Keeping Your Indoor Basil Plants Alive Indefinitely

I always thought growing basil was going to be hard, but even in northwestern Washington, my basil has thrived! In fact, I pretty much tried to kill some of it not that long ago--after keeping several basil plants alive for about 3 years, I stripped off their leaves (pretty much ALL of them) to make pesto. In a couple of days, they were sprouting new leaves. If you get the right variety and follow a few simple steps, these plants are almost annoyingly tenacious. So:

Grow the right variety

I have only grown sweet basil so far, so that's what I'm recommending here, but I have some Italian sprouting right now so I'll get to compare how vigorous these two types are. I've always had a lot of success with sweet basil and it tastes ridiculously good. I always grow from seed and have a high germination rate, but using starts works great too--it's just a little more expensive.

Basil loves sunshine

Probably goes without saying, but you'll want to be sure to keep your basil in a south-facing window or under a grow light. If you're in the temperate latitudes, window-grown basil will get pretty leggy, but it will still produce reasonably well. For northern latitudes, you'll probably want a light.

Pluck off those flowerbuds!

This is the key to keeping your basil alive for a long time: don't let it flower. When it starts flowering, all its energy will go to creating those flowers and their subsequent fruits, and be diverted away from growing those luscious flavorful leaves. So as soon as you see buds, pinch them off, and you'll find yourself with a geriatric basil grove like mine! Also, be sure to use your basil frequently--taking off big leaves makes room for little ones to grow, and encourages growth overall. But not picking enough is not usually the problem people face with such a tasty plant!

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Comments 4 comments

RTalloni profile image

RTalloni 5 years ago from the short journey

You are right, but if we let them go to seed outdoors we have loads of little plants next year. I love basil here in the south because it is a natural mosquito repellent--besides being so yummy in the kitchen. Having a plant indoors through the winter, though, is a marvelous thing--thanks for the reminder.

Bob Ewing profile image

Bob Ewing 5 years ago from New Brunswick

I have had good results with basil indoors, I have three plants growing now in the living room, best light. they were planted from seed about five months ago and I have already had one harvest.

Moon Daisy profile image

Moon Daisy 5 years ago from London

Some great tips! As someone who isn't very good with any plants, this will be very useful to me. :)

bluerose139 profile image

bluerose139 5 years ago from Eugene, OR Author

Thanks for the great comments, all! RTalloni: I didn't know basil repelled mosquitoes--that is so cool. I love multi-purpose plants, so that makes basil even more wonderful :)

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