When it comes to selecting the best herbs to grow in our garden most of us look for the ones that are easy to grow and harvest, attractive, and benefits to our health.  We forget to consider the growth habits of the herbs we have decided to grow. Before growing your basil, it is important that you know their growing habit. Are they evergreen plants, or perennial or I will only enjoy them for a year?

This is one of the questions to ask yourself before growing basil as it will help you have a successful growing season. So, is basil a perennial? Read further as I provide you with information that will offer you the right answer to your question. 

  • Annual herbs are the herbs that carry out their complete life cycle from seed to flower to seed in one growing season which is a year. When you plant their seeds, they grow, bloom (short time or often long time), produce seeds, and their leaves, stem, and root die after a year. The seed they produce are replanted the next season and serves as a connection between one generation and the next.
  • Perennial herbs are herbs that can live for many growing seasons. Unlike annual herbs, you don’t have to replant them every year. Generally, the plant dies at the upper part and grows from the same root system the next season. They continue to grow and die or stop to grow when they reach maturity. The maturity periods are different from one herb to another. However, the average maturity period is between three to five years, and they tend to bloom between one to three weeks in a year.

Note that there is another classification when talking about the growing habit of herbs and that is the biennial herbs. These are herbs that complete their life cycle within two years. They grow a few leaves above the soil surface in the first season and increase in growth, flowers, and produce seed during the second season then die afterward.

Is Basil A Perennial Or Annual Plant?

Have you heard of the king of summer herbs? Of course, that is basil plant. It is known to thrive and survive better during the summer when the temperature is warmer. Usually, they don’t survive the drop in temperatures between the fall and winter planting season. So, generally, basil herbs are known to be an annual plant that grows from seed to flower and die within a year. However, there are some exceptions. Basil sometimes survives for two years in climates that are free from frost.

Basil plants can thrive as a tender perennial in warmer climates such as Africa and Mediterranean region or tropical climates. Even though most other herbs struggle to grow during the humid, wet seasons in this region, basil herbs don’t care as they continue to grow all year round and become an established garden shrub. So, whether basil is a perennial herb or not  depends on the region you live in — the temperature of the locality and climate of the location. If you are in a region that experiences frost, basil might be an annual herb. But if you reside in the frost-free region, basil can be a perennial herb. Make sense?

When Can I Start Growing Basil

Let me start by letting you know that you can grow basil almost anywhere. However, summer being the warmest season is the best season to grow basil because the soil will be warm and the sun will be full providing basil with the right amount of light daily. If you live in a place where the climate is warm, basil can be planted directly in the garden, and this can be done in early spring.

For a person that resides in a location where the climate is cold, you will need warm soil to ensure that basil germinates because they can’t survive the cold. The best solution to growing basil in the cold climate is to begin the seeds of basil indoors a little later in the springs. Then you can plant them out when the seedlings reach the height of 6-inches, and it is up to six weeks after germination. However, you have to ensure the frost has passed and the temperature is warm. If not it is better to keep them indoors for healthy and faster growth.

If you are one of those people who live in the cold region with high frost and wish to grow basil till the end of the season, you might wonder if it is possible to grow basil during the winter. Interestingly, you can grow basil through the winter, but there are some conditions you have to meet. This will be looked into later in this article.

“It is not a good idea to plant basil outside before the last frost.”

Can I Grow Basil All Year Round?

If the growing environment of basil has light and temperature levels that are suitable for its growth, you can grow basil all year round. However, some conditions and ways can help you achieve this. You can grow basil all year round by growing it inside if the climate is cold. On the other hand, you can grow basil all year round buy either planting indoor or directly outside in a tropical or warm region. In short, in as much as the light condition, soil conditions, temperature conditions, water conditions, sowing condition, and other growing conditions are met, you can grow basil throughout the year no matter the season.

“Basil tends to grow to a larger plant when grown outside with climate and space permitting. The best solution for growing basil in an area with limited space is growing it in a larger container.”

The Best Way to Grow Basil through the winter

You don’t have to stop growing basil because it is the winter season. It can be more convenient and easier to grow your favorite basil herbs indoors when the climate is cold and frost. To grow basil successfully indoors and through the winter there are some important tips to consider.

Choose The Right Soil

The perfect soil for growing basil indoor is slightly acidic soil that is rich in nutrient and drains easily. A light potting mix with a high percentage of organic matter can be a perfect option. The soil should not be soggy but at the same time be able to retain moisture. Choose soils that are formulated for foliage plants when making a purchase.

