Loved for a variety of culinary uses, Basil is an easy-to-grow indoors herb that you can harvest any time of the year. A sunny space is all thats required to grow this delicious and easy going herb.
Growing basil indoors is fairly easy, so even beginners will find their efforts are likely successful. With more than 150 different varieties available, basil is delightful to use in sauces, creams, and for a variety of additional culinary uses. Growing Basil indoors is rewarding both with a plentiful supply of this fresh herb and the feeling of accomplishment with the results of the fully grown herb. Read on to find out tips for growing basil indoors!
No matter which Basil variety you elect to grow, the basics for successful plants are the same. With the right pot, sunlight, and harvesting techniques, it is more than possible for you to grow a plentiful supply of delicious Basil year-round. Having a fresh supply of herbs in the winter is a truly wonderful thing, and is one of the great benefits of growing indoors.
Selecting the perfect pot is the first step in successful Basil growth. The pot chosen for your Basil should be one that allows water to properly drain. Over watering can do grave damage to your plant and lead to root rot.
Our general suggestion is clay pots with a few drainage holes at the bottom. These pots are plentiful and cheap providing an excellent starting point for most gardeners. Clay pots also naturally whisk away water, which helps to prevent overwatering, one of the easiest ways to kill a plant.
In terms of size, you can really go with whatever size you like depending on how much basil you’d like to grow. Basil grows just fine in a small windowsill pot of only 6”, but you’ll harvest less than growing in a 12” pot. Match the container to your growing space and needs as basil will be happy in just about any size.
Once the best pot is selected, be sure that you purchase a potting mix that provides adequate nutrition for proper growth for the herb. Cactus mix works well, but is one of many soil choices. Most general purpose potting soils you can buy at home improvement stores will work just fine also. You also opt to use herb specific mixes if you so choose.
Growing From Cuttings
An interesting option for basil growing is starting from cuttings. If you have an existing basil plant you can use a small piece of it to grow an entirely new plant. This is as easy as taking a small cutting from an existing plant and placing it in water.
We have a dedicated guide that you can check out if interested. If not, growing from a seedling or seeds are perfectly good options. Of the options, those looking for the quickest time from planting to harvest should use basil seedlings.
You’ll want to water when the top inch of the soil is dry to the touch. Simply feel the top inch of the soil, and if it’s still wet hold off on watering. Basil is a bit heavier on the water needs than some other herbs, but it’s still prone to overwatering. Waiting for the soil to dry a bit helps prevent this.
When watering, thoroughly saturate the soil. You’ll want to see water leaking out of the drainage holes as this means the soil has reached its limit. Then, wait until the top inch of the soil is dry before watering again. The timing depends on your environment, but is usually about once ever 2-5 days.
To create the best environment for your basil plant ensure that the plant is placed in a windowsill (or other chosen area) that gets a minimum of six hours of direct sunlight each day. Basil thrives in sun rich environments, more so than many other herbs.
You also want to ensure that the plant is in a slightly humid environment. If humidity levels are low in your growing location it’s okay to give the plant a light misting with water. This helps ensure the plant doesn’t dry out between waterings.
Proper Basil growing temperatures range from 60 to 75 degrees. This means most homes will be optimal temperature for growing. It’s also very common to move the plant outdoors during the summer, and then transplant it back in the colder seasons. If doing this, make sure to bring your plant indoors before any drop in temperatures or frosts. Low temperature and frost will quickly kill your basil plant.
How long does it take to Grow Basil?
Germination of Basil takes approximately five days, while usable herb is available within four to five weeks of planting. Peak harvesting is at eight to 12 weeks of planting. Keep the room temperatures appropriate and take other care measures to ensure that your Basil growth occurs within this time frame. Basil is fairly hardy, and will likely grow even with suboptimal care. This however will lead to less harvestable plant.
Basil is a classic herb in a huge range of dishes. This partially owes to its plethora of varieties, many of which have their own unique flavors. The first step is to choose the correct variety for your dish. Classic or sweet basil for example goes well in pasta and sauces, while Thai basil has a sweeter taste and is used in a variety of Asian cuisine. A good chef will understand these flavor differences, and choose the correct herb for the dish. You also have verieties like lettuce basil which can work all on their own in a wrap or salad.
Harvesting Your Basil
Harvesting basil can be done as soon as the leaves reach the desired size. Simply pull them off gently and they’re ready to use. You want to make sure that you never harvest more than 1/3 of the available leaves to ensure that the plant can continue to grow.
You also want to make sure that you remove any white flowers that may be blooming. This helps increase the length that your basil will produce tasty leaves. When a plant grows flowers it’s referred to as bolting, and once this happens the plant will no longer produce harvestable leaves. Pinching them off as soon as you see them increases the time you’ll be able to harvest.
Also, don’t be afraid to cut back the plant a bit during harvesting as well. A good pruning schedule actually helps the plant grow back bigger and stronger.
You should also be looking prune back the plant even if you don’t plan on using the basil. This will keep the plant healthy, and it will grow back even larger. Take a few cuttings from the plant regularly for best results.
Propagating your basil is an easy way to get more out of your plant. The easiest way to do so is to take a basil cutting. This will allow you to grow a brand new plant using a small piece of an existing one.
First, take a cutting of about 4-6” from your basil plant just below a leaf node. Remove all but 2-3 of the existing leaves from your cutting, then put it into a cup of water. You can add rooting hormone to the water to speed up the process, but it’s not required.
Watch the basil for signs of root growth while also changing out the water every other day. Once you see roots begin to sprout, you can move the basil cutting to a container with soil and care for it normally. That’s all there is to it!
For more details, check out our full growing basil from cuttings article.
Tips For Growing Basil Indoors
- Planting a tomato plant beside your Basil promotes healthy growth, this is a classic example of companion gardening.
- Keep the Basil soil moist but not overly drenched. Watering once per week is a common pattern but depends on the environment. You may need to water more in very hot and dry environments.
- Plants should be spaced 6-12 inches apart if using a large container and planting multiple plants.
- With adequate care, Basil plants grow to a height of one to two feet. Pick the leaves regularly to ensure growth.
- For the strongest, most flavorful Basil, use it fresh as soon as it is picked.