Growing Basil Plants
Most Basil Plants Are Annuals
Most Basil plants are annuals which means that the plants produce leaves, then they will flower, and then generally are done with their life cycle although a few more leaves will still grow through the flowering process.
From start to finish, this cycle takes about 3-4 months, depending on your local climate. Basil plants can grow to 1-2 feet tall and over 3 feet around. Outdoors, basil plants prefer temperatures between 50 and 90 degrees. Anything above or below those temperatures cause the plants to stop growing leaves, they will flower profusely (in the case of above 90 degrees temperatures), and eventually die. Using mulch can help insulate the soil from the heat of the day and improves their longevity. Shop for Basil plants
Growing Sweet Basils
To grow Sweet Basils, daytime temperatures must be warm, but not too warm (around 75 to 90 degrees during the day), and the plants must get at least three to four hours of sunlight a day. Sweet Basils can be grown easily with filtered light (such as under a tree or next to a bright window indoors).
If it gets too hot, or too dry, or if the roots become pot bound, (or over crowded), the plant will begin its flowering process, which signals the end of its life. Once flowers are covering most of the plant, Basil rarely produces any more tasty leaves.
It is important to keep the soil moist and somewhat cool and to plant the Basil in a large pot; and to pinch off the flowers that begin to form as frequently as you can. Under perfect conditions, Basil plants can grow for up to 6 months in the ground, and up to four months in a pot.
To harvest Basil, always cut the branches or tops of the Basil off of the stems, only about a third of the way down, at an intersection of new leaves. Harvesting in this manner prompts the plant to start growing its tiny new leaves into branches of more leaves.
Pulling leaves off the stem without cutting the branch back stunts its growth. Your plant will begin flowering and you will get no new leaf growth. Once your plants start flowering, if they are left untrimmed, they will make seeds from the flowers and die soon after.
So, even if you are not ready to make pesto, prune your plants regularly, (you can store the leaves in the refrigerator for about a week or so, wrapped in a moist paper towel or chopped up with little olive oil over them), and your plants will be healthier and happier.
- Basil - Sweet Genovese
Basil - Sweet Genovese is our best Italian, large-leaf variety of Sweet Basil. The flavor is far superior to other Sweet Basil varieties and the leaves grow up to 3" long and 2" wide. This Basil is used for pesto, pasta, and many Italian recipes, as well as American recipes. The plants grow to about 2' tall and up to 3' in diameter.
- Basil - Mammoth
Basil - Mammoth is a lettuce-leaf variety from Italy that grows leaves as large as your hand with a bit stronger flavor than Sweet Genovese. Its leaves are ruffled with jagged edges, and the plants normally grow to be about 18" tall. In addition to making an excellent pesto, Mammoth leaves can be used whole on a sandwich.
- Lemon and Lime Basils
Lemon and Lime Basils are easy to grow, and they smell divine! They tend to flower heavily, but they will still produce lots of nice, usable leaves even when they flower. Use Lemon and Lime Basils in salads, dressings, and marinades or just for garnishing a plate.
- Basil - Purple Ruffles
Basil - Purple Ruffles is a dark red leaf variety with a similar flavor as Sweet Basil but with a touch more of a cinnamon taste. It grows the similar to Sweet Basil and can be used interchangeably. Purple Basil also makes a wonderful garnish or coloring for herb vinegars.
- Thai Basil
Thai Basil has a strong licorice flavor, gorgeous purplish stems, and a cluster of flowers that are extremely fragrant. Use Thai Basil in any kind of Thai cooking or stir-fry. To use Basil in cooking, add fresh leaves to anything and everything; there are no rules at all when it comes to basil.
What's Eating My Basils?
It is likely caterpillars and may possibly be grasshoppers or even snails or slugs. The easiest way to get rid of the caterpillars is by looking for them and removing them by hand. Look under all the leaves and see if you find any droppings they have left behind. If so, then it is definitely caterpillars eating your plants.
If you find no "evidence" of caterpillars, then could also be grasshoppers, which are generally easy to see and when you disturb the plant, they jump up. Slugs and snails come out only at night so you will rarely see them yourself although their trails can be seen sometimes in the sunlight.
A natural method of preventing them is to make a circle barrier of crushed eggshells around the soil at the base of the plant and that should stop them from climbing up the stalks. We also recommend a product called "Sluggo" as a great way to keep slugs and snails from devouring your plants.