Enjoy Potted Basil Year-Round: Thrives Inside & Out

Basil is a great choice to plant since it’s easy to grow and is useful in so many ways. It can be used in salads, makes a great pesto and seasons dishes like soups, casseroles and sauces. It is also a key ingredient in many home remedies (such as treating wasp stings, mosquito bites, relieving coughs, and more). This is a plant that gives and gives…and gives some more! Here are some tips for growing your own bounty…

Grows Well In ContainersLight Conditions: It loves as much sun as you can give it, plant in a full-sun location if possible but it will be ok with at least 4 hours of sun.

Soil Conditions: It can be affected by the disease Fusarium wilt (fungus), mixing compost in with the soil helps fight it. The plant does not like sitting in water so choose a well draining soil. Mulching isn’t necessary but it is appreciated.

Location: Select a location to grow that is sheltered from wind and cold and will provide adequate sun (see above). Space about 10″ apart to provide good air circulation, when it thrives it can grow quite bushy! Basil can be grown in your vegetable garden, flower beds and garden pots. Be clever with location choices when planting it and reap the rewards! Did you know: Basil is believed to naturally repel flies and mosquitoes? Arrange pots of them around windows and doorways. For outdoor gatherings, throwing leaves on the barbecue is another way to repel pests.

Watering Conditions: It doesn’t thrive in parched soil but it doesn’t like sitting in water either. Water well at least once a week. Make sure you water deeply and more frequently during hot weather, allow the surface of the soil to dry out between waterings. If it begins to yellow, this is a sign of overwatering. Wilting is a sign of not enough water. Avoid watering the leaves and aim for the base of the plant.

Containers: It will grow well in pots and containers. Ensure the potting soil is well draining and mix in a bit of compost for best results. Also line the bottom of the container with a layer of gravel before adding soil, this will help with drainage (make sure you have at least one good sized hole for drainage). Remember that soil dries out faster in containers so watch that it doesn’t dry out. If you need directions for planting in a container, see this page.

Growing Indoors: Snip stem cuttings before the first frost of the season and stick them in a cup of water, they should start showing roots within about 7 days. You could also dig up the plant and pot it for indoors. Make sure to choose a location inside where it will receive plenty of light and will be protected from cold drafts. Basil can be planted alone but it grows well with other herbs too. See Herb Garden Ideas for tips. It’s also a great choice for a kitchen herb pot since it’s so useful in cooking.

From Seed: It can be grown from seed by home gardeners just fine. Sow seeds outdoors about 1/8 inch deep when danger of the last frost has passed and nights aren’t too cold (above 50°F/10°C). If you want to start seeds indoors, start about 6 weeks before the last expected frost. Keep seeds evenly moist until they germinate (about 7 days).


  • Bushy Plant Growth Tip: Start pinching the plant when it reaches 6″ tall to promote bushy growth. When it produces a blossom, make sure to pinch the whole stem that produced it (not just pinching off the blossom itself) to promote growth and prevent a bitter-tasting herb (or at least 6 leaves deep from the blossom). If you want to harvest seeds for next year’s crop, let the blossoms go to seed toward the end of the season instead of pinching them off.
  • Pick the top leaves first, this promotes neat growth.
  • To promote flavor, trim back about once a week. The more the plant is harvested the better the flavor develops.
  • Did you know: Some believe growing Basil and Tomatoes together enhances the flavor of both.
  • Troubleshooting Tip: If it has pale green leaves or is yellowing, it’s because it isn’t getting enough nutrients. Feed at least once a month if this happens (especially watch when growing indoors). Do not fertilize unless necessary, too much feeding affects the taste of the herb. If you’re overwatering, it will also affect leaf color like this.
  • There are a few options for preserving it: you can dry them, freeze them and make them into pesto. See 10 Easy Ways To Preserve Herbs for ideas and suggestions.

Print Print    Email Email

What Readers Are Saying: 55 Comments
  1. Donna says:

    My basil is beginning to grow well. I have pinched off leaves yesterday and today, but it doesn’t have the robust taste I desire. This site says to pinch off about once a week to promote growth and taste. Do I pinch off just the larger leaves, the top leaves, or stem and leaves? Thank you.

  2. Robert says:

    Will basil survive over the winter?

  3. Robert says:

    Take a cutting indoors for planting outdoors next season

  4. Carol Mcvay says:

    Basil will grow really big in the ground too! Last year mine had a “trunk” 2 inches in diameter! This was helpful as I had yellow edges on leaves. There is lots of sand and few nutrients here in FL A little fertilizer is easy, so perhaps next year mine will look like the pictures!

