Growing basil in winter

How to grow basil

Used in pasta sauces, pizzas, salads and Thai curries, basil is an essential ingredient in the kitchen. Sweet basil tends to dominate the supermarket shelves, but there are many more exciting types to try when you grow your own.

Advertisement Basil is a half-hardy annual, so new plants will be needed each year.

Growing basil from seed

Basil seedlings

Sowing and planting basil

Basil thrives in well-drained, fertile soil, in a warm, sheltered position out of direct midday sun. To get a quality crop that lasts from early spring to mid-autumn, it’s best to grow it in a container.

Start your seeds off in pots of moist multi-purpose compost on a warm but not sunny windowsill. When seedlings are big enough to handle, pot them on into individual pots filled with a soil-based compost. Put them outside in early summer after the last frost. To acclimatise them to conditions outdoors, stand them outside in a sheltered, lightly shaded spot during the day, and bring them back in at night. Do this daily for about two weeks.

Watering basil seedlings

How to look after basil plants

Outdoors, basil needs protection from wind and frost. Always water with care, ideally before midday, and avoid splashing the leaves. This should help prevent botrytis (powdery mould).

Plants will grow fast in containers, so expect to pot them up a few times during the growing season.

Basil is a half-hardy annual, so new plants will be needed each year. However, in autumn, when temperatures start to dip, bring a few plants back indoors to provide a fresh supply of leaves in winter.

Harvesting basil leaves

How to harvest basil

Pick the leaves and tops of basil regularly throughout the summer to use fresh. You can be quite ruthless, so long as you leave at least three pairs of side shoots so your plants can regrow. Don’t wash the leaves until you’re ready to use them as they’ll turn slimy.

Storing basil

Store leaves in the fridge for up to three days. Or, stand cut stems in a glass of water ready to use. To freeze basil, chop the leaves and place them in an ice-cube tray, cover with water and pop in the freezer. Use within five months.

Preparing and using basil

For the best flavour, add fresh basil at the end of cooking. It’s said that you should tear rather than chop basil leaves to release their wonderful aroma. Use in salads, soups, stews, to make pesto and other sauces, particularly any recipe containing tomatoes.

Basil: problem solving

Protect plants from snails and slugs. Basil is also prone to attack by whitefly and red spider mite, both of which can be treated with horticultural soap.


How to grow supermarket basil

Most fresh basil sold in supermarkets is sweet basil. It takes just 22 days from seed to sale, so the rootball is underdeveloped. This is why it normally dies if you plant it in the garden. If you want to give it a go, tip the plants out of their pot and tease their roots apart to separate them. Replant individually into pots of soil-based compost. Keep them moist but not wet, and place them somewhere warm but not in direct sun. When you see roots through the drainage holes in the pot base, harden off and plant out in the garden.

A purple variety of basil

Basil varieties to try

  • ‘Cinnamon’ – olive green/brown leaves that have a very spicy flavour
  • ‘Greek’ – small leaves with a strong anise-clove flavour. Good in pots
  • ‘Red Rubin’ – produces highly aromatic, deep purple leaves
  • ‘Sweet Genovese’ – large-leaved variety with a sweet flavour

Do You Believe

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Dying Light

Official Digital Strategy Guide

for PC, PS4, Xbox One

The Character screen pauses the game. There are many important tabs here that let you develop your character and see where you’re going.

The Map

The first tab is your larger map. This isn’t just a larger version of the minimap; there are several things you can do here that are quite helpful. Zoom out to look over the whole city, and highlight locations if you’d like to place custom waypoint markers on them. This really helps when you’re trying to reach a specific place that isn’t shown as a quest goal.

You can also look over the various icons, bring up the legend if you don’t know what something means, and see what’s available to do. Quests and challenges show up quite well here, so you don’t need to track them down by wandering all over the city. Simply place a waypoint on them, go where you need to go, and start the event that you want to try out.


Information about story quests, side quests, and challenges are located here. Select a specific item to see more about it or read about what you’ve already done on that task. Switch your quest tracking around if you’re interested in pursuing one thing over the others. This brings it up on your main screen and sets the waypoints on your map so that you always know where to go next.


Your backpack, weapons, and equipment appear in this tab. Move items between your backpack and equipped areas to access these weapons and items on the fly while running around the city.

To learn more about each item, highlight it and review the stats that are displayed in the lower-right. From there, you can also Dismantle weapons (for spare parts), upgrade them to improve their stats, or drop the items entirely if you need the room and don’t care about losing some potential cash for selling them.

Your backpack starts off fairly small, but a couple of upgrades in the Survivor XP line earn you considerably more slots.


This tab is where you do your crafting! Look through your available Blueprints to see what you know how to make, and then decide if you’re willing to spend the components to make it all happen. When highlighting a Blueprint, you see everything that’s required to make the item, so it’s always really clear what you still must gather.

Crafting doesn’t require in-game time, so you can pause the game, make the items that you need, and then use them to survive whatever fight you’ve gotten yourself into.

You start the game with very few Blueprints, but these roll in over time as you gain skills that provide Blueprints and search the city for additional ones that are hidden!


Last, but not least, is the Skills tab. This is a fun section because it’s where you spend your skill points. We mentioned Agility and Power XP earlier, and that is a major part of this tab. Three areas of experience are tracked on this screen: Survivor, Agility, and Power. You get experience for these by helping other survivors, zipping around the city, and fighting your enemies.

