How to Grow Holy Basil

Written by kay whittenhauer
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How to Grow Holy Basil
basil (John Foxx/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Holy basil, also known as tulsi or Ocimum sanctum, is a medicinal herb that many people use to treat fever, respiratory disorders, digestive upsets, kidney stones, headaches, asthma, heart disease and stress. Holy basil may assist with proper dental, eye and skin care and is said to have anti-ageing and immunity boosting qualities.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Outdoor area with full sun exposure
  • Holy basil (tulsi) seeds
  • Spade or shovel
  • Rake
  • Water

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  1. 1

    Choose an area that gets full sun. The best time for planting is late spring, in April or May.

  2. 2

    Prepare the earth by clearing all weeds and other foliage. Till the soil with a shovel or spade, digging at least a foot below the surface. Rake the soil so that the top is smooth. The size of the area you clear will depend on how many holy basil plants you want to grow. Holy basil typically has a 12-inch spread, and is 12 to 24 inches tall. The "spread" is how wide the plant is--in other words, how much room it takes up from side to side. For instance, if you want to grow five holy basil plants, clear a 6-foot area so that plants have enough room to grow.

  3. 3

    Water twice daily during the first 1 to 2 weeks. Holy basil grows best in moist soil. Check the soil by pressing you finger into it. If the soil feels muddy and your finger sinks easily into it, it's too wet. If the soil looks cracked and feels hard, it's too dry. Moist soil will feel soft and spongy. Do not turn a garden hose on newly planted seeds. This will wash them away. Instead, use the "mist" option on a sprinkler head, or water with a watering can.

  4. 4

    After the seeds have sprouted, thin to 1 to 2 feet apart. Thinning plants means pulling the extra plants out by the roots so that the remaining plants are spaced properly. It's best to leave the healthiest looking plants in the ground, and pull out the smaller ones. This may not always be possible, as ideally there should be 12 inches between each holy basil plant.

  5. 5

    Water regularly to ensure that the soil around the holy basil remains moist (as described in Step 4). After the holy basil has reached a height of 4 inches, it can be watered by spraying it with a gardening hose. Holy basil can be picked at any time. It's best to pick a few leaves off each plant rather than stripping one plant of too many leaves.

Tips and warnings

  • Holy basil grows best in Zones 9a- 10b.
  • Holy basil grows best in an alkaline soil (meaning a pH level between 5.5 and 6.5.).
  • Holy basil can be grown indoors in full sun, as long as the room temperature is above 18 degrees C.
  • Hindus believe it's good luck to have holy basil growing by your front door.
  • Although the medicinal benefits of holy basil are widely accepted by Hindus, the United States Federal Drug Administration does recognise it as a drug.

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