“Using heat mat to increase the temperature of the soil can be an ideal option for growing your favorite herb indoors.”

Select The Right Container

Basil herb thrives best in large boxes. Also, you can grow them in window boxes. It is advisable to use containers or pots that have good sized drainage holes that allow the soil to drain easily. Also, pick the herb pot that is constructed with materials that offer durability, lightweight for easy movement indoor, and moisture retaining ability. The common materials used for forging herb pots are stone or cement, terracotta or clay, plastic, resin, and fiberglass. The best color and shape? That depends on your preference.

“A small growing container can result in stunted basil plants growth even if you apply enough nutrient and water.”

Choosing The Perfect Spot For The Right Light

This is one of the most important aspects to consider if you want to grow your basil indoor successfully. The light can either be natural or artificial. Placing your basil pot under the windows to face south or southwest will help you get the four to six hours natural light needed. Also, you can also place them under the window facing the west or east. But windows facing the north might not do.

In case, growing under natural light seem impossible you can opt for the artificial light. If you are using artificial light, you will have to provide your basil with a minimum of ten hours of exposure to light daily to ensure healthy growth. You can make use of high-intensity light that is specifically designed or fluorescent lights. The former should be above the plant at about four feet, and the later should be above the top of the plant at about three inches or one foot for higher output fluorescent.       

“You can ensure your growing basil plants are provided with warmth by using grow light which emits a larger light spectrum.”

Maintain The Right Temperature

Just like a human, basils are comfortable at the right temperature. So the average indoor temperature of 65 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit will do.

Watering At The Right Them With The Right Quantity

Watering the soil when dry is a good way to maintain proper moisture for basil plants. However, you should be careful not to add to much water which can, in turn, destroy the roots of your basil.  

Now that you know the important tips that can help your basil herb grow through the winter let’s take a look at the steps you can follow to plant this favorite herb when the winter season comes.

Purchase your basil seeds from a source that is reliable whether online or nursery store. But in case you have one that you have stored from your previous harvests, there might not be a need to buy except you want another variety different from the ones you have.

Fill the container you want to use with the right soil and spread the seeds on the soil poured in the herb pot(s). Ensure the seeds are evenly apart.  

Sprinkle soil on the seeds to cover them up and water the soil by using a spray bottle or use your fingers. Look for a tray or another container to help you catch any leaking water.

Place the pots in a perfect spot where they can receive at least six hours of sunlight every day. But in case you are using artificial light, it should be at least ten hours of light.

Water the base of the plant when needed (when the soil looks dry) and ensure the soil maintains a good pH of about 6 to 7.5. You can improve the pH if needed by adding organic fertilizer.

Once the seedling produces two leaves, thin the herbs to ensure adequate room for growth. It is advisable to prune basil when the height reaches six inches. If you notice the herb starts to wilt after pruning or pinching the top, water it.

Harvest the leaves before it flowers. However, you can leave it to seed if you want to save and store the seeds for the next planting.

“Don’t allow plants to touch cold windows. Foliage will freeze, and plants may die. Also, you should check the pH levels of soil about once a month or every four to six weeks for optimal growth.”   

What does Perennial Basil look like?

Perennial basil comes in three varieties, and they are pink, white and Greek columnar perennial basil. The Botanical name is Ocimum basilicum. Also, they are a native of tropical Asia and Africa regions. It grows in any position, whether part shade or full sun. Also, it is a multi-branching, vigorous shrubby plant that often comes with one-meter width and one-meter height. It features white and purple flowers that are always on long stems and appear to cover the basil plant.       

List of Perennial Herbs You Should Grow In Your Garden

Mint
Thyme
Rosemary
Winter savory
Ginger
Chives
Tarragon
Lavender

There can be an endless list of perennial herbs you can grow in your garden. I will show you popular and beneficial ones. They are mint, thyme, rosemary, winter savory, ginger, chives, Greek oregano, tarragon, sage, and more lavender. If you take care of these perennial herbs right, they will come back year after year. You can grow other herbs with basil, but you need to be careful with your choice as some herbs might not require the same conditions as basil plants.

“Growing basil with other plants such as tomatoes can keep away harmful pests that can negatively affect your herb.”      

Cap Off

As you can see, basil is basically an annual plant but can be grown to be a perennial plant if the right conditions are met. If you want to grow your favorite basil year around the solution is to plant them indoors when the climate is cold with frost and plant them outdoors when the climate is warm. To cut a long story short, it is your location and where you plant basil (Indoors or outdoors) that makes basil perennial or annual.