  5. Ande says:

    I usually start mine from seed every year and I have noticed that the plants seem happier and grow larger if you plant them in clusters of 3-4 plants. Singles always end up spindly with fewer leaves.

  6. jenn says:

    something is eating holes in my basil leaves in my container garden. what NON-toxic spray can I use?

    • Mari says:

      Slugs are eating your basil. Go to Garden Center and get Slug repelant. It’s sprinkled around rhe base of the plant, slugs won’t cross over it.

      • apiaha says:

        Get a slug pot….you put beer inside which attracts them into the pot, and they drown.

        • Angela says:

          Use diatomacious earth. It has sharp things in it that will kill a slug and many other insects, and do it naturally. Look it up and see. It’s a natural insecticide useable around the plant instead of on it… and slugs can’t cross the line because it cuts and kills them.

      • Genevieve says:

        crushed egg shells around the base of plants are also good slug repellent. Slugs don’t like crawling over the sharp shells and are natural, cheap and compostable!

      • Tina says:

        Put a band of coffee grounds around anything that is getting eaten by slugs. The slugs won’t crawl accross it and it is much cheaper.

    • Jess says:

      Believe it or not if you put a some white regular sand around the plant it will kill them too. When they try to crawl over it the sand cuts into the slug and kills it…. Works every time for me!! Good luck and God Bless.

    • Tana says:

      crunch up egg shells and put them around the base of the plant. slugs won’t cross over it.

  7. Peter says:

    Very good article, no waffle. Short, sharp and to the point. Great. Thanks

  8. Sunita says:

    My leaves are curling up. Any clue why?

    • Kimberly says:

      A fungus usually acthronose ( not sure if spelled right), harmless to eat and usually doesn’t kill plant, down the Deep South mostly, we learn to live with it, spraying is fruitless. It’s going to stay around if you see it anything in a 5 mile radius!

  9. Carolann says:

    Planting it between tomato plants also helps repel horn worms.

  10. Doris says:

    If you buy fresh basil at the grocery store, put somer in water and it will sprout (root) quickly, then plant it….much faster than seeds!!!!

  11. Sunny Wing says:

    we are seeing tiny holes in some of the leaves and found a tiny spider – we don’t think it’s slugs because we don’t see them. Could the spider actually be some kind of “mite”? We hit it with some insecticidal soap today.

    • Angela says:

      Yes. Neem Oil or Canola Oil works well on those too. Just spray on top and bottom of each leaf of plant….it gets rid of them.

  12. Lauren says:

    neem oil is my go to non-toxic pest control

  13. nola says:

    Non toxic bug spray for plants

    1 gallon water
    1 teaspoon Dawn dish liquid
    1 tablespoon vegetable oil

    mix together ingredients fill spray bottle and spray plants

    tip: works great for ahpids… make sure you spray the underside of the leaves as well as unbloomed buds

  14. Maggie says:

    My basil attracts small flies and gets small yellowish spots in the leaves, how do I fight that? Can the basil still be eaten ? Do I need to throw away the plant and soil?
    Thanks for the fantastic article!

  15. Robyn says:

    I love all of these tips…known of my basil plants have survived…can’t wait to put my plan into action. Several questions: 1) When my plant finally blooms, is it true to snip off the flowers? 2) Is it an annual? I need to replant every year?

    • Pam Hickey says:

      Harvest leaves prior to blooming. Once it blooms, the flavor diminishes. I top mine out all season long to prevent the bloom. When I’ve harvested enough, I let it bloom and collect the seed. Its an annual but if you pot it you can bring it in to a sunny window and it will continue to produce.

  16. craig says:

    thanks a stack. i love basil and use it every day now i can get it to grow all year round

  17. Shane says:

    I’ve noticed a lot of these articles not including one that that has eating my entire stock of Basil leaves over night. It seems as if I’m the only one figuring this out but depending on where you live in certain seasons to get them… Wasps & absolutely gorge themselves on Basil. I found this out on my own , wondering what has eating all my leaves so fast! . After staying up for hours on my phone & watching my large patio pots filled with my basil plants disappearing, I found out that dozens of wasps would horde in on my plants in parts of the morning & evenings.My god they were making short work of my plants. So of course I hunted thier nest down & murdered them all, muhahaha!…. The end replanted Basil, now they are a success & delicious.

  18. Tami says:

    I buy the small potted plants from the produce department at my local supermarket, but they seem to wilt and die within a couple of weeks. Sometimes they get dark edges first and sometimes they just wither up. I am not sure what I am doing wrong. I’ve tried watering more, and I’ve tried watering less. It doesn’t seem to make a difference.

