Basil can be referred to as the crowning jewel of the summer with many species scattered around the warm-regions of the world. As a fragrant herb with different colors, they are easy to grow and can add a kick of flavor to a lot of dishes such as homemade pesto. But do you know that to get the most out of the benefits basil plants has to offer you need to learn how to grow them and take care of them before the harvest time comes?

In this article, I will show you the information about planting basil, their lifecycle and how to prune basil to keep them growing stronger and attractive. Read further!

To help your basil plant thrive and get the care they deserve you need to know their growth stages. Basically, basil plants regardless of the species you want to plant grow within 8 days to 2 weeks of the seedling. There are three stages of basil plants life cycle, and these include juvenile stage otherwise known as the seed germination stage, transition stage also known as vegetative and growth, and productive stage otherwise known as reproductive, flowering, and fruit stage.

Juvenile Or Seed Germination Stage

During the stage, the basil seeds start to germinate as the right amount of water is provided and the proper temperature is reached. Even though some species require 4°C, most of the common species require 24 to 32°C as the optimal germination temperature. When the right conditions are met the basil plank makes root, emerge from the seed to form the first set of true leaves. At this point, the plant grows tall to about twelve inches. Nursery Mountain Valley Growers believes you can cut the leaves from the top at this point while leaving the smaller ones to continue to grow.

Transition Stage

This is the stage when the leaves, branch, and stem grow substantially. If there are no environmental and nutritional conditions hindering them, this stage continues. Before the vegetative and growth stage ends, most species of basil plants can endure two cuttings up to two to three weeks apart.

Productive Stage

This is the final stage in the life cycle of basil where reproduction, flowering, and fruiting occur. At this stage, the blooming of the flower begins, and the basil plant stops to produce leaves. Additionally, seeds are also produced at this stage, and they can be saved for the following season’s planting. However, it is advisable that you should have picked all the leaves before the plant start to flower if you are using basil in cooking. This will ensure you benefit from its best flavor.

Now that you know the different stages in the life cycle of a basil plant, how do you plant it?

Planting Basil

Where to grow basil plants

Basil can be a wonderful addition to your garden, whether a container or larger garden. You can start planting indoor or directly outside. There is no rule stating the right amount of water to use but ensure you plant in moist soil and water thoroughly and deeply whenever the soil appears dry.

Basil can be a good addition to your garden and planting them with tomatoes makes them a wonderful addition to your large garden.

When to grow basil plants

You can easily sow basils from seed because it germinates faster. One of the best ways to grow the plant is to start ahead by growing the seeds indoors six weeks before the last spring frost. However, you may decide to plant directly outside. 

Regardless of what your choice is, considering the right temperature is very important. Basils can’t survive or might not grow in cold weather or soils because they are sensitive to cold. So, ensure the temperature of the ground is at least 21.111 degree Celsius or 70 degrees Fahrenheit before you plant outside.

How to plant

Plant the basil in moist, well-drained soil with natural pH for best growth. You can add rich compost to the soil while ensuring the soil is not too rich. Make sense? Also, ensure you plant it where it can get at least six to eight hours of full sun every day. Additionally, giving basil plants enough spacing will help them grow well. The spacing can be between 12 to 16 inches apart since the plants can grow between the heights of 12 to 24 inches depending on the species you want to grow. 

You can also propagate basil plants. When you place a cutting of basil in water, it roots easily, and when the root is healthy, you can transplant it in a container or directly into your garden. Note that a basil cutting that has not yet flowered is the best.

Caring for your basil plants

In case you notice that the ground is dry you can do your basil plants a favor by watering the plant at the base. If you plan to use the basil plant for cooking dishes, make sure you grow them in clean soil and where exhaust can’t reach. Also, as soon as you see the flower appear you can pinch out the flower heads to ensure the leaves continue to grow. Prune the branches back to their first set of leaves, anytime you see six to eight leaves appear. Remember, this is going to be discussed later in this article.          

Trimming Basil

Why Should You Trim Basil?

If you are someone like me, who cooks with basil, you should know why it is good to trim your basil plants. Pruning basil will ensure the plant grows extra stems and leaves throughout the season. If you cut one stem, it will reproduce to form two stems. This ensures the seed or flower don’t produce quickly as the focus of the plant will be to produce more stems and leaves. The more frequent you trim the plant, the more the plant grows more leaves and stems. Additionally, pinch out flowers as soon as they become obvious to divert its growing energy to foliage growth.

When Should You Trim Basil?

The ideal time to start trimming your basil is early in the season when it is about 6 inches in height or when it has grown at least six leaves. It is advisable that you enjoy the leaves of your basil during the transition stage but as soon as it starts flowering or getting dry cut them off.

What Are The Perfect Tool For Trimming Basil?

Remember that Basil plants are generally soft, tender and easy to prune. So you don’t need a pruning saw, lopper, pole pruner, or hedge shears. What you need is a pruning shear otherwise known as secateurs, clippers or pruners. The best type of pruning shear you should use is the bypass that acts like scissors. It is a perfect option for trimming stems. Oh! You are wondering what tool can be used for pinching the flowers? Come one! Use your hands. It works best.

