Learn how to grow basil in a pot in a cinch! Growing the basil herb in a container is easy, and it’s an excellent way to enjoy fresh homegrown basil all summer long.
Botanical Name: Ocimum basilicum
Basil is a fantastic herb to grow in containers! It will want plenty of room to spread and make a big, happy mess of your garden or container. It loves full sun but also does well in part shade, especially in tropical and subtropical regions. There are many different ways that you can use it – pesto, pesto pasta sauce or spicy curries, or simply gobbling it up fresh in salads. The taste is out of this world! So without further ado, here is how you can grow basil in a pot.
How to Grow Basil in Pot
Basil is a perennial herb that is hardy and easy to grow as long as it gets enough water, sunlight, and fertilizer. It loves full sun and loves to be trimmed from the top, which results in bushier growth. Basil grows best in a well-draining soil mixture, so if possible, find a pot (or pots) with drainage holes at the bottom.
Propagation of basil is easy and can be done via seeds or cutting. Buy the seeds from the garden center or any trusted online store.
Propagation from Seeds: The ideal time to plant basil seeds is in late springs or early summer. You can start seeds indoors around a month before the last expected frost date.
- Sow the seeds 1/4 inch deep below the potting mix surface and lightly water.
- Space the seeds a couple of inches apart and locate the pot at a bright spot.
- Seeds germinate in 5-10 days, after which you can move the pot to direct sunlight.
- Thin out the seedling, so you have healthy seedlings left in the pot.
- Transplant individual basil into new pots when they have 3-4 sets of true leaves.
NOTE: In large pots, you can grow multiple basil plants as long as they are 6-8 inches apart.
Propagation from Cutting: Propagating basil from cutting is an easy and quick way to multiply basil. Basil is hydroponic, which means cutting will root in water and potting soil.
- Using a sharp pair of scissors, take 4-6 inches long, cutting from just below the leaf node.
- Remove leaves from the bottom half of the cutting so that energy is redirected towards rooting.
- Plant a cutting couple of inches deep in the moist potting mix and tap around the base, so it remains upright.
- Locate the pot in a bright spot, such as on a windowsill with drapes.
- Cover the cutting with a thin plastic bag to create a greenhouse-like effect.
- Mist regularly when the soil feels dry to the touch, especially at the base.
- In a couple of weeks, cutting will start to show new growth, after which you can transplant it to a new pot.
To grow basil cutting in water:
- Place it upright in a clear jar or plastic bottle.
- Use spring or filtered water and if you use chlorinated tap water, let it sit for 24 hours undisturbed.
- Change the water every couple of days.
- Locate the jar at a bright spot, ensuring that leaves do not remain submerged in water.
- Transplant basil cutting to the potting soil when roots are about a couple of inches long.
Choosing the Container
Initially, you can start basil in seed starter trays or small containers around 3 inches deep and wide. If you want to grow several basil plants together, go for a large rectangular container. For single mature basil, 10-12 inches deep pot provides enough room to grow. Ensure the pot has drainage holes at the bottom and place a saucer underneath to prevent mess.
Also Read: Herbs that Grow in Pots
Basil requires 6 to 8 hours of direct sun for ideal growth, indoors or outdoors. Locate the pot near a south-facing window, well-lit balcony, patio, or any other spot with access to direct light. Tropical and sub-tropical regions protect basil from the afternoon sun as it can scorch the leaves.
Well-draining potting mix having neutral pH and rich in organic matter is ideal for growing basil. Avoid outdoor garden soil as it’s too heavy and can become waterlogged or compact with subsequent watering. Instead, get a good quality potting soil, soilless mix, or seed starter from the local garden center.
Keep the soil moist by watering once or twice a week, depending on the weather. A rule of thumb is to water when the soil becomes dry a couple of inches below the surface. Water at the base and avoid wetting the foliage. Avoid overwatering as it can turn the soil soggy and cause root rot!
Temperature & Humidity
Basil grows well in warm weather and does well in temperatures ranging from 65 to 78 degrees F. Cold and frost are a threat to basil, so anything below 50 degrees F is hazardous. So, bring basil indoors when the mercury drops!
Basil Care in Container
Fertilizing isn’t necessary as basil isn’t a heavy feeder, and a good quality potting soil contains enough nutrients for growth. Still, if basil lacks growth, you can use a liquid fertilizer diluted with half its strength twice a month during spring and summer. Adding aged compost or fish emulsion to the soil are some organic ways to enrich the potting mix.
Basil is ready for harvest when it becomes 6-8 inches tall, which you can measure by tape or ruler. Harvest leaves from the top will lead to bushier growth, making the basil plant more productive for later harvest. You can pinch the leaves between your forefinger and thumb or use scissors for harvest. You can either use the fresh leaves or store them for later use.
NOTE: Basil stops producing leaves once it flowers, so cut back flower buds as soon as they grow if you want to harvest basil again.
Pests & Diseases
Basil usually remains pest-free, but if there is damage to the foliage, Japanese beetles, spider mites, whiteflies, and aphids can be the culprit. Handpick these pests or spray neem oil or soap solution over the foliage to get rid of these pests. Apart from root rot caused due to overwatering, there isn’t much that goes wrong with basil.