When you earn enough experience to level up, your character gets a skill point in the appropriate area. Thus, if you fight all the time, you can increase your Power quickly. Players who help others as often as possible earn more Survivor XP. There’s also a bonus each time you survive until morning, so each dawn is a reward unto itself.

Agility is the hardest type of XP to earn early in the game. You must freerun well to build it up. However, this becomes much easier once you start to develop special moves like Vault, Tackle, and Dropkick. These actions earn you serious amounts of Agility XP, and they’re fun to do. Combine that with evading night Pursuits and using traps to start leveling like a fiend!

Select the individual types of advancement to see their skill trees. Each one has different perks that reward you for leveling up. Take the skills that are most exciting to you and watch your character become even better over time. These skills are discussed in greater detail at the end of this chapter.

The History of Basil

The next herb we will take a closer look at in our History of Spice Series is Basil.

Common Name: Basil
Scientific Name: Ocimum basilicum
Other Names: Thai Basil, Sweet Basil

Basil is a an herb that is most often used in Italian cuisine. It is also a popular herb in Asian dishes. Basil is part of the mint family. The plant has small, shiny green leaves and a very distinct aroma. Basil’s flavor is sweet and pungent.

There are two main varieties of basil: Sweet basil and Thai basil. Sweet basil is most often used in Italian cuisine and Thai basil in Asian cuisine.

This herb is native to India and today there are over 150 varieties of basil.

Basil has been around for over 4,000 years. Throughout history, basil was believed to have almost magical powers. It was used as an antidote for snake bites, and was believed to give strength during religious fasting.

It was found in mummies in Egypt because the ancient Egyptians used this herb for embalming. In Greece, basil was a symbol of mourning. The herb was referred to as basileus phuton, meaning magnificent, royal or kingly herb.

Today, basil is frequently referred to as the ‘King of Herbs’. It was also once known as the ‘herb of poverty’ because it was believed to provide protection to the poor.

In India, this herb was considered a powerful protector. They planted it around their temples and placed it with the dead to protect them in the afterlife.

In Crete, basil was considered an emblem of the devil. They placed this herb on their window ledges to help ward away this evil.

Basil was also once believed to identify chastity. If the herb withered in the hands of a woman, she was considered to be impure.

In medieval times, many doctors thought basil was poisonous. During this same time, others believed that basil was good for “cheering the spirit” and “clearing the brain”.

Basil was not introduced in Britain until the 16th century and they later brought this herb to North America. Today it is grown all over the Mediterranean region and in California.

Culinary Uses
In Italian cuisine, basil adds wonderful flavor to tomato sauce, pesto, and vinegars. It can also be sprinkled over salads and sliced tomatoes. In Asian cuisine, this herb is great on salads and on many types of meat and vegetable dishes. It is also great in pesto.

Medicinal Uses
Basil has been used as a remedy for common health problems for thousands of years. This herb is believed to help with:

  • poor digestion
  • headaches
  • the common cold
  • flatulence
  • improve memory
  • vomiting
  • anxiety
  • motion sickness
  • high cholesterol
  • treatment for burns and cuts

Can Basil Plants Survive in Freezing Temperatures?

witoldkr1/iStock/Getty Images

Basil (Ocimum basilicum) grows best during the warm, frost-free days of summer. It grows as an annual and dies after flowering or after frost. Unexpected late spring frosts pose the greatest danger, but an early fall frost can also stop production. Understanding basil’s temperature needs and planning ahead for a frost can keep your basil both alive and productive.

Staying Warm

Basil grows best when daytime temperatures are consistently above 70 degrees Fahrenheit and night temperatures stay about 50 F, but it can survive and tolerate lower temperatures if there is no frost. When the temperature drops to 36 F, it can result in frost damage or kill the plant, because the temperature near the ground can drop below freezing because of heat loss from the ground. Basil plants suffering from frost damage quickly wilt and the foliage dies, although it remains green. The roots rarely survive even a light frost, so you will need to buy a new basil if it freezes.

Under Cover

Protection from a late spring frost may help newly planted basil survive the cold, but in fall it’s best to harvest the remainder of the basil before a frost kills the plant. To protect a basil plant, cover it with an upturned bucket or pile straw around it to insulate both the leaves and the roots. When covering basil, any leaves in contact with the covering, with the exception of straw, can still suffer damage, so use a large bucket. Remove any covering as soon as temperatures rise, otherwise the basil may overheat.

Protecting the Young

Spring frosts threaten basil seedlings. Starting the seedlings indoors instead of directly in the garden keeps them protected until all frost danger has passed, but still allows you to get a head start on growing the herb. Start basil seeds in seedling pots four weeks before the last expected frost, and then plant them outdoors two weeks after the last expected frost date. When growing from seed, use pots with bottom drainage and a sterile soil. Basil germinates best when temperatures are between 65 and 85 F.

On the Move

If your area has unpredictable spring and fall frosts, consider growing it in pots so you can bring the basil indoors when necessary. The pots must have at least one bottom drainage hole so the soil can drain. You can set pots outdoors or sink them into the garden bed during warm weather, and then place them in a window that gets full, all-day sun during cold weather. Arrange pots so the leaves don’t ‘t touch window glass, because freezing air on the outside of the glass can damage the leaves. Pot-grown basil may dry out more quickly than garden soil. Check the soil daily and water when the top 1 inch feels dry. Basil is an annual so it will eventually die and need to be replaced, even if it’s not exposed to frost.

