Basil -- at a Glance
Common name: Basil
Botanical name: Ocinum basilicum
Size: To 24 inches tall and 12 inches wide
Hardiness: To Zone 10; suitable as an annual for all Zones (Basil begins to suffer at 40 degrees Fahrenheit)
Habit: Bushy, multibranching
Conditions: Basil prefers moderate to rich soil with regular moisture, which is one good argument for container planting.
Planting: In general, wait until Mother's Day, or mid-to-late May, to plant basil seedlings, when outdoor temperatures are 55 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. This is a sun-and heat-loving herb , so give it your sunniest spot. You can direct-sow seeds in the garden or start them indoors to have seedlings ready to move outside when the temperatures rise; plants take up to eight weeks to mature, so many gardeners sow a new batch every two weeks. Garden centers also stock a variety of basil in 4-inch pots. For a bushier herb with a higher yield of flavorful foliage all season long, pinch back the stem tips, especially if the plant starts to form a flower.
Get seed-starting tips.
See ideas for growing herbs in containers.
Best features: Sweet basil is one of the most popular and useful herbs in the kitchen garden. Distinct varieties of the plant originated in Italy, Greece, Thailand, India, Africa, South America, and the United States. Some selections are very old, and others, more modern. Basil's intense aroma and delicious flavors range from sweet or spice to those with notes of citrus and pepper. The more you harvest basil, the longer it will produce leaves.
Learn more about basil here.