How to take care of an indoor basil plant

Updated November 21, 2016

Basil comes in so many different flavours, such as sweet basil, zesty lemon, or spicy thai, that people who enjoy cooking will appreciate having a constant fresh supply of the herb. It's no wonder basil is one of the most popular herbs for home gardeners to grow -- even for those who don't have a garden. Basil is an easy plant to grow that does well in pots and is very productive. All you really need for a bumper crop of basil is a sunny windowsill and good preparation.

Select a good spot in your home to keep your basil plants. Basil is a sun worshipper that loves light and heat. Southern exposure is ideal, but more importantly place basil in a window where it will get a minimum of six to eight hours of sunlight each day.

Choose a proper-sized container for your basil. Basil doesn't need a lot of room, but should not be cramped. A 30 cm (12 inch) pot will suffice. Clay pots, such as terracotta, are best because they are porous, promoting better drainage and air circulation than plastic.

Add a couple of centimetres gravel, foam packing peanuts or pebbles on the bottom of the pots to promote air circulation. Fill the pots with potting soil, preferably one specifically designed for herbs. Mixing equal parts of peat moss, compost and potting soil will produce good results. Pat the soil down lightly to remove air pockets, and then water it.

Keep the soil in the sunny window. Plant your basil only after the soil is warm -- above 16 degrees C (60F) -- by sowing seeds directly in the pot, or transplanting seedlings.

Water your basil regularly to keep the soil moist, but not soggy. Water deeply, until water drips out of the bottom of the pot. Don't allow the soil to dry out completely between waterings.

Turn your plant every couple of days so that the foliage on all sides will get equal amounts of light. This will promote bushiness. If your plants are not getting enough sunlight, offer fluorescent light for several hours each day to supplement.

Begin harvesting lightly from your plant by picking or snipping off leaves once it develops three full sets of grown leaves. This frequent pruning by using it often will also stimulate growth. As your plant continues to grow, you can increase your harvest, but never take more than a third of the plant at a time.

Pinch off shoots with white buds when they grow from the top of branches. This will prevent seeds from dropping and keep your plant producing, encouraging bushiness.

Things You'll Need

  • 30 cm (12 inch) pot with drip tray
  • Gravel or packing peanuts
  • Growing medium
  • Scissors
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