By Kellie J. Walters | Christopher J. Currey|February 12, 2016

Understanding how different basil species respond to air temperatures can help increase cropping efficiency. Photo courtesy of Snap/Flickr.

When it comes to speeding up or slowing down crops, temperature is the primary factor driving the rate of growth and development of greenhouse crops. Understanding how different species respond to temperatures can help greenhouse growers increase cropping efficiency.


In the past, we have reported on how cultivars, hydroponic systems, planting density, nutrient solutions, and light affect the growth and development of hydroponically produced basil. For this final article in our four-part series focusing on basil production, we would like to discuss how air temperature influences basil growth.

Four Basil Cultivars Evaluated

We grew seedlings of ‘Nufar’ sweet basil, ‘Holy’ basil, and ‘Sweet Dani’ and ‘Lime’ lemon basil in 288-cell plug trays filled with germination mix. Three weeks after sowing seeds, seedlings were transplanted into 4-inch plastic containers filled with a commercial soilless substrate comprised of peat and perlite. After transplanting, 10 plants of each cultivar were placed into one of five environmental growth chambers maintained at 52°F, 63°F, 73°F, 84°F, or 95°F.

Plants were fertilized thoroughly once per week with a solution containing 200 ppm nitrogen from a 15-5-15 fertilizer containing micronutrients. In between fertilizations, plants were irrigated with clear water without leaching. Fluorescent lights inside of the growth chamber provided light for 16 hours per day. Three weeks after transplanting, we counted the number of plants with flowers and measured height, node, and branch number. Additionally, we measured fresh and dry mass of the basil shoots.

Increasing Air Temperature Enhances Basil Growth

The rate of growth, or increase in weight, increased as temperature increased for all four of the basil cultivars used in our study. For example, at the end of the experiment, sweet basil grown at 84°F weighed an ounce more than plants grown at 52°F. Similarly, the rate of increase in fresh mass for sweet basil increased by 0.05 ounces per day as temperature increased from 52°F to 84°F. All the cultivars had a similar response to sweet basil, with growth increasing as temperature increased. However, for all cultivars, both the final weight and rate (ounces per day) decreased as temperatures went from 84°F to 95°F.

While not of primary interest to herb producers, we did notice some variation in flowering across the different basil cultivars. Sweet basil did not flower in our experiment in any of the temperature treatments. Holy basil and ‘Lime’ lemon basil were flowering by the end of the study in some, but not all, of the temperature treatments. There was little to no sign of flowering at 52°F, and we attribute this to slow development rates due to low temperatures. As temperatures increased, flowering increased to nearly 100% at 73°F and 84°F. As temperature increased above 85°F, we saw delayed or no flowering (see Figure 1) as a result of heat delay.

Figure 1. ‘Holy’ basil grown at constant air temperatures ranging from 52°F to 95°F in environmental growth chambers. This photo was taken three weeks after placing plants into treatments.

Plant height was also affected by temperature. The height for all four cultivars increased with temperature up to 84°F. Plants grown at 95°F were slightly shorter. There are two different factors that contribute to the change in height — node number and internode length. As temperatures increase, more nodes are formed, therefore increasing plant height. In addition to recording height and node number, we also calculated internode length. Internode length increased as temperature increased from 52°F to 73°F or 84°F, depending on the cultivar.

Keep Basil Warm

How can our results help with your production? First, for all of the basil cultivars utilized in our study, plant growth (weight) and height increased with temperature in a linear relationship between 52°F to 84°F. This linear relationship means that the effect of changing the average daily air temperature should result in predictable effects on growth, as long as the temperatures remain in the linear range.

Another clear result of our study is that basil grows well at warm temperatures. As temperature increased from 84°F to 95°F, growth started to decline, though not severely. Although greenhouse producers will likely not increase their temperatures to the warmer temperatures used in our study during the late fall, winter, and early spring (the heating season), our results support the potential for increasing basil production during the summer months, when warm greenhouse temperatures may diminish the growth of some crops — but not basil.

On the other end of the temperature spectrum, avoid low temperatures when growing basil. First, the growth of all four cultivars used in this study was minimal at 52°F. At low temperatures, the slow growth would increase crop time and reduce profitability due to increased production time. Additionally, plants were stressed, and with some plants, there was visible damage from the cold temperatures, which would decrease yields.

Take-Home Messages For Basil Production

The biggest take-home from our study is that basil is a warm-growing crop that is sensitive to cold temperatures. Although many greenhouse growers will not be heating the greenhouse to the mid-80s during the winter, our research should encourage growers to avoid cool or cold temperatures so crops are not delayed. Alternatively, basil would be a prime candidate for summer production in greenhouses, as temperatures that would be problematic for some crops suit basil well. Growers should always perform in-house trials to evaluate responses under their own greenhouse environment and culture.

In Case You Missed It

How To Choose The Right Hydroponic Production System For Growing Basil
Increase Planting Density To Increase Hydroponic Basil Yields
Managing Electrical Conductivity (EC) For Hydroponic Basil Production

Kellie J. Walters is a graduate research assistant at Iowa State University. See all author stories here.

