Basil’s distinctive flavor is used extensively in Italian cooking to flavor pesto, tomato salads, pizzas, and other dishes. This is why it is a “must-have” in most people’s home gardens.
So, if you’re wondering how long does basil takes to grow, this article is for you. Read on to discover how long basil herb takes to germinate, grow and the best conditions to help it last longer.
How long does basil take to grow?
Germination normally takes between 5 and 7 days. But you must give seeds heat, or they will just sit in the soil. The seeds need a minimum temperature of 30 degrees Fahrenheit to get started.
- To aid germination, you can cover your pot with a plastic bag, which conserves both heat and moisture but allows light to penetrate. Another option to help the seeds sprout is to place the pot in a hot place like your airing cupboard or on a heated mat, if available.
- As soon as shoots appear, put the pot in a sunny place and the seedling will grow rapidly. Pot them on and thin them out as you do. Thinned plants are useful to add to potted basil as more plants provide bushy leaves. But the soil will become depleted quickly, so see tips below to help on this.
- An alternative way to grow new basil plants is to snip some leaf cuttings. See how to propagate basil cuttings in Tips below.
How long does basil take to grow so you can harvest the herb?
From planting to cutting, allow at least 30 to 40 days.
You can normally cut some leaves after 30 days and then allow the plant to grow bigger. It is best not to cut too many leaves at this early stage – cut just a few and then let it continue to grow.
Thus, as long as the ambient temperature is warm, the soil has enough nutrients and you water it regularly, you can continue to remove leaves for the whole summer.
But if you notice white flowers forming, pick these off and add them to salads. Then, you can continue to pick basil right through to when the colder days of fall arrive.
Indoor basil really enjoys a sunny spot.
Therefore, make sure the sun nourishes your plant with as much sunshine as possible every day. It needs at least 6 to 8 hours of sunshine to thrive. However, if your climate is midday, unrelenting heat then basil will not mind some afternoon shade when the sun is at its peak.
Outdoor basil needs a minimum temperature and lots of sunshine. This herb is super sensitive to frost and can even get black leaves if the temperature falls below 70 degrees Fahrenheit, so give it a sunny, protected spot. You can grow it next to tomatoes as these plants like the same conditions and they are used so well together in pizzas, pesto, and salads. Do not plant outdoors until all risk of frost is gone.
In pots, basil has a tendency to use up all the nutrients and go to seed quickly. So first of all, prune it by cutting leaves frequently and keep an eye out for a pretty, floral arrangement at the tips.
If gorgeous, little white flowers appear, this is the plant trying to go to seed. Cut these off immediately – they are edible too by the way, and look really decorative both in salads and herb oil. Secondly, plants tend to go to seed if water is scarce, so ensure your plant is watered regularly.
How can I make basil grow faster?
This herb loves heat, rich soil, and sunshine. In its natural environment, this is the hot, summer sun of an Italian or Mediterranean summer. So, to make your basil herbs grow faster, you need to deliver heat, a sunny window sill, good soil, and regular watering.
In really hot climates, it likes a bit of mid-afternoon shade so if you plant it next to tomatoes that will be a good option for both plants. The two grow really well together and like the same conditions.
How long does basil take to grow after pruning?
Basil can tend to get very leggy. So, if you want a bush shape, then a little pruning is useful. If you think of pruning as removing some leaves to eat, then this is an ongoing process during the life of the plant.
Give the plant 3 or 4 days to recover and then keep picking for tasty salads. You can also use these pruned shoots for propagating new plants – see below how you can do this.
Tips to keep basil growing longer
A useful tip with potted basil is to change the soil completely mid-season.
That way, the plant feels it has lots of new nutrients to help it grow and it offers the plant a new lease of life.
Outdoor plants can be top mulched to encourage more leaf production. In a greenhouse, if planted next to tomatoes, they will benefit from the weekly fertilizer you give to the tomatoes.
Grow new plants! Propagate basil tips by:
- Cutting shoots with leaves, about 4 inches long. Make sure there are no flowers on this shoot!
- Then take off the bottom 2 leaves and keep the growing tip, which will become your cutting.
- Next, place these shoots in a clear jar and place this on a sunny windowsill. Where you wash dishes is perfect because you can see when little, white roots are forming. This is a treat for younger gardeners and they will certainly let you know when the shoots have roots!
- After about 2 weeks, check and then let the root system develop for another week.
- Finally, pot these shoots into the soil and you are ready to go! These newbies can be done in August and taken indoors for use later in the fall or in winter.
Can I preserve, dry, or freeze basil?
The flavor of the herb is not suited for drying, mainly because a lot of the aromatic flavor is not retained. Dried basil is a very disappointing alternative to fresh basil leaves.
Freezing is a much better option. Cooks recommend ice-cube trays filled with fresh, chopped leaves, which can be defrosted later for use when needed. The delicate basil taste freezes well and allows you to enjoy its taste even when the plant is not available.
Finally, this herb is great for making scented cooking oil. Use the leaves to add to a half-full bottle of oil; then keep adding fresh leaves and more oil. Add other herbs too if you like.
Scented cooking oils make excellent presents too and pretty additions to any kitchen shelf.
How many types of basil are there?
Your seed catalog will show you the many varieties of this popular herb!
Certain types have a sweet flavor. The Romanesco variety also provides large leaves. Then there is a Genovese variety, which is favored by connoisseurs in Italy, as Genoa is said to be the city at the center of the pesto growers.
There are basils with dark-colored foliage and basils with a special scent such as lemon, cinnamon, and clove. There is even a basil variety with a hint of licorice called Thai basil.
How long does basil take to grow hydroponically?
Hydroponic basil grows in a special way, where the roots are not in the soil.
Instead, they are fed by water containing specialized nutrients, allowing you to grow the herb in a tower or special pot as part of the system.
You can probably get your basil to a size where you pick leaves about 28-30 days after planting if you follow all the instructions.
Hydroponic gardening is favored by those without a garden. And once it starts growing, the basil plants usually last for many months so you can continue to pick and enjoy their leaves.