Pruning Young Basil – Why, When, Where and How?

Basically, this is always the first pruning, and it is the most important trimming that can help create a multi-branched, bushy plant. When you see young basil developing three sets of leaves, take a careful look at the basil, locate the stem right above the third set and cut it.  You can make use of pruning shears or your hand. Pruning your young basil with the hand is simple, easy, and even ensures you don’t wound other parts of the plant. In short, when you see new leaves growing to locate the stem above it and break!

How Do You Prune Overgrown Basil?

Due to the ability of basil to grow quickly when planted in the right condition, it can overgrow in a short time. Overgrown basil is the one that has already undergone flowering and now producing less sweet leaves that might not be suitable for cooking. When this begins to happen, pruning overgrown basil can help improve and maintain its health and also its usefulness. Below are some helpful tips on how to prune overgrown Basil.

  • Clear the ground by cutting off all dead basil stalks near the ground
  • Check the stalks carefully and pinch off all the leaves that have already wilted by cutting them where the stem of the leaves meets the stalk of the basil
  • Start working on the basil stalks with flower by removing every single flower on each plant. Ensure that no flower is left
  • If the basil is still overgrown, harvest the tallest leaf clusters by cutting them off at the end of the stalk. Make sure you do this until your basil plants appear to have a healthy shape and fit into where you plant them nicely
  • Once you are done trimming your overgrown basil, monitor the patches, remove spikes when necessary, and keep it in shape by pruning it regularly. However, the weather, soil condition, and climate determine how frequent maintenance pruning should take place.

Note that you should dispose the wilted or dead leaves and stems while you save the fresh leaves for a wonderful meal cooking.

Pruning To Revive Old-Looking Basil

The perfect time to prune your old-looking basil is early springs; at about 6 weeks before the frost set in. However, you can’t use your hand to prune old-looking basil. You will require the use of a pruning shear. You know basil is old looking when it shows a woody-looking naked stem, ugly shape, shrunken leaves, and upper part with dried stems and leaves. If you want to revive your old-looking basil and bring it back to life and beauty you need to prune and here is how:

Prune your old basil in stages

Don’t be in a hurry! That is why it is advisable to perform the pruning task when you can spare enough time. So don’t try pruning the whole plant at once. It can make the basil suffer, damage it, and potentially kill it. Of course, I know you don’t want it dead. Preferably, the plants into sides and work on each side at a time.

Scan the stems

After deciding on the side, you will be working on start by taking a careful look at the stem from the bottom to the top. What you are looking for is a green spot; the bud where the next new leaves will sprout from. Once you see the green spot make use of the pruning shears to cut half of an inch above the spot. Repeat this same step for every stems at the side you are working on.

Wait till you notice new leaves coming out of the pruned old plants

Remember I mentioned that you should not prune all the shrubs at once? The outcome of the first side you pruned will propel you to do on with the other sides. Because basils grow faster, you won’t have to wait too long to see the result. So, keep calm and patiently watch! When you see the pruned side slowly getting covered with new basil leaves, you can go ahead and prune the other side. Remember how to do that? I think you do!

Once done with all the old basils in your garden you will see new, nutritious and beautiful basils coming out.      

How to Trim Basil without Wounding

Generally, pruning basil plants aim to ensure it keeps producing abundant leaves so you can derive enough benefits from all the nutrients it has to offer. So do you think wounding it or damaging it while trimming can make you achieve your aims? I guess no! The few tips below should help and prevent you from damaging or wounding your precious basil plants.

Don’t go too hard on it

Basil plants are soft and tender so don’t hold onto them too hard when trying to prune. No matter how strong you are, remember this is not a weight bar; it is a basil plant. Going too had on it can rip off its leaves, stems and even uproot it from the ground and you know what that means?

Trim one stem or plant at a time

Don’t try to rush things. If you have something else to catch up with, don’t prune. Wait till you have the time or when your schedule can create time for the pruning of your basil. When you take more than one to three stems and try pruning them all at once, you can cause damage to the plants. So, take it one stem at a time for a plant and one plant at a time for the garden.

Use hand when required

It is not every part of the pruning process that requires the use of shears or scissors. It is advisable that you trim the young basil plants using your hands (Thumbnails and finger mails). Using shears for them can damage the delicate and sensitive parts. As for the old or overgrown basil, you can interchange hands with the shears. Use hands for their leaves, and flowers while you use pruning shears for their stems.

In general, be careful when trimming your basil plants and always look after the survival of your plants.

Final Words

It is one thing to know how to plant a basil plant, so it grows the way you want, and it is another thing to ensure the plants deliver the leaves you need for your dishes at home. Knowing how to prune your basil plants can go a long way to making it produce enough leaves for you all through its season. For a successful trimming, you have to pay attention to all the pruning steps provided above for both the young, overgrown, and old basil. Now that you know the right time to prune a basil plant and how to trim it carefully without damaging or wounding it, you can have continuous growth and pluck nutritious and flavored leaves to cook your favorite dishes.