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Sweet basil is a warm-weather herb, so it is often planted from nursery transplants that have been started in greenhouse conditions. If you grow basil from seeds, you will need to start them indoors about six weeks before your last spring frost (heat mat of 21C min ideal). Basil is ready to start harvesting in about 60 to 90 days from seeding.

Prevent your basil from blooming for as long as possible by harvesting or pinching off the top sets of leaves as soon as the plant reaches about 15cm in height. If the plant sets flowers, it is on its way to going to seed and will not grow bushy and fill out with a lot of tasty leaves.

The size of your plant will depend on the variety, the growing conditions, and how much you harvest. Sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum) can reach 6 feet tall but typically grows to about 30 to 45cm—or even shorter, since its height is kept in check if you’re harvesting regularly and not letting the plant flower. Continually pinching and using your basil will coax it into becoming bushy, with more leaves.

Sweet Basil Care


Basil grows best with six to eight hours of full sun each day. Ample sun also means fewer disease problems and sturdier plants. This is the case except in the hottest climates, where basil prefers part shade.


Basil does best in moist, rich, well-draining soil. It’s a good idea to amend your soil with compost or other nutrient-rich mulch.


Water basil deeply on a regular basis, but be sure its soil is well-drained. Use mulch to help keep moisture in.

Temperature and Humidity

Basil is a heat lover. Don’t bother planting it until the daytime temperatures remain in the 20s and night temperatures are above 9 or 10 degrees C. Basil is very sensitive to frost and will be one of the first plants to die in autumn.

If you live in a frost-free area, you might want to allow some basil plants to set flowers and self-seed in your garden. Not all varieties will do this successfully.


Because you will be harvesting leaves from your basil plants, you may need to fertilize them often. An all-purpose fertilizer works well and helps ensure that new leaves will grow continuously.

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