Alphabetical Plant Listing

Basil: Planting, Growing, and Harvesting

Ocimum basilicum, Sweet Basil, Genovese Basil, Thai Basil, Purple Basil, Lemon Basil, Holy Basil, Italian Large Leaf Basil, Napoletano Basil, Cinnamon Basil, Spicy Globe Basil, Lettuce Basil


Widely cultivated worldwide, Basil is one of the easiest herbs to grow. The leaves are used fresh or dried to flavor meats, fish, salads, and sauces. Its sweet aroma and strong flavor make it popular in a variety of cuisines.

All you need to know about Basil

  • Basil (Ocimum basilicum) belongs to the mint family (Lamiaceae), along with oregano, thyme, and rosemary. Native to the tropical regions of Asia, it has been introduced in the Mediterranean basin by the Greeks and Romans and later diffused in the rest of Europe and the Americas. Dozens of cultivars and varieties of basil are available, offering a rich array of flavors, leaf colors, and textures, from sweet Italian varieties to spicy Thai basils.
     
  • Most Basil varieties are short-lived tender perennials that thrive in warmer climates, such as the Mediterranean region and Africa. In cooler climates, they are usually grown as aromatic annuals or biennials. Adaptable to the heat, Basil is a warm-season herb that is frost sensitive and does not survive a light frost.
     
  • Basil is ready to harvest 60 to 90 days after planting, depending on the varieties. It is regarded as one of the easiest plants to grow.
     
  • Basil grows extremely well both indoors and outdoors. It requires a sheltered, warm, sunny site with a well-drained soil.

Most Popular Basil Types

  • Sweet Basil: This is the most popular variety of basil, with large, smooth, and glossy bright-green leaves and a sweet taste. Perfect for all salad and Italian dishes, it is widely grown in Italy for use in pesto. 18-24 in. tall (45-60 cm).
     
  • Genovese Basil: This is one of the most popular basils for culinary use, particularly for its use in pesto. The leaves are large and slightly crinkled with the aroma of jasmine, lemon, and licorice. 24-36 in. tall (60-90 cm).
     
  • Thai Basil (Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflora): Also known as Licorice Basil, Thai basil is a small variety with showy purple flowers and pointed green leaves with purplish veins. It is savory, spicy, and anise-like and holds up well to high-heat cooking in stir-fries. It originates in Thailand and therefore is the perfect basil to use in Thai dishes. 12-18 in. tall (30-45 cm).
     
  • Greek Basil (Ocimum basilicum var. minimum): Very compact and ideal for containers, Greek basil has smaller leaves than sweet basil. They have an intense basil flavor with reduced anise overtones. Use Greek basil to make pesto or add it to tomato sauces or pizzas. 8-12 in. tall (20-30 cm).  
     
  • Lemon Basil (Ocimum basilicum var. citriodorum): This basil variety has narrow, matte green leaves with a fresh lemon-anise flavor. A key ingredient in Arabic, Indonesian, Philippines, Lao, Malay, Persian and Thai cuisine. Great for seafood dishes, basil lemonade, and basil butter. 24 in. tall (60 cm).
     
  • Opal Basil: Also called Purple Basil, this striking basil variety has not only great flavor but also ornamental value with its dramatic, glossy deep-purple leaves. The leaves have a sweet, savory, and earthy flavor with notes of anise, ginger, cinnamon, clove, and mint. Best suited for flavoring both fresh and cooked preparations. In the summer, the plants produce small lilac-pink flowers that are edible and have a mild, subtly sweet flavor. 18 in. tall (45 cm).
     
  • Lettuce Leaf Basil: This slow-grower produces an abundance of large, wrinkled, bright green leaves reminiscent of lettuce. The foliage has a mild and slightly sweet flavor and is often used as a base for salads. 18-24 in. tall (45-60 cm).
     
  • Cinnamon Basil: This tall basil variety produces smooth, slender, pointed leaves with a spicy, cinnamon-tinged flavor. It is most often used in Asian cooking, including marinades, fried rice, and noodles. 24-36 in. tall (60-90 cm).

     

Guide Information

Hardiness 2 - 11
Plant Type Annuals, Herbs, Perennials
Plant Family Ocimum - Basil
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Water Needs Average
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Fragrant, Showy
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Landscaping Ideas Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Ocimum - Basil Guides with Ocimum - Basil

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While every effort has been made to describe these plants accurately, please keep in mind that height, bloom time, and color may differ in various climates. The description of these plants has been written based on numerous outside resources.

Guide Information

Hardiness 2 - 11
Plant Type Annuals, Herbs, Perennials
Plant Family Ocimum - Basil
Exposure Full Sun
Season of Interest Spring (Late)
Summer (Early,Mid,Late)
Fall
Water Needs Average
Maintenance Low
Soil Type Loam, Sand
Soil pH Acid, Alkaline, Neutral
Soil Drainage Well-Drained
Characteristics Fragrant, Showy
Tolerance Deer, Rabbit
Landscaping Ideas Beds and Borders, Patio and Containers
Garden Styles City and Courtyard, Informal and Cottage, Mediterranean Garden
Compare All Ocimum - Basil Guides with Ocimum - Basil

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