Christopher J. Currey () is a graduate student at Purdue University See all author stories here.



Sow basil seed indoors
The first week of April

Take basil cuttings
The last week of April

Thin out seedlings
The last week of April

Harden off young basil
The third week of May

Plant out basil
The first week of June

Begin to harvest basil
The first week of July


Basil thrives on lots of sunshine and light, this description is aimed at growing basil in the spring and then placing it outside when the weather is warm. If you are sowing basil seeds for growing on the windowsill throughout the summer then you can sow the seeds earlier. How much earlier depends on many factors so we suggest you try sowing a couple of weeks earlier and see how the plants grow. You can then adjust the timing to sow earlier or later depending on your success or failure.

The best time to start sowing basil seeds is the first week of April 2015 (UK average). to personalise dates in this site to your town. The seeds germinate well as long as they are sown into moist compost which is kept at around the ideal temperature of 70°F / 21°C. A good pot size to start them off in is 8cm / 3in wide.

Fill the pot nearly to the top, place three seeds on the compost and sprinkle a thin layer of compost over the seeds. Gently pat the compost down. Loosely cover the top of the pots with cling film or a plastic bag – enough to keep the moisture in but also to allow some air circulation. Water from below with lukewarm water.

A centrally heated house is normally about the correct temperature for basil to germinate. The seeds do not require light to germinate so initially they are best kept away from windowsills to maintain the most even temperature possible. Basil seeds can geminate in as few as three days (ours took only four days) but normally take 10 to 14 days to germinate and appear as seedlings.

Keep an eye on the pots daily and as soon as the seedlings appear move them to a light and airy position indoors and remove the plastic bag / cling film. Do not place them in direct sunshine, basil doesn’t appreciate full sun when they are young plants. A windowsill is often a good place to grow your basil but make sure that it is free from draughts – some windows, even double-glazed ones, sometimes let small draughts in and basil hates draughts.

All the time you are growing basil indoors the light will coming from only one direction and the plant will tend to grow towards that light. To stop this happening turn the pot daily about a quarter of a turn to ensure the growth is not all in one direction.


Taking basil cuttings is a very easy way to propagate this herb and you end up with plants that can be harvested earlier compared to seed grown basil. It’s also a great project for young children to undertake because not only can they see results in a couple of weeks but they will also be able to see the roots growing day by day.

The process is simple and to guide you through it we have created a special page dedicated to taking basil cuttings in water which can be found if you . It has step by step pictures from beginning to end.


As can be seen from the picture below, basil cuttings are by far the quickest method. The plant on the left is a cutting and the plant on the right is a basil plant from seed. They are both about four weeks old. In fact, the basil cutting has grown so quickly that it can now have the top two sets of leaves cut off to encourage it to grow into a bushy plant.

Basil cutting and seed grown after four weeks


Basil not only can’t stand even a degree of frost but it really needs a minimum temperature of 15°C / 59°F if it is to grow healthily. With that temperature in mind start to harden off basil in the third week of May 2015 (UK average). Hardening off basil will take about two weeks and you will be slowly exposing the plant to outside conditions for slightly longer times every day.

During the hardening off process do not place the plant in full sun which can damage the leaves. Keep the plant out of draughts but in a light and airy position.


Basil can be planted outside when the danger of frost has passed which is the first week of June

Basil is a sun and heat loving plant when it is established and that’s the key to choosing a good position for them to grow. You have two choices when planting out basil, either in open ground or containers. We would recommend always using containers in the cooler half of the UK and it’s also ideal in all areas. If you are in the warmer parts of the UK and you can provide a site sheltered from wind then basil can be planted in open ground.

A key benefit when using containers is that they can be moved around the garden as weather conditions dictate.

If you are planting your basil in open ground dig the soil to a fine tilth about a spade deep. If the soil is at all clay based add lots of organic matter and dig that in well. Unless your soil is naturally poor in nutrients don’t add any feeds to the soil, basil tastes better and grows better when the soil is slightly low in nutrients.

Planting is the same process into pots or open ground. Make a hole in the soil / compost about the same size as the pot. Remove the basil from the pot trying your best to disturb the roots as little as possible, place the root ball into the hole to the same depth as it was in the pot and fill in with soil / compost. Firm the soil down lightly to remove any air pockets. Water them in well.


Basil is very easy to care for, weeding when growing outside is clearly beneficial. As far as watering goes, in pots and outside, keep the plants on the dry side and the same goes for feeding them – normal soil / compost should be sufficient.

Regular harvesting is the key to creating a bushy and healthy basil plant, it really is the most important part of caring for your plant. We explain the process in detail below.


When your basil plant first starts to grow there is a temptation to let it establish itself before harvesting any leaves and this is the wrong approach. All stems, and that includes the first central stem, should be “pruned” when four sets of leaves have formed. Trim the stem to just above the second set of leaves which will encourage shoots to appear from the two remaining sets of leaves. Our very amateur drawing below explains in a more graphic manner.

As secondary shoots appear prune them in exactly the same way after the fourth set of leaves has formed. If you notice any flowers beginning to form, prune these away immediately because if left to grow they will cause the plant to stop producing leaves.