    It’s still wintery here in Connecticut and I tend to turn my heat down pretty low at night or when I am not home, so I wonder if temperature is the culprit. I don’t let it get to freezing of course, but I do try to keep my electric bill down. I’ve kept the plants on the kitchen counter near the window. It doesn’t really get prolonged direct sunlight, but it’s the brightest spot available.

    Any helpful tips for me? I hate to keep wasting the plants, but I do love fresh basil! They usually cost about $3.99, but I the last one I got was only $1.99. Not the end of the world, but I sure would like them to last longer.

    • k johnson says:

      I have
      same problem. Help someone!!

      • Ce says:

        mine was from the grocery store. Was potted in the patio with miracle grow and I’ve had it 2 months now and its doing very well!

      • Jeannine Banks says:

        I have tried the grocery store plants over and over again with a fail each time. This time I actually bought my basil plant in the spring in the gardening section, the first was no success but when i bought three basil plants and planted them together , maybe 6 inches apart, they are alive and thriving still!

  19. Rosie says:

    I have tried the same myself. I believe the ones in the grocery, “living herbs”? or in pots to be used fresh, are to be used, not grown. Perhaps they have been treated with something, or likely are grown hydroponically, then put into a pot and shipped right away. As with many plants that are used to a certain amount of light, water, fertilizer, care, the shock of coming from that environment into a different one just doesn’t make for a probable outcome, and the plant fails. I would try the seedling or rooting method where your plant gets used to your conditions. I gave up trying to grow the grocery store plants. Get one from a nursery, if you want success.

    • Janice says:

      Most of the plants from the grocery do NOT live long, but I have found the ones at a Trader Joe’s (if there is one near you) live. If not, then I agree with another reply on here about the grocery store ones….cutting and rooting them in water. They will then pot up beautifully and will last a whole season.

    • Nicole says:

      I think a lot depends on conditions they end up in – soil and whatnot. Last year I planted some grocery store basil on impulse, fully expecting it to die. The next time I remembered to take a look at it (since I basically left it to the elements) it has turned into a big bush – I didn’t even realize that was the basil for a moment! So I’m trying the same thing this year, but starting in pots to get an early jump on things since March has been so cruddy in terms of cold temps. My rosemary died almost instantly. The thyme is hanging on, and the oregano isn’t too shabby, but I’m almost certain it’s the soil they’re in. I think I chose poorly and it’s just holding too much water. I intend to replant them where I plunked the basil (which I also harvested seeds from) and see how they do there with more nutrient-rich soil and better drainage.

  20. Vickie says:

    I’m on my 3rd grocery store plant. I live in Michigan, I’m going to try and snip it and get it to root. I’m glad I’m not the only one having difficulty with those plants. I’m a pretty good gardener, but it made me rethink my gardening skills.

  21. Gin Anstice says:

    As a person new to gardening the same thing happened when I brought my first grocery store plant, it withered and died after two weeks.

    So I tried two of the same grocery stores plants together in a new much bigger pot, fed them some fertilizer.
    Its been successful and we now have a range of fresh herbs instead of dried. This tastes, looks and smells wonderful.

    Every week I also hydrate each potted duo with a milk & water 20/80 mix.

  22. Angela says:

    My basil sprouted from the seeds and them stopped growing. What should I give them to grow bigger. They are in miracle grow soil already.

  23. K says:

    This may be a dumb question, but what does pinching the plant entail?

    • Michelle says:

      So you pinch from the top a few leaves down. You’re using your fingernails and cutting the top growth off. This makes for a stronger plant and a better tasting herb.

  24. Paul says:

    A friend gave me a good size basil plant in a pot, it is October in New Hampshire, can the plant be planted outdoors now or should I wait until the spring? Thank you

  25. Cissie says:

    can the bail bought the store that is in water be planted in soil?

  26. Vicki says:

    How do you keep Japanese beetles from destroying basil? The last 3 years they have eaten it all…..

  27. Emma says:

    I think I’ve found how to get success with keeping the grocery store plants alive- they seem to be over clustered in the one pot and actually easy to separate out. I’ve now got 8 plants doing well from 2 shop bought reduced ones which were 49pence each! There’s too much competition in one out when you get them and they seem to eventually give up after a few weeks probably because they’ve used up all the nutrients?

  28. Teresa Hudson says:

    We have a lot of rain recently, floods to be honest and it seems like every spider has made a home on my potted basil plant. Will a soap and water solution sprayed on my basil plant work? The soil has spiders too. What do I need to do?

*Comments Are Moderated