Grow Basil in the Spring Garden
Copyright Sharon Falsetto all Rights Reserved
An article about how to grow basil in the spring garden. Written by professional aromatherapist, author, herbalist, and gardener Sharon Falsetto.
Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.) is probably one of the most familiar culinary herbs in your kitchen cupboard, as it’s very easy to grow in a pot on a kitchen windowsill, or in your spring herb garden. Although it’s relatively easy to grow, it is actually one of the most complicated plants to understand aromatically.
In this article, we’ll take a quick look at how to grow basil in the spring garden. To learn more about its aromatic nuances and uses, check out the full article in the Botanical Aromatherapy™ Membership School.
Grow Basil in the Spring Garden
Cultivars and Varieties
Basil (Ocimum basilicum) is a small, annual herb which is commonly found in herb gardens worldwide. Its adaptability to grow almost anywhere has spawned a number of cultivars and varieties. A cultivar is a new plant bred from the original plant by human interaction. An example of this is Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese Gigante,’ a popular basil cultivar grown in herb gardens. A variety is a random plant within “the geographical range of a species or subspecies [may be] recognized as varieties.”1 An example is Thai basil (Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflorum). Varieties occur naturally in nature whereas cultivars require human intervention.
- Overall Appearance: Basil is short (up to 2 feet in height) with a square stem.2,3
- Leaves: Glossy green, large ovate leaves.2,3
- Flowers: Two-lipped pink-white flowers situated in whorls, typical of Lamiaceae plant family characteristics.2,3
- Essential Oil: A steam distillation of the leaves (and flowering tops) produces an essential oil.
Basil in the Spring Garden
Basil is most successful when grown from seed indoors. I have unsuccessfully tried to grow it direct sown outdoors and it is a slow (or non) starter if not given the “right” conditions to grow in. However, I have had good success in growing it in the greenhouse.
How to Grow Basil in the Spring Garden: Sow basil seed in seed pots indoors 6 – 8 weeks before your last frost date for your area. Basil requires several hours of sunlight per day to germinate and grow and it needs soil with a pH of 6 – 7.5. Do not overwater.4 Before transplanting the seedlings outdoors, make sure that the outside temperature is warm enough. A temperature of 80-90 degrees F is optimum for basil, as it’s a tropical native. Plants also need to be gradually hardened off before transplanting into the outside herb garden.
Garden Benefits: Basil works well as a companion plant, particularly when planted with tomato (Solanum lycopersicum). It can repel flies and mosquitoes5 (a therapeutic benefit of the essential oil as well) and like many plants attracts pollinators like bees and butterflies.
Close Species and Cultivars of Basil
The table below shows just a few examples of the popular close species and cultivars/varieties of sweet basil (Ocimum basilicum L.). There are in fact many other close species of Ocimum basilicum, as well as a multitude of cultivars and varieties.
|Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.)|
|Close Species||Popular Cultivars/Varieties|
(Ocimum americanum L. var. pilosum (Willd.)6
|Genovese basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Genovese Gigante’)|
|Holy basil (Ocimum tenuiflorum L.)6||Dark opal basil (Ocimum basilicum Purpurascens’)|
|Lemon basil (Ocimum × citrodorum Vis.)6||Thai basil (Ocimum basilicum var. thyrsiflorum)|
(Ocimum gratissimum thymoliferum)7
|Cinnamon basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Cinnamon’)|
|Licorice basil (Ocimum basilicum ‘Licorice’)|
|Mrs. Burns’ lemon (Ocimum basilicum var. citriodora ‘Mrs. Burns’ Lemon’)|
Continue Reading in Sedona Aromatics Botanical Aromatherapy™ Membership School
Information in this article is an excerpt of the full article, The Sweetness of Basil (Ocimum basilicum L.), which is available for full viewing in the Sedona Aromatics Botanical Aromatherapy™ Membership School. Learn more about basil including its historical use, botany, aroma and chemistry profile, therapeutic use, and more!
Do you want to learn how to make our Spring Greens Cleanse Bar? Check out this exclusive recipe in the Sedona Aromatics Botanical Aromatherapy™ Membership School!
- Hodge, Geoff, 2013, Practical Botany for Gardeners, Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, pp. 38-39.
- Lawless, Julia, 2013, The Encyclopedia of Essential Oils, US; Conari Press, pp.45-46.
- Chevallier, Andrew, 2016, Encyclopedia of Herbal Medicine, 3rd Edition, New York: DK Publishing p. 241.
- Gardening Know How website, Growing Basil Seeds – How to Plant Basil Seeds, accessed from: https://www.gardeningknowhow.com/edible/herbs/basil/growing-basil-seeds.htm
- The Old Farmer’s Almanac website, Boekmann, Catherine, Companion Planting with Herbs, accessed from: https://www.almanac.com/content/companion-planting-herbs
- Tisserand, Robert and Rodney Young, 2014, Essential Oil Safety 2nd Edition, UK: Churchill Livingstone Elsevier, pp.202-205, 207.
- Caddy, Rosemary, 1997, Aromatherapy: Essential Oils in Colour, UK: Amberwood Publishing Ltd, p.5.
About the Author:
The author of this article has been working in the health care industry since the 1990’s and in the aromatherapy industry since the 2000’s. She is UK-certified aromatherapist and a NAHA Certified Professional Aromatherapist®. She is both a published author and editor in aromatherapy, a consultant, custom blend formulator and herbal studies and natural perfumery student. She is the author of Authentic Aromatherapy and the current chief editor of the NAHA Aromatherapy Journal. Sharon works from her garden studio in Sedona, Arizona, where she gardens and distills plants from her own aromatic gardens, surrounded by natural fauna and flora on an original pioneer, semi off-grid, homestead property.