There is some disagreement as to when is the best time of day to harvest basil, the morning or evening. Our vote goes to as late in the day as possible – Michigan State University have conducted tests on basil and late in the day harvests produce basil which keeps best. When harvesting basil, cut the stems off not just the leaves to encourage quicker and healthier growth.

If you want to preserve your basil leaves by drying we have four different methods methods for you to choose from. for our guide to drying basil with step by step instructions and pictures.


As with all grow-your-own plants, taste is key as is the knowledge that the produce has not been sprayed with masses of unknown chemicals. But another factor is cost – is grow-your-own basil cheaper and more convenient compared to the shop bought equivalent?
To come up with a meaningful cost comparison we have assumed you buy a basil plant from a supermarket ten times a year:

Costs involved in grow-your-own assume:
Basil seed will remain viable for four years if kept in cool and dry conditions
Plastic pots which can be reused many times
Blood, fish and bone fertiliser, a handful six times a year
Seeds (we bought 200 basil seeds at Wilco for 39p)
Potting compost is from a 70 litre bag
Two plants can produce a sufficient quantity throughout the year

So, grow-your-own basil is not only chemical free, much more convenient it can be harvested at any time in your garden) and far fresher, it is also far less than the cost of supermarket basil. That has to be good value especially when you consider that basil makes a very attractive plant which looks great on a window sill or in the garden.


Sweet Genovese
The commonest of all the basil varieties, it is also known as sweet basil. Sweet Genovese has the distinctive basil taste and scent known the world over. When a recipe calls for basil, use this variety. Widely available as seeds and as pot grown plants.

Other Basil Varieties
There are endless variants on the basic sweet basil and in our opinion some of them are novelty plants. If you want to experiment however, try this page for some unusual basil varieties.



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Few houseplants can match Tulsi for both beauty and fragrance. Tulsi, also known as holy basil or sacred basil, is a perennial in tropical and subtropical regions, but it can be grown indoors year round regardless of your climate.

Each year we plant a large patch in our vegetable garden and harvest well before harvest first frost to dry for winter teas. Unlike other annual basils which bloom and then become bitter, tulsi is known to bloom and keep blooming, providing forage for the bees and fragrance for your garden.

If brought indoors for the winter, tulsi will keep right on blooming and liven up any room with its sweet fragrance.

Growing Tulsi From Seed

Tulsi seeds should be started indoors 6 to 12 weeks before the last frost. Since tulsi is a tropical plant, it requires warm temperatures to germinate and should be kept in a place that’s at least 70 degrees. If your house is particularly cool, consider using a seedling heat mat to warm soil temperatures.

The soil should be kept continuously moist, but not soggy. Seeds will germinate about 3 weeks after planting.

The plants are very frost sensitive, and should not be moved outdoors until several weeks after the last frost date. Even then, remember to give them an acclimation period to harden off by bringing them indoors into a sheltered place at night for a week or so before permanently planting outdoors. Cold frames are also a good option.

If you’re growing tulsi indoors, be sure that the plant has ample sunlight in a south-facing window for at least 4-6 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Growing Tulsi From Cuttings

Tulsi also readily grows from cuttings. Use a pair of sharp garden shears and cut a tulsi stem from an established plant. Remove all the flowers and most the leaves. Place the cutting in a glass of water on a sunny windowsill. Make sure it’s kept continually warm, and change the water every few days to avoid mold or stagnation. The cutting should take root in a few weeks.

Tulsi Plant Care

Once your tulsi plant is established, it needs continuously warm temperatures to thrive. Tulsi is hardy in zones 10 and 11, and can be grown year-round in the very hottest parts of the US that never see a frost. For the rest of us, tulsi can be grown as an annual outdoors, or as a perennial houseplant.

Hardiness – Tulsi is hardy to zone 10, and cannot handle any frost. Ideally, temperatures would remain above 50 degrees for optimal growth.

Sunlight – In ideal conditions, tulsi requires at least 6 hours of sunlight per day. It can survive part sunlight conditions, with as little as 4 hours of direct sunlight per day.

Soil – Most balanced potting mixes are appropriate for growing indoors.

Fertilizer – Tulsi requires fertile soils to thrive, especially if you’re regularly harvesting leaves for tea and seasoning. Be sure to supplement with compost to ensure adequate fertility. To the soil with an inch of rich compost every 6 months. The best fertilizer for tulsi plants is a balanced 10-10-10 liquid fertilizer and can be applied every few months for indoor plants.

When to Harvest Tulsi

How long does it take to grow tulsi? Since tulsi is a perennial, it’s best to continuously harvest small amounts of the herb to allow for continued growth.

You can begin to harvest tulsi once the plant reaches about a foot in height. Pinch back the growing tips to help encourage a bushy plant habit, which will increase yields. Tulsi plants should be ready for harvest about 40 days after germination and do best with sparse periodic harvests. If harvested gently, by single leaves or branches, a tulsi plant can continue to produce for several years.

In India, tulsi bushes can reach 4 to 5 feet tall in the intense summer heat, but indoors or in more temperate climates, they stay small and bushy, growing no bigger than 1 to 2 feet.

