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Growing basil in home gardens

Quick facts

  • Traditional sweet basil is the most popular variety, used mostly for cooking. 
  • Sow seeds directly into the ground after the danger of frost has passed.
  • Harvest at any time by snipping fresh young leaves as needed.
  • You can dry or freeze basil to use when fresh basil is unavailable.
Green basil seedlings, photo taken from above

One of the easiest and most popular culinary herbs to grow is the common or sweet basil, Ocimum basilicum. A member of the mint family (Lamiaceae), it is native to southern Asia and islands of the South Pacific. This tender annual is popular for its aromatic leaves, used fresh or dried. Basil seeds are common in Thai foods. 

Like most herbs, basil requires a sunny location that receives at least six to eight hours of bright light per day and well-drained soil conditions.

Soil pH and fertility

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Selecting plants

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Planting

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How to keep your basil healthy and productive

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Managing pests, diseases, and disorders

Many things can affect basil plants. Changes in physical appearance and plant health can be caused by the environment, plant diseases, insects and wildlife. In order to address what you’re seeing, it is important to make a correct diagnosis.

You can find additional help identifying common pest problems by using the online diagnostic tools or by sending a sample to the UMN Plant Disease Diagnostic Clinic. You can use Ask a Master Gardener to share pictures and get input.

The most common basil issue in Minnesota is Basil downy mildew. This disease causes fluffy growths on the underside of leaves and can kill entire plants.

Authors: Marissa Schuh, Extension educator and Shirley Mah Kooyman

Reviewed in 2022

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