ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

How to Grow Basil (Ocimum Basilicum)

Updated on January 26, 2016
LisaRoppolo profile image

Lisa is a writer and gardener with extensive knowledge of plants and plant care. Her articles focus on easy-care tips for home gardeners.

Basil Origins

A member of the mint family of herbs, basil had been used and cultivated for thousands of years in India before it's spread into Mediterranean and Western cuisine. It is primarily used in Italian and Southeastern Asian (i.e. Thai, Vietnamese) dishes.

Most commercial Basils used today are cultivated by the standard Sweet Basil. There are currently over 160 different cultivars on the market today.

Sweet Basil and similar varieties has a clove-like flavor. Asian varieties such as Cinnamon and Licorice have more of an anise-like flavor and are more pungent.

Genovese Basil
Genovese Basil | Source

Basil Uses

The best way to use basil is fresh; drying loses a lot of flavor. It is also best to use the fresh leaves at the end of cooking. Heating it too long will destroy the flavor and break down the essential oil compounds.

Medicinally, Basil contains a compound known as BCP which is being tested as a treatment for Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Arthritis because of it's anti-inflammatory effects. Basil also contain compounds that are anti-microbial, anti-oxidant and anti-viral. It also is said to repel mosquitoes.

Basil Poll

Have you ever grown basil?

See results

Basil Varieties

Basil comes in a wide variety of flavors. Some of the most popular for the home grower are:

  • Sweet Basil
  • Dark Purple Opal Basil
  • Lemon Basil
  • Lime Basil
  • Summerlong Basil
  • Cinnamon Basil
  • Licorice Basil (aka Anise Basil)
  • Thai Basil
  • Spicy Globe Basil

Dark Purple Opal Basil
Dark Purple Opal Basil | Source

Basil Planting and Care

Basil is a super easy plant to start from seed. Generally, the best time is to direct sow in the garden after chances of frost have passed. For Northern gardeners, that is usually around Mother's Day.

Basil does best in full sun and warm summer temperatures. They enjoy moderately moist soil. It can also be grown as a house plant in a sunny, south-facing window.

Deadhead the flowers to keep the plants from going to seed. This will help produce bushier plants and force the Basil to produce more leaves. Most Basil plants grow between 12 and 36 inches tall, although some special hybrid varieties can be less than that (i.e. Spicy Globe Basil and Sumerlong Basil).

Sumerlong Basil
Sumerlong Basil | Source

Did You Know?

The essential oils in the basil plant that produce the strong clove-like scent is made of the same chemical structure that gives actual cloves their scent.

Lemon and Lime basils produce a citrus essential oil that is present in other plants such as lemon mint, lemon balm, citronella and some types of geraniums.

Selecting Plants for your Garden

Since Basil comes in such a wide variety of flavors, I feel it is important to experiment to find the type or types that work best for you. In my own experience some of the best performing varieties are:

Dark Purple Opal: Has a nice mild basil flavor without being too overpowering. It also makes a great ornamental plant in your flower bed. It produces pink flowers when allowed to bloom.

Summerlong: This shorter variety grows only to about 10 inches, but it's flavor more than makes up for it's short stature. The flavor is similar to regular sweet basil. It does great in containers or in areas were you don't have a lot of space.

Lemon: Very strong citrus flavor. Great sprinkled over fish and commonly used in Thai cooking. It also makes a great herbal tea on it's own or blended with other herbs. Some people use it to make basil infused lemonade and desserts.

Cinnamon & Licorice: These varieties produce unique flavors and are pretty to look at. Both varieties have purple stems and small distinct purple-magenta flowers.

Cinnamon Basil
Cinnamon Basil | Source
Licorice Basil
Licorice Basil | Source

A Basic Pesto Recipe

A quick and easy way to use fresh Basil is to make Pesto! You can use the Pesto fresh or freeze it for later.

You will need:

  1. Fresh Basil leaves (about 4 cups)
  2. Pine Nuts (half cup, lightly toasted)
  3. Olive Oil (1/4 to 1/2 cup depending on how it blends)
  4. Parmesan Cheese (1/2 cup grated)
  5. Salt and Pepper (to taste)

The quickest way to do this is in a blender. Combine all ingredients except the olive oil. Blend all ingredients and while the blender is still running, remove the eye of the lid and drizzle in the olive oil until the mixture creates a paste-like consistency. Turn off the blender and use immediately to dress pasta or freeze in freezer bags for future use.

© 2014 Lisa Roppolo


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at:

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the or domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)