You can find it at supermarkets, garden stores and even online: potted basil plants, usually rather sad and droopy looking. Fresh basil tastes and smells wonderful and a basil plant can really brighten up your kitchen, but caring for this delicious herb can unfortunately be a bit of a challenge! So how do you keep your basil plant alive?
Keep reading for everything you need to know about basil plant care and growing basil.
|Moderate||Direct sunlight||When dry (often)||Soil + perlite|
Basil plant care
As with all houseplants, when figuring out the best way to care for your basil plant the most important thing to keep in mind is the environment it naturally occurs in.
The sweet basil we love to use in our kitchen for that ‘Italian’ taste is an annual plant that prefers warm, moist climates. This means it’s a little difficult to grow in most gardens during Winter, and a great option to keep indoors all year or alternate between in- and outdoors. It also gives us some good care guidelines that are described below!
Basil plant location & temperature
One of the most important aspects when it comes to keeping your basil plant alive is finding the right location for it. Temperature is not much of a problem: basil comes from a warm, sunny climate and will do well at room temperature. However, because this herb also naturally receives a lot of sun it needs plenty of light to stay lush, green and tasty. At least 6 hours of sunlight is considered a must by most basil lovers, which means this plant will love being placed near a window on the south side of your house.
If you live in a place that gets very few hours of sunlight during Winter or if you don’t have any windows that receive enough sun, it can be quite difficult to grow basil plants in your home the natural way. If you still want to be able to grow this herb (and others!), you can use a plant light to make up for the lack of natural light.
Like many other plants, basil loves receiving plenty of water but is not so fond of being soaked all the time, as this can eventually lead to root damage.
- It’s important to use an inner pot with drainage holes that helps drain moisture and prevent any leftover water from causing problems.
- To further promote proper drainage, you can also add some sharp pebbles or perlite to your potting soil: this lessens the density and allows water to easily seep to the bottom of the pot.
Because store-bought basil plants are often planted in pure potting soil and may also require a larger pot, it may a good idea to repot them right after buying to make sure they have a good start. After this, just place the plastic inner pot in a decorative outer pot and you should be able to fully enjoy your fresh basil!
As discussed earlier, basil loves plenty of water: daily watering is usually necessary. If you fail to water for just a little too long you’ll quickly see the leaves start to droop! If this happens, don’t wait too long. If you’ve potted your basil in a pot as described above, you shouldn’t have too many problems keeping it well-watered and happy.
- It’s time to water your basil plant when the soil feels dry.
- Because basil prefers to be watered from the bottom, you can place the plastic pot on a dish with some water and allow the soil to soak through the drainage holes (as pictured to the side).
- A great way to promote humidity day-round without soaking your basil plant is using the pebble method: just put a layer of small stones at the bottom of your decorative pot and then place the plastic inner pot on top of it. Pour water onto the pebbles and voila: your basil is now able to slowly ‘drink’ the water instead of having to process it all at once.
Many basil lovers also recommend spraying your basil plant daily to supply it with some extra humidity, which is a great method but not always a must if the humidity in your home is at a normal level.
Because basil is a quick grower, it will appreciate some extra plant food. You can use a fertilizer every other week, though it’s best to experiment a bit to see what your plant reacts best to. Be sure to go for a relatively weak fertilizer or dilute it yourself, as very strong fertilizer can damage the roots of your basil plant.
If you’re growing a plant to eat it (which is certainly usually the case with this yummy herb!), you should use an organic fertilizer such as this one.
Are basil plants toxic to cats and dogs?
The ASPCA and other sources list basil as non-toxic to both cats and dogs. Yay!
If you have any additional questions about growing basil or want to share your own experiences with growing this herb, don’t hesitate to leave a comment below! If you want to know more about growing basil from seed, be sure to have a look at this article.