Types of Holy Basil Plants

There are a surprising number of holy basil varieties, each with their own distinctive characteristics. Since tulsi has been grown in India for medicine for thousands of years, there has been plenty of time for unique cultivars to develop. The three main varieties include:

Rama Tulsi

This variety has light green leaves and purple flowers and smells strongly of cloves. The flavor of this variety is mellower than others, but even though it has stronger smelling leaves. The mild flavor makes it versatile as an after meal tea, and it’s used to promote healthy digestion. Rama tulsi is also known as green leaf tulsi.

Krishna Tulsi

A purple leafed variety, krishna tulsi a rarer variety of holy basil. It grows more slowly, and it’s thought that the slow growth contributes to the accumulation of stronger, spicier and more pungent flavors. The flavor is peppery and clove like, and the warm spicy tea it produces is used to treat respiratory infections among other things. Krishna tulsi is also known as Shyama tulsi and purple leaf tulsi.

Vana Tulsi

Considered the best tasting, Vana tulsi is actually a bit harder to find. The leaves come in two tones, with the upper leaves light green and the lower leaves on the plant coming in darker green. The flavor is more lemony, unlike the peppery and clove flavored other varieties.

How to Use Tulsi

The most common way to use tulsi is in a tea. The tea has a natural sweet flavor that reminds me of lemon balm with a slight hint of clove. A brand called Organic India sells a number of tulsi tea blends, each mixed to bring out different medicinal qualities of the tulsi plant.

Make tulsi tea by steeping about a tablespoon of the herb in 1 cup of near boiling water for 15 minutes. Bring the water to a boil and then allow it to cool for a few seconds before pouring over the tulsi tea leaves. Boiling water will drive off the volatile compounds and you won’t get as much flavor in your final tea. Strain the tea and enjoy plain or with a sweetener. Honey works particularly well if you’re taking tulsi for respiratory issues.

Beyond tea, tulsi is traditionally used as a spice and it’s sprinkled on foods to enhance the flavor in much the same way that pepper or Italian basil is used.

Basil is a gardener’s dream plant. In fact, the more you cut this useful little herb, the more it grows! It also comes in a host of varieties, one of which is the tulsi plant (Ocimum sanctum).

Tulsi is a purple-tinted plant with a distinct peppery aroma. It’s also known as “holy basil” or “sacred basil.” Believed able to purify and ward off misfortune, tulsi is often used in religious ceremonies, particularly in India where the herb originates. Even today, you’ll find these plants growing in Indian temples and courtyards.

Photo credit: Snappy Goat

In addition to flavouring meals and herbal teas, tulsi’s long, oval leaves are rich in essential oils. This means that they’re used in many herbal remedies to provide soothing relief from sore throats, fevers, and insect bites.

For all the benefits that this herb can bring, it’s a surprisingly easy plant to grow. Here’s everything that you need to know about adding tulsi to your own garden.

Different Types of Tulsi

There are over 100 different tulsi plant varieties. We don’t have the time or the space to go over all of them, so instead I’ll just highlight some of the more commonly grown varieties.

Vana Tulsi (Ocimum gratissimum)

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Considered by many to be the best tasting and most beneficial member of the tulsi family, vana tulsi leavesare dark at the base but lighten further up the plant. This variety is lemony in flavor, which sets it apart from the rest of the peppery-tasting family.

Vana tulsi seeds can be difficult to find, but its unusual taste and distinctive appearance make it well worth the effort.

Rama Tulsi (Ocimum sanctum)

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Also known as “Bright Tulsi” or “Green Leaf Tulsi”, this variety boasts broad, light green leaves and purple flowers. Rama tulsi is an aromatic variety, smelling strongly of cloves. This aroma intensifies upon crushing the leaves. Despite this, it’s mellower in flavor than other varieties. Many people use Rama Tulsi leaves to make an after-meal tea, which aids digestion.

Krishna Tulsi (Ocimum tenuiflorum)

Photo credit: Nursery Live

Commonly grown in many parts of India, the peppery Krishna Tulsi or “Purple Leaf Tulsi” boasts distinctive dark purple leaves and a pungent aroma. This striking variety grows more slowly than other holy basil plants. This slow growth helps to intensify the plant’s spicy flavors.

I like to use these leaves to make a warm, spicy tea. Many people use these leaves to make homeopathic remedies to cure infections and irritations.

How to Plant Tulsi

Tulsi, like most other types of basil, is a relatively easy plant to grow. Both like rich soil, good drainage, regular watering and lots of light.

Depending on the variety, tulsi is rated zone 10 or 11. It grows as a shrub in warmer areas, but is an annual in cooler zones: it will die upon contact with frost.


The easiest way to propagate a tulsi plant is to take a cutting from a healthy mother plant.

Take cuttings in the spring or summer months: these should be a few inches long, with a couple of leaves.

Plant the cutting in a small pot containing moist, fresh potting soil. Some people like to dip the cut ends into a rooting hormone before planting, but this isn’t necessary.

Place the pot in a warm, light spot, away from direct sunlight. In fact, a kitchen work surface is an ideal location. Water the cuttings regularly so that the soil doesn’t dry out, and you should see new shoots in a 4 to 6 weeks.

Sowing Tulsi Seeds

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You can sow the seeds straight into the ground from late spring onwards, when the temperature averages 70ºF.

If you want to sow your seeds earlier than this, start them off indoors. Do this either in a greenhouse, or on a sunny windowsill. This will allow you to sow the seeds 6 to 12 weeks before the last frost.

