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Basil dishes up classic Italian flavor in eye-catching bushy plants suitable for garden beds or containers. Grow this tasty beauty in a sunny spot, and you'll reap rewards of flavorful foliage in shades of green, purple, or bronze. Basil lends a distinctive taste to salads, pizza, and pasta dishes. Use small leaves whole; chop larger leaves. Add leaves to dishes just before serving for greatest taste and aroma. Basil plants are exceedingly sensitive to cold; start basil seeds indoors or plant basil outside after all danger of frost has passed.
how to grow Basil
Start snipping as soon as plants unfurl at least four sets of leaves. Pick only as many individual leaves as you'll use. To store fresh basil for up to five days, clip sprigs and treat them like fresh cut flowers -- in water at room temperature. Basil turns brown if stored in the refrigerator. When frost threatens, cut plants, plunging stems into a few inches of water in a clean bucket.
To store leaves, dry, freeze, or hot pack in sterilized bottles with vinegar and olive oil. Or preserve basil flavor in pesto, which stores in the refrigerator up to one month and can be frozen for up to two years.
garden plans for Basil
more varieties for Basil
'African Blue' basil
Ocimum 'African Blue' is a hybrid basil that can grow up to 4 feet tall and wide. Young leaves have a purplish-blue cast but turn green when mature. Flowers are pink, making it an attractive ornamental plant. It has a camphor scent and less desirable flavor than most culinary basils, but it can be used in cooking.
Ocimum basilicum 'Aristotle' forms a neat, compact mound of tightly packed leaves that reaches up to a foot tall. Start harvesting the fine leaves when the plant reaches 6 inches in height. It is especially suited to growing in containers.
Ocimum basilicum 'Boxwood' is a hard-working variety that grows only 6 to 12 inches tall, but is big on flavor and makes an excellent edging plant in a bed near your kitchen door. Or try growing it in pots and window boxes.
Ocimum basilicum 'Cardinal' is named for its reddish-purple flower clusters that resemble celosia. It also has attractive burgundy stems on plants that reach 24-30 inches tall. Harvest and use the green leaves as you would other culinary basils.
Ocimum basilicum 'Cinnamon' is grown specifically for its tasty, cinnamon-flavor leaves. It grows 18 inches tall and wide and thrives in hot, sunny locations.
Ocimum 'Genovese' is perfect for fans of fresh pesto. This large-leaf Italian basil yields plentiful foliage packed with aromatic oils, ideal for true Neapolitan-style cooking. It grows 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
'Greek Column' basil
Ocimum x citriodorum 'Greek Column' is a tall, narrow variety that bears lemon-scented leaves. It grows 36 inches tall and 10 inches wide.
Ocimum x citriodorum is a summer treat; there's nothing as refreshing a sprig of lemon basil. This easy-to-grow herb produces leaves with a light lemony fragrance and flavor. It grows 3 feet tall and 2 feet wide.
'Magical Michael' basil
Ocimum basilicum 'Magical Michael' has a compact, well-branched growing habit, making it ideal for container culture. An All-America Selections winner, it's prized for its bold white and purple flowers. It grows 15 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
'Mrs. Burns' Lemon' basil
Ocimum x citriodorum 'Mrs. Burns' Lemon' is a heat-loving heirloom basil variety from New Mexico. It grows 18-24 inches tall and has an intense lemony fragrance and flavor. Grow it in herb gardens, vegetable gardens, or containers.
Ocimum basilicum 'Napolitano' (also called Italian large-leaf basil) is one of the best varieties for pesto. The large, fragrant leaves can be harvested all summer long. It's a productive variety that grows 2 feet tall and 18 inches wide.
Ocimum 'Osmin' offers glossy, deep purple leaves that give off a sweet, fruity aroma that lends pungent color to culinary creations. Tidy plants grow 18 inches tall and 12 inches wide and thrive in pots.
'Pesto Perpetua' basil
Ocimum x citriodorum 'Pesto Perpetua' is a fragrant variety that produces bright green leaves edged in cream. It grows 36 to 48 inches tall and 12 inches wide.
'Purple Ruffles' basil
Ocimum basilicum 'Purple Ruffles' is an award-winning selection that has eye-catching wavy, purple leaves. It is a tough annual that works well in pesto, salads, or garnishes. It grows 24 inches tall and 16 inches wide.
'Red Rubin' basil
Ocimum 'Red Rubin' dresses up garden-fresh dishes with purple-toned leaves. This basil grows about 2 feet tall and 14 inches wide, making it ideal for containers or garden beds.
Ocimum basilicum 'Serrata' is quite ornamental with its frilly leaves on compact plants that reach 12-16 inches tall. The foliage makes great filler for flower arrangements. It is a Southeast Asian type with good basil flavor.
'Siam Queen' basil
Ocimum 'Siam Queen' is beautiful and bushy, soaring to 3 feet tall. Pick leaves or purple flowers to infuse stir-fry, oils, or salad with traditional Thai flavors.
'Spicy Bush' basil
Ocimum 'Spicy Bush' is a compact variety (12 inches tall and wide) with tiny leaves, making it an ideal plant for edging gardens or growing in containers.
'Spicy Globe' basil
Ocimum basilicum 'Spicy Globe' is one of the best basil varieties for growing in small spaces, reaching only 6-10 inches tall. It has a piquant flavor, tiny leaves, and compact form. It makes a great edging plant for herb gardens or flower borders.
'Sweet Thai' basil
Ocimum basilicum 'Sweet Thai' has a pronounced anise flavor and pretty reddish-purple stems on plants that grow 12-18 inches tall.