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How to Grow Basil from Seed

Updated: Mar 19, 2022

It seems people either have a love or hate relationship with growing basil from seed. If you are doing something wrong, basil has a tendency to wilt and die. When done right, your basil plant will flourish and grow you a continuous supply of fresh basil. Homemade pesto anyone? Let's take a look at some tips on how to grow basil from seed indoors or outdoors.

How to grow basil from seed in a pot indoors or outdoors year round.

Basil Varieties

There are many different varieties and specialty flavors of basil. The most common type is sweet basil. Other varieties include purple, lemon and Thai basil. My favorite variety is the Genovese Basil.

How to Plant Basil Seeds

When seeding sweet basil, plant seeds about two inches apart in your pot and cover with a thin layer of soil then water with warm water. This means, for a 6 inch round pot you should end up with about 5 seeds.

Print out my Seeding Guide to find out when I like to plant my spring basil.

How to Grow Basil From Cuttings

If you have access to an established basil plant you can easily grow basil from cuttings by cutting a 4 inch section off and placing it in water for a week. It should begin to grow roots in that time. Once visible roots are established plant your basil into a pot with soil.

How to grow basil from cuttings.  Learn about growing basil indoors or outdoors year round.  This is Genovese Basil.
Grow basil from cuttings by placing the cutting in water.

Keep Basil Warm

Basil does NOT like the cold. I suggest starting basil indoors in early spring and growing it in a pot. Anything below 6° C (43°F) is too cold for basil. For those of us gardening in the zone 3 climate this means being very careful when leaving basil plants outdoors. I like to grow my basil in a pot year round so it is easy to bring inside when there is risk of the temperature dropping.

Provide Adequate Light

Basil does best in a location where it will receive at least 6 to 8 hours of sunlight a day.

How to Water Basil

One of the common mistakes made when growing basil is overwatering it. Basil does not like wet leaves or soaking wet soil! Plant basil in well drained soil and if anything, keep the soil on the dry side. Be sure not to over water basil plants! This means allowing the soil to dry out somewhat between watering. Water your basil at the base of the plant to avoid wet leaves.

How to Harvest Basil

Harvest basil regularly to encourage more growth. Begin harvesting once there are more than 6 leaves on a stem. Always take from the top of the plant and cut stem down to the next intersecting leaves. This will cause it to grow two new stems in place of the one you cut and your plant will grow larger and bushier. If you notice your basil beginning to form flowers, snip that part off to encourage more leaf production.

If you are wanting to make pesto, basil can be frozen until you have gathered enough for your pesto recipe.

Growing basil in Calgary in a pot.  This person is growing basil from seed indoors in a pot year round.
Basil Growing In A Pot

Basil Companion Plants

Tomatoes are know as the perfect companion plant for basil. Basil deters pests that attack tomato plants and some say tomatoes taste better when planted next to basil. Other companion plants for basil include cabbage, asparagus, oregano and peppers.

Basil does better in the company of other vegetables vs. herbs with the exception being chamomile and oregano.

Tip: Plant basil in pots on your deck to deter mosquitoes!

Check out my full printable companion planting guide.


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Basil growing in a pot started by seed indoors by someone gardening in Calgary Alberta.

Learn how to plant basil in a pot indoors or outside as well as how to grow basil from cuttings and how to water basil.


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