Dampen the soil and firmly press the tulsi seeds onto the soil. If you’re sowing the seeds into pots or seed trays, make sure that you use a good, general purpose compost.

Gently sprinkle a thin layer of compost or soil over the seeds, and water with a spray mist bottle. Don’t use a watering can, as the water flow will be too vigorous and could wash the seeds away.

If you’ve sown the seeds outside, cover them with a cloche. Not only will this prevent the weather and animals from disturbing the seeds, but it will also trap the heat, helping the germination process. If you’ve sown the seeds indoors, you can place the pots in a propagation chamber to give them a head start.

Keep the soil moist. After 2 weeks you should start to notice young seedlings emerging.

When your seedlings have grown two or three sets of true leaves they can be carefully transplanted into individual pots. If the temperatures are mild enough they can be planted outside.


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Once the seedlings are large enough you will be able to transfer them into individual pots.

If you intend on growing your holy basil in pots, you’ll need to occasionally repot the plants. While some people like to repot theirs every spring, others allow the plant to remain in its container until it outgrows it, or becomes pot bound.

Whenever you repot a plant you should use a clean plant pot that is just slightly larger than the one that your plant is currently in. Planting a seedling in an overly large pot may cause it to go into shock, resulting in leaf drop and possible death.

Remove the plant from its old pot or seed tray. The roots of more established plants may become tightly bound together, in a “root ball.” If this is the case, gently tease them free.

Next, put some fresh potting mix or all-purpose compost into the pot. When the plant is placed inside, the top of its roots should sit just below the lip of the pot.

When you’ve positioned your tulsi plant in the centre of the pot, add more compost or potting mix. Don’t add so much that the soil becomes compacted. Leave some space at the top of the pot to allow for watering.

After planting, water the plant and return it to its usual spot.

Planting Out

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Don’t plant Tulsi out until the last frost has passed.

Whether it’s being planted directly into the ground or in outdoor pots, make sure the plants sare hardened off first. This will help them to acclimatize to their new location.

If you are planting in the ground, bear in mind all basils prefer fertile soil. Dig the soil well before planting:this will encourage air circulation through the soil. Digging well-rotted organic compost or manure into the soil about a month before planting will also help air circulation.

Dig a hole that’s slightly larger and deeper than the pot that it currently sits in. Remove the plant from the pot. Gently brush any soil from the roots, being careful not to damage the root system.

Place the plant in the hole, with the root tops just below the soil level. Fill the hole with good, general purpose compost. Water well. Leave a space of 18 inches between plants if you’re planting more than one.

Caring for a Tulsi Plant

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Tulsi thrives best in loamy or fertile soil. Good drainage is essential for healthy plants, and soil with a pH level of 6 to 7.5 is best.

When your seedlings are 3 inches tall, spread coarse mason sand to a depth of 2 inches over the soil around the plants. This sand mulch reduces weeds, controls moisture, and moderates temperature fluctuations.


Your tulsi plant will require regular watering. If you’re unsure when to water, wait until the top inch of soil feels dry to the touch. They require less water during the winter months when plant growth slows or ceases.

Try to avoid getting water on the leaves, as damp leaves can be a breeding ground for mold and disease. This may become difficult as the plant grows bushier. I’ve found that watering early in the morning allows the leaves time to dry off in the sun before the temperatures cool.

Position and Temperature

Tulsi thrives in full sun, and ideally likes to receive 4 to 6 hours of sunlight every day. It can, however, grow in partial shade.

As we’ve already discussed, these plants are hardy up to zones 10 or 11, depending on the variety. This herb thrives best in areas where temperatures rarely plummet below 50ºF.

Tulsi can be grown outside all year around in areas that never see a frost. Alternatively, you can grow it outside in the summer, and bring it indoors when the temperature plummets. As it isn’t a large plant, tulsi can also be grown as a year-round houseplant.


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To keep your tulsi plant lush and healthy, you’ll need to feed it on a regular basis. A balanced 10-10-10 fertilizer contains all the nutrients the plant needs, but most general-purpose plant feeds will also be fine.

Feed your holy basil plant once every two weeks. Using a liquid or water-soluble fertilizer means that you can easily incorporated it into your watering routine.

Replace the top two inches of soil around the plant with fresh compost every six months. This will help the soil to remain rich and fertile. The best time to do this is early in the spring, when the growing season begins, and in the early autumn as the plant enters its dormant stage.

Pruning and Weeding

Prune your tulsi plant regularly to help control its size. When pruning, try to remove no more than half of the growth of the stem. Pinch the tops of the plants when they’ve formed between four and six pairs of leaves. This will encourage the plant to become bushy, instead of growing weak and leggy.

You can also remove the flower buds as soon as they appear. Preventing flowering and seed production in this way encourages the plant to grow more lush and full.

Finally, remember to remove any wilted or discolored leaves, to encourage new foliage growth.

Common Tulsi Plant Problems and How to Solve Them

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These are generally easy plants to grow, but they can occasionally come under attack from disease or infestation. Spotting the signs of disease or infestation early means that it can be easily treated.


Pests usually target tulsi plants that are growing in poor or unsuitable conditions. If your plant is frequently coming under attack, consider a change of location.

