order to reinvigorate it, it can be useful to "shear" it, that is to say to remove the leaves of the upper part in order to stimulate the growth of lateral shoots and to avoid the plants to flower too soon.

It is not really a matter of pruning the basil, but of topping the tips of the stems. If the tips are not topped, the plant tends to elongate and become hard and woody.

By cutting off the tips of the stems, the plant will not flower and will become even more productive by producing new leaves.

Use basil when you need it by detaching a leaf from one plant and from the other in order to prevent the single plants from getting too weak and try to take, when possible, the leaves of the apical part in order to keep the plant lower.

Basil Varieties

Basil belongs to the Labiatae family whose botanical name is Ocymum.

Under this denomination are gathered about sixty species having a generic name to be referred, etymologically, to the word "okimon", having the meaning of "scent".

Ocymum Basilicum is, after all, the horticultural cultivation known in Italy and which has become an integral part of Mediterranean cooking.

Ocymum Basilicum, with many of its varieties and in a special way with the variety "minimum" (Ocymum Basilicum Minimum) is object of cultivation because of the intense and very pleasant aromatic scent emanating from its leaves and from the whole plant in general.

DIY Editor
Do-it-yourself enthusiast. I started with the renovation of my flat and then I changhed this passion into my job.