Aphids, mealy bugs, spider mites and whiteflies have all been known to target holy basil plants. An organic pesticide will cure most infestations.

If you don’t want to use a chemical pesticide, many people find neem oil a good alternative. I’ve found that a simple solution of dishwashing detergent mixed into warm water and applied to the leaves can cure many infestations.

Don’t worry if you have to repeat the treatment a few times before completely ridding the plant of the infestation, as this is fairly common. Just be sure to cover both sides of the leaf when applying.

Discoloured or Wilting Leaves

This may be a sign that your plant isn’t receiving enough light. A simple change of location can alleviate this.

Alternatively it could be a sign of overwatering. If you fear that this is the case, cease watering for a couple of weeks, until the soil is dry to the touch. When you resume watering, give the plant less than you normally would.

Cold Weather Protection

Photo credit: Snappy Goat

Unless you live in a warm climate, your tulsi will need protection during the winter months. Once the leaves have all died back, cover with a cloche, plastic bucket, or tarp. A clear cover will allow light to enter and will also trap heat, keeping the plant roots warm.

In colder climates move the tulsi into a greenhouse, shed, or your home.

Brittle Leaves

This is normally a symptom of too little light or water. Relocate your plant or increase your watering slightly. Prune away any brittle leaves.


Tulsi leaves can develop mold in damp environments. Wipe the leaves with a soft, clean cloth to remove it.

Companion Plants

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This herb does well with a number of different plants.

  • Citronella (Pelargonium citrosum) and lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus). This combination is popular for patio or poolside pots and borders because it helps to repel flies and other irritating pests.
  • Rosemary thrives when planted alongside tulsi. Tuscan, a blue variety, and pine-scented rosemary can be particularly pleasing to the eye. Choose from plants with a twining, creeping, or upright growth habit.
  • Tulsi planted near your potato crop can ward off the destructive potato beetle.
  • Tomatoes, peppers and asparagus can be healthier, and in the case of tomatoes and peppers more fruitful, if planted alongside holy basil plants. It can also repel tomato hornworm and aphids and mosquitos.
  • Chives and other aromatic or strong flavoured herbs such as mint or cilantro will help to keep aphids away from your plants.
  • Oregano also benefits from being grown near tulsi.

Plants to Avoid

  • Broccoli, cabbage, kale and cauliflowers all dislike being in close proximity to all members of the Basil family.
  • Cucumbers are tricky plants to grow at the best of times. They struggle when planted with aromatic herbs such as tulsi and rosemary.

How to Harvest Tulsi

Harvesting your tulsi regularly, in small amounts, to encourage continuous growth.

When to Harvest

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It can be harvested when it reaches 1ft in height, which may be as soon as 40 days after germination. If you don’t mind waiting, however, the leaves are at their strongest just as the plant starts to bud.

When it comes to harvesting, less is best. Small, sporadic harvests encourage continued growth and won’t decimate the plant. You can harvest your basil at any time, but harvesting in the morning when the temperature is cooler means that the leaves are less likely to wilt.

To harvest leaves, use small garden shears or sharp scissors. Harvest from the top of the plant and work your way down. Cut either a few leaves or a whole branch, depending on how much you need. Handle the leaves carefully. These leaves can bruise easily, which can damage the scent or flavor.

Harvest your Tulsi leaves only when you need them. Once harvested, the leaves can fade quickly, so only take what you need. You can always cut more if you need extra.

Storing Tulsi

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Tulsi leaves can be dried and stored, like any other basil type. To dry it, harvest entire branches, rather than individual leaves. Cut the branches at stem level, if this is the last harvest of the growing season.

Bind the branches together and hang them up to air dry in a warm room. When the leaves are dry, remove them from the stems and store them in an airtight container or sealable bag. This will keep them fresh for up to 1 year.

Alternatively, tulsi can be frozen. This method is far more effective at preserving both color and the flavor.

Harvesting Tulsi Seeds

Like any other basil, tulsi seeds form in the spent flower head.

The easiest way to harvest the seeds is to carefully cut the spent flower heads off the plant and put them somewhere warm and dry for a few days. You can then crush the heads and collect the seeds. Stored properly in a sealable jar, these seeds can be kept for up to 5 years. Label your jars with the seed name, and harvest.

Tulsi is an attractive, aromatic addition to any garden. It has a range of uses from herbal teas to culinary ingredient and pest deterrent, and is well worth growing in your space.

Richo’s Blog

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Tulsi Temperate

Tulsi grows best in the summer garden or in a greenhouse environment. Lacking these conditions, a solarium or very bright south facing window may be adequate. Growing Tulsi during the winter will require grow lights. You can purchase T-5 grow lights online that will work quite well. Keep the light 18 inches above the top leaf, and keep the light on the plants for at least 8 hours per day. Keep plants nipped back if they get leggy or go to flower very quickly.

It works best to plant 1 plant per gallon pot. If the plants are potted up with organic compost, then they should have enough nutrients to stay healthy for some time. If they begin to yellow or look unhealthy, then fertilize once every 2 weeks with compost tea, comfrey leaf tea, dilute fish emulsion or other organic liquid fertilizer, or heap additional organic compost around the stems and water through the compost to feed the plants. This is a good way to keep some healthy individuals for worship or for ongoing harvest for fresh